Ufi Chief Executive Sarah Jones

The body responsible for the national network of learndirect centres, the University for industry (Ufi), has announced a series of modifications that will change the structure of the e "“ learning network.

The change will come into effect from the 29th of July 2006, and will see the Ufi take sole responsibility for issues such as auditing, training and guidance provision, managing systems and implementing systems, quality assurance and the successful use of business development plans. It is hoped that this will increase the efficiency of the service provided and continue in the drive for the greatest level of cost effective service provision.

The Changes

The change will affect Ufi and learning provider hub operators. The functions under discussion have previously been carried out jointly by the Ufi and the hub operators sub-contracted to Ufi. This had remained the case since the launch of the learndirect network in 1999. The expertise that has been built up in delivering e-learning is to be retained by recruiting both Ufi and hub operator staff for roles within the new arrangement.

As ever in the business of education business, one of the key areas to guarantee success is the area of making funding stretch as far as possible. It is hoped that this project will build on a 24 % reduction in central costs achieved over the last two years. Indeed, it is expected that these changes will enable Ufi to save a further 20 %, or some £10 million, each year.

This will protect subsidy for 25,000 learners each year from the government "“ indicated priority groups of those qualified below level 2 and with literacy and numeracy needs. The announcement follows a year long review of the network to improve quality for learners, simplify the administration for the learning providers who deliver learndirect and re-focus the scale and reach of learndirect centres.

Contracts for Two Years

The contracts will run for a period of two years, beginning on the 1st of August 2006, and running until the 31st of July 2008, and are open for tendering from the beginning of next month. The contracts will be allocated based on the providers" ability to support the Ufi in meeting the government's PSA targets for improving adult literacy and numeracy and reducing the number of adults without a qualification at level 2. The aim is to focus learndirect provision towards priority learners, including those living in rural areas who might find it difficult to access other means of education and training

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The Ufi Chief Executive Sarah Jones said: "learndirect is the largest single provider funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in England . More than 1,000 people each day register for a course "“ many of them people who, without learndirect, would not have returned to formal learning."

She looked ahead to the changes that will come into place, and said: "The changes we will be putting in place from July this year will enable us to maximise the impact of the funding we receive for learndirect, strengthen our relationships with learning providers, and continue to build on the high levels of satisfaction which learners report with learndirect e-learning."

Jethro Marsh, FE News Editor

Does this mean that learndirect will work more smoothly?

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