The Open University’s FutureLearn, a social learning platform based in London, has just announced an investment of €58 million from the SEEK Group – making the latter a 50% owner in the startup, in what is thought to be the largest ever private-sector edtech investment in Europe.
The Open University launched FutureLearn in December 2012 with a dozen UK university partners to test opportunities offered by digital learning and massive open online courses (MOOCs). The FutureLearn platform now has over nine million learners.
The platform offers short online courses, including postgraduate diplomas, certificates, and online degrees, all designed around social learning.
FutureLearn partners with over a quarter of the world’s top universities, as well as organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Raspberry Pi and Health Education England (NHS).
“Our new partnership is a fantastic opportunity to change more lives around the globe through flexible lifelong learning,” said The Open University’s Vice Chancellor Mary Kellett. “The Open University is rightly known for pioneering new approaches to education and for our academic excellence. Today’s announcement shows this is as true today as when we started fifty years ago. It represents one of the most exciting educational prospects in modern times.
“Our partnership with SEEK and the investment in FutureLearn will take our unique mission to make education open for all into new parts of the world. Education improves lives, communities and economies and is a truly global product, with no tariffs on ideas.”
The SEEK Group is a market leader in the creation and management of online education and employment businesses, and is well-established across Australia, New Zealand, China, South East Asia, Brazil and Mexico.
“This investment follows the same logic applied to IDP and Online Education Services ‘OES’ in that we like to invest in disruptive business models that provide world class student education outcomes,” said SEEK Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Bassat.
“Technology is increasing the accessibility of quality education and can help millions of people up-skill and re-skill to adapt to rapidly changing labour markets. We see FutureLearn as a key enabler for education at scale. FutureLearn’s reputation is strong and it has attracted leading education providers onto its platform. We are excited to come on as a partner with The Open University.”
FutureLearn is involved in UK government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps including The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education. It currently has six university partners offering full, online degrees on the platform, and has most recently launched Unlimited, a new business model allowing learners access to most courses for a one-off annual payment.
“The Open University’s vision and investment, the hard work of our staff and support of our partners, has seen FutureLearn grow rapidly in the past six years,” said FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson. “The investment announced today will enable us to unlock FutureLearn’s true potential and extend our global reach and impact.
“This investment allows us to focus on developing more great courses and qualifications that both learners and employers will value. This includes building a portfolio of micro-credentials and broadening our range of flexible, fully online degrees and being able to enhance support for our growing number of international partners to empower them to build credible digital strategies, and in doing so, transform access to education.”