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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Graduates' e-mail for life
students using computers
Universities want students to stay in touch
Universities in the United States are trying to make sure their students keep in touch after they leave by setting them up with e-mail addresses for life.

A growing number of universities believe that when students graduate they feel cut off, as they lose the university e-mail addresses that have kept them in regular touch with friends and contacts for a number of years.

To counter this, some universities are setting up new systems allowing students to keep a university-linked e-mail address.

Mail sent to this address can also be forwarded to other accounts, meaning that no matter how many times alumni may change personal e-mail addresses after they leave, both former classmates and the universities can stay in touch.

At Northwestern University, Illinois, a new free alumni portal is going online next week, which will give graduates e-mail addresses based on the same ones they used while studying at the university.

'Adrift'

As long as users keep the system updated with any new e-mail addresses they set up after they leave, they will not have to keep informing long lists of friends and contacts of these addresses.

It also means that the university will be able to stay in touch with its alumni much more easily, sending them electronic newsletters and promoting events.

Spokesman Alan Cubbage said the alumni association currently operated a directory of about 20,000 e-mail addresses of former students which were only available to other alumni.

He said: "Until now, graduates have been able to keep their university e-mail addresses for six months after they graduate, but then they expire.

"They can feel adrift, as they lose the online identification they have had for the last four years."

He said although it was not difficult for graduates to set up new e-mail addresses, "this means they don't have to think about whether they want their e-mail identity to be their corporate identity, an America Online identity or whatever, or both".

'Diverse culture'

"This will give them a Northwestern University identity. We hope that most of our students will migrate to the new e-mail system.

"It's wonderful, as you won't have to keep updating people with your address.

"E-mail communications are increasingly widespread. My parents, who are in their 70s, have got their own e-mail addresses.

"We are trying to make the most of this communication channel."

Northern Illinois University is preparing to install a similar system in the next five or six weeks.

Michael Prais, director of academic computing services, said: "This will mean alumni won't have to go out and tell 50 people their new e-mail address.

"It means that the person who sat next to you in class for two semesters will remember you at the alumni address and will be able to get in contact with you.

"We want people to remain associated with the university, and the idea is that we've developed an association in a diverse culture, a mobile culture. The e-mail address is part of that association."

  • In the UK, graduates of Durham University have been pointing out that a similar system has operated there for several years.

    "The UK isn't as backward as some people often think!" writes Andy Lloyd.

    "It is good to see the Americans finally catching up with us," adds Robert Minchin.

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