§ Mr. Wells
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what contribution he is making towards the implementation of the decisions taken at the Commonwealth Ministers' meeting at Vancouver to establish a Commonwealth distance learning project; and whether he will make a statement;
(2) what action he has taken to implement the decisions taken by Commonwealth Ministers at Vancouver about a Commonwealth distance learning project; and whether he is yet in a position to make a statement.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
The United Kingdom is playing a major part in the new Commonwealth of learning, a distance learning network to help students in one country take advantage of educational facilities in another. An important requirement for the network will be a comprehensive information unit and credit transfer register. Her Majesty's Government have agreed to finance these developments by building on existing facilities at the British Open university.
Discussions have already taken place and a meeting of representatives of user institutions is being held at the Open university in February. A proposal will then be placed before the board of governors of the Commonwealth of learning, on which the United Kingdom is represented, at its second meeting in March.
The cost of these developments will be between £1 million and £2 million over five years and is additional to the support which Her Majesty's Government will continue to give to distance education under its bilateral aid programme.