The government should launch an inquiry into the failure of its flagship online learning project UK eUniversities Worldwide, according to a senior Labour MP.
Labour MP Derek Wyatt asked both the National Audit Office and the select committee for education to look into the £62m scheme established to attract overseas students to study online with UK universities.
An investigation by Accountacy Age sister publication Computing highlighted serious flaws, and revealed that UKeU attracted just 900 students at a cost of £44,000 each. Wyatt said the failed project was an example of a badly planned public sector IT venture. ‘There are very few brands that can ever make it from start up online. The UKeU should have been a partnership with the Open University, Oxford and Cambridge,’ Wyatt said.
Expenditure on the e-learning project was lavish. UKeU’s £2m-plus wage bill for 2002/03 included chief executive John Beaumont’s £180,000 salary.
He was also paid a performance-related bonus of £44,914.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) provided £32.6m to support the creation of UKeU’s e-learning infrastructure and £7m to set up e-learning programmes in higher education institutions.
A request for a further £15m was withdrawn when Hefce decided to make the best use of public funding by restructuring the organisation.