Fresh from luring Michelle Grattan from The Age, Andrew Jaspan is preparing to launch a British version of The Conversation website.

The Conversation, which publishes news and analysis by academics, has acquired a UK website — — which informs visitors: “We launched in Australia in March 2011. We are now looking to launch into the UK.”

A source familiar with the expansion plans told Crikey the UK site could be launched as early as May and that at least 10 universities were already on board. City University London, well-known for its journalism program, is one of the institutions that has signed on and is playing a key role in co-ordinating the effort. A UK co-ordinator, Will De Freitas, has been appointed as well as a UK project director.

The Conversation‘s executive director, Brit and former Age editor Andrew Jaspan, says the UK push is still in an “exploratory stage”. The Manchester-born news veteran has strong connections to the motherland following stints editing The Observer in London and The Scotsman.

“Should an opportunity arise [to launch in the UK] we’d be interested,” he said coyly, telling Crikey this morning that he’ll have more to say on The Conversation‘s global ambitions at a later date.

The Conversation has proved a hit with local web users since launching a little over two years ago and now attracts 312,207 monthly unique browsers. Its global reach is already strong: over 720,000 people around the world clicked on the site in January, according to the Australian Bureau of Circulations.

The site’s selling point is that its articles are written by academics who are experts in their field and are based on facts and peer-reviewed research rather than opinionising. A team of editors and journalists — including many former Fairfax staffers — is employed to prune jargon from the copy to make it readable to the masses.

The Conversation — which has drawn funding from universities, the CSIRO and the federal government — operates under a creative commons licence, meaning all its articles can be republished free of charge. Fairfax’s metro sites, in particular, have taken to republishing The Conversation‘s content — including a recent piece by Michelle Grattan, who left the company earlier this month to join the University of Canberra and The Conversation.