The UK e-University: An Overview of Available Resources

Key Resource, December 2005

UKeUniversities Worldwide (UKeU), an ambitious online university for the British higher education sector, was launched in 2000 at the height on the dotcom boom by then Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett. It was envisaged as a way for UK higher education institutions to enter large-scale online delivery, penetrate overseas markets and offer more learning flexibility for domestic students. The UK government initially committed £62 million (this figure was later adjusted to £55 million) to the project, with the expectation that investment from the private sector would also be elicited. The first online courses were launched in March 2003, and by November 900 students had been recruited. However, with predicted enrolment figures of one million students by UKeU’s tenth year of operation, actual student take-up proved disappointing. In addition, private investment, seen as a key feature of UKeU’s business model had not been secured. As a consequence, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which had administered the funding on behalf of the government labelled UKeU unviable in April 2004 and closed the venture. The following is a collection of material relating to the UKeU project. The list provided is not comprehensive, but is intended to provide a brief overview of the major developments of the venture. Wherever possible, links to original documentation from the UKeU archives, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Department for Education and Skills (DfES), House of Commons Select Education and Skills Committee, and UK Parliament have been included, as well as media coverage from the Observatory and various news outlets. Most information is accessible free-of-charge, but some sites require a fee-based subscription.

2005

October

The UK government's response to the House of Commons Select Education and Skills Committee's 2004-2005 report on UKeU is made public.

Observatory coverage

 

September

UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) publishes 750 additional pages of of UKeU documentation produced between 2002 and 2005.

Observatory coverage

 

March

The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills publishes its final report on UKeU.

HEFCE releases its strategy for e-learning. A week later, DfES publishes “Harnessing Technology: Transforming learning and children's services”. Both e-learning strategies appear to draw on lessons learned from the UKeU experience.

Observatory coverage

 

Related coverage

  • UKeU was a 'disgraceful waste' of public money, Times Higher Education Supplement, 4 March 2005.

 

2004

November

UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) publishes the 'The e-University Compendium – Volume 1', a collection of UKeU related reports produced in the period between the initial announcement of the UKeU concept by David Blunkett in 2000, to 2002, when UKeU became operational.

Observatory coverage

 

April – June

HEFCE reports that steps are being taken to reduce UKeU staff and to transfer ongoing UKeU projects such as eChina and the e-Learning Insitute to relevant partner organisations.

UK House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills begins hearings on UKeU.

The UKeU platform developed by Sun Microsystems is put up for sale by HEFCE, but attracts no bidders.

Observatory coverage

 

Related coverage

 

February

The Higher Education Funding Council for England announces that it will be reviewing its funding for UKeU in light of the venture's failure to meet its recruitment targets.

Related coverage

 

2003

UKeU publishes its first annual report for the April 2002 to March 2003 financial year. Reported expenditures include £10 million spent on the development of the UKeU platform, £1.9 million in marketing costs and £2.1 million in operating and staff costs.

PA Consulting Group submits its business review of the eUniversity in December (related documents released to the public in 2005).

Related coverage

  • E-university takes technology to market, Times Higher Education Supplement, 3 January 2003.
  • Lessons from Hong Kong to Dubai, The Independent, 23 January 2003.
  • Perfect platform for progress, Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 February 2003.
  • UK colleges open doors online, BBC News, 8 February 2003.
  • E-learning expert castigates UKeU for 'wasting taxpayers' money', Times Higher Education Supplement, 9 May 2003.
  • Untangling the web, The Independent, 26 June 2003.
  • Online bonus, e-ventually, Times Higher Education Supplement, 29 August 2003.
  • E-learning launch, Times Higher Education Supplement, 31 October 2003.
  • E-university attracts 900 students, The Guardian, 17 November 2003.

 

2002

December

UKeU releases of a number of white papers relating to its technological infrastructure and approach to online teaching and learning, as well as its plans to move into Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Middle East and Brazil.

Related coverage

 

July

UKeU makes a number of key staff appointments and selects the first of three pilot courses.

Related coverage

 

2001

The operating company UK eUniversities is established to market and deliver online courses. A holding company, eLearning Holding, Company Ltd., is formed by higher education institutions in the UK. Sun Microsystems is commissioned to developed the UKeU learning platform.

Related coverage

 

2000

October

The e-University business model is released.

Related coverage

 

February

David Blunkett announces e-University intiative. Refer to the related HEFCE Circular and press release for additional information on the project launch.