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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 10 | Jun. 14, 2001


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 staff.

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 and quality.

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 deserve comment.

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


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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