Insurance companies and information technology experts say the annual loss is about£10m. In the past two months alomost£1m of sophisticated hardware has been stolen from three higher education institutions in Scotland.
Scores of primary and secondary schools with computer suites have also been hit in the past year. News of the crime spree will annoy the government and education secretary David Blunkett, who are investing more than£1bn through the National Grid for Learning, to link every school to the internet by 2002.
Paul Young, of Computer Security Systems, said his firm was called in by one local authority in the north of England to install security devices in 26 schools after 90% of them were burgled in a six-month period.
'Schools are a soft target,' he said. 'Many just don't have the funding for burglar alarms and they are often in isolated areas, with nobody around after 4 pm.'