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Cash-strapped UK universities are being drained of money by careless Internet surfers. The total bill for unwarranted Net surfing in UK higher seats of learning could add up to a loss of around £450,000, according to The Independent, and is on its way to hitting the £600,000 mark next year. The UK newspaper says the figures are based on the assumption that 15 per cent of universities' Net access bill is derived from personal use by staff and students. Oxford and Cambridge are said to be the hardest hit by non-academic use of the Net – their losses stand at £21,443 and £19,886 respectively. Oxford University's director of computing services, Alex Reid, told The Independent: "We monitor the volume of traffic. But there's not a great deal we can do because we allow students and staff a moderate amount of recreational use of the computer network. We think it's important for them to develop their use of the technology." What an enlightened attitude. Cambridge, on the other hand, passes bills for Net access on to individual colleges. The colleges, in turn, "impose moral pressure on the students to be sensible in their use of the Net", Mike Sayers Cambridge's computing services director said. And with Cambridge staring at the second largest Net access bill in the UK university league table, it's an approach that appears to have a limited degree of success. Those canny Scots at Edinburgh University have cracked the problem though. By forcing academic departments to stump up the cash for using the Net, Edinburgh has halved its bills. ®

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