UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 10 | Jun.
Learning , co-operation drive Universitas 21 e-learning project,
says ubc manager
A recent letter by members of the Dept. of Educational Studies
raised important issues about Universitas 21 which warrant a response.
The letter notes that U21 focuses on "collaboration and exchange"
and sharing "expertise and resources in order to increase international
understanding and improve learning." This includes meetings of deans
and librarians, and formal U21 exchanges for faculty, students and
U21 Pedagogica is correctly identified as responsible for academic
quality assurance. U21 Pedagogica antedates the Thomson joint venture
(TJV) by several years and is chaired by Stewart Sutherland, principal,
University of Edinburgh. U21 Pedagogica is one of 10 projects identified
at the U21 1998 AGM in Glasgow to shape U21. E-learning was
too risky and costly to do alone and the TJV resulted.
The letter expresses concerns about university-corporate joint
activities. I share these.
Careful scrutiny of Thomson Corp. subsidiaries resulted -- a dozen
meetings in eight months to discuss the joint venture structure
and meet Thomson's executive group. It entailed reviewing massive
legal documentation of the complex joint venture structure, whose
complexity was designed to protect needs for academic independence
The President's Office and Board of Governors were satisfied that
these were met. They concluded that U21 Global provided an
opportunity for us to participate in global e-learning while minimizing
financial, academic, and institutional risks.
Several misleading statements in the Educational Studies letter
The TJV "creates a very different relationship between
the U21 universities and substitutes profit as the most important
outcome." This is simply not true. The TJV is but one of
the 10 key projects from 1998. Learning and co-operation are the
drivers of U21; profit is not. With or without the TJV, U21 will
be valuable in achieving our international goals.
Also, MIT will give away nothing when it shortly posts
its course materials on the Web. MIT's courses, programs or degrees
still carry premium tuition fees.
Finally, it was implied that the TJV was morally unacceptable
to the University of Toronto, causing it to leave U21. There is
no evidence to support this. Rather we understand U of T faced several
joint venture choices and decided to put its energies elsewhere.
Prof. Michael A. Goldberg Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration;
UBC Manager, Universitas 21