The Union chief predicts recruitment crisis . . . while OU takes on 33 new tech staff

The Open University is taking on 33 new staff in one of its largest recruitment drives since it was set up just over 25 years ago.

The jobs are aimed at helping the university harness new technologies now available for distance learning and will be spread throughout the institution. They will include lecturers, research fellows, project officers and software designers.

The university, which teaches more than 200,000 people each year, has just approved a programme of development known as INSTILL - Integrating New Systems and Technologies into Lifelong Learning.

Under this programme there are six key areas for investment, including the establishment of a Knowledge Media Institute. At the moment the institute is an umbrella organisation with no physical home - a "virtual organisation" - but the OU now has plans to site it on earth.

INSTILL also includes plans for the development of satellite broadcasting, technological innovation in course materials such as CD-ROMs, harnessing the Internet for academic purposes, a laboratory to showcase OU technologies and the new technology recruitment drive initiative.

A spokesman for the university said: "The OU has led the field in introducing new technology to teaching and we want to continue to do so." He said that the money had come from surpluses the university was able to build up once it came under the remit of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Under its previous financial arrangements the university received funds directly from the Department for Education and had not been allowed to build up a surplus.

The development of these technologies will help the university with its international expansion programmes. The OU is expanding in Europe as well as the UK and has collaborative projects in the Far East and parts of the former Soviet Union.

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