Publisher Pearson launches UK degree course

Exam hall Pearson is expanding from an exam board to delivering a degree course

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Pearson, the major international publisher and education firm, is to become a for-profit private higher education provider in the UK.

The firm is opening Pearson College, teaching a degree course validated by existing London universities.

The business and enterprise degree, taught in London and Manchester, will have about 40 places this year.

The college says it will be for "students who are serious about succeeding in business".

Pearson says this will be the first time a FTSE 100 company has directly delivered a degree course.

It will be seen as a significant symbolic step into UK higher education from a major player in the education market.

Lower fees

Pearson owns the Edexcel exam board, along with educational publishing interests and digital education businesses. It owns Penguin and the Financial Times.

The BSc degree course, which will be taught in Pearson's offices, will offer places from this autumn.

Start Quote

We have a network of blue-chip industry relationships”

End Quote Roxanne Stockwell Managing director, Pearson College

Tuition fees will be £6,500 per year - below the average for universities, many of which are now charging £9,000 per year.

There will be an option of an accelerated two-year course, as well as studying over three years.

The college will not have its own degree-awarding powers - so the degree will be validated by Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, which is part of the University of London.

Pearson wants to provide a degree course which will teach practical, hands-on business skills.

"We have a network of blue-chip industry relationships, many of whom are working with us on the design and delivery of our degree programmes," said the college's managing director Roxanne Stockwell.

"This gives us an inherent understanding of the modern business environment and employer needs."

But Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers' union, raised concerns about the expansion of private providers in the UK university system.

"Opening the door to for-profit companies in higher education is very risky, especially given this government's failure to regulate provision and monitor courses run by private providers," she said.

Private sector

Pearson will become part of a growing but still relatively small private higher education sector.

There had been ambitions for a much bigger shake-up in higher education - with the expectation of more private providers offering degree courses.

Start Quote

Opening the door to for-profit companies in higher education is very risky”

End Quote Sally Hunt UCU lecturers' union

But the White Paper which set out plans for a more competitive market did not become legislation.

Despite this there have been some signs of private providers playing a bigger role.

Last month Regent's College in London gained its own degree-awarding powers.

And BPP University College, a for-profit university with its own degree-awarding powers, announced it was expanding into health-related degree courses.

Although there had been an expectation of more overseas providers offering courses in the UK, there are indications that technology is changing more rapidly than regulations.

This year has seen the rapid emergence of online university courses in the United States, headed by partnerships involving institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Princeton.

The California-based Coursera consortium, set up by academics at Stanford University, reported last week that since launching earlier this year it had signed up a million students around the world.

This included an estimated 40,000 students based in the UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Surely this shouldn't be a degree? If Pearson's want quality staff, then they should train them and pay them. What is effectively happening here is that you're asking people to pay £6500 a year for the chance of a job at the end of it. Is this really the pressure we want our young people to be under? Paying £6500 a year is the most expensive internship I've heard of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I would view this with a degree of trepidation.
    If it's to be for profit then the emphasis is going to be on getting as many to pass as possible

    =>Sadly you may be right in today's cut-throat capitalism but it COULD work, thinking of Pitman's College whose reputation is built on successful education not pass-rate by itself. Pearsons have the wherewithall to make a go of it,

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    A degree is a degree is a degree. Personally I would be I more comfortable to be taught the ins and outs of business by a successful business man or women. There is the old saying , “those who can do, those who can’t teach”

    Do you really think no one is profiting from charging hundreds of pounds for a lecture regardless whether they are private or public. Naïve springs to mind

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    114. Dandalf
    "Higher education is going through many changes....In 10 years time the industry will be barley recognizable.....seeing the redbricks fall won't be the end of the world"
    So when does your cost benefit analysis determine that UK plc only needs 10% of the population to be educated at all.
    The other 90% can be cut loose at 11.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Big business is increasingly undermining democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I'm not against HE reform; there are options involving technology that aren't being explored effectively. Universities should use (and be helped to use) technology to help them do what they have always done but better. My fear is that profit motivated companies will be more interested in providing the superficial appearance of education, rather than the subtance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Pearson is a proficient, consistently successful, highly professional, and well managed company. I am convinced that these business degree courses will be conducted with appropriate rigour and professionalism and be well regarded by other well managed Companies. It seems to me that whenever the word profit is mentoned it brings out the sceptics especially those who think business is a dirty word.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I can't say that I'm that bothered by this. The internet is about to radically alter education around the world. These types of courses can be taught just as well on-line and for a significantly lower cost. Who will pay 6-9 grand for the physicality of a lecturer? A lecturer that you would likely only see for 4hrs a week and can easily be replaced by video and on-line materials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Such a programme is acceptable for those who already have working experience at some level of management and do not have a degree or a relevant degree. Like all "management" and "business studies" degrees it is however educationally questionable to offer a business qualification for those who have no practical understanding. They should acquire a cognate degree and then take a Masters/MBA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    #100 It totally depends on the course, not the university. Science or Medicine is mostly taught (hence I also did 6-8 hours classroom work 5 days a week) but my housemate who did history had 2 hours of formal teaching a week in his final year but was expected to do 30+ hours a week in the library carrying out his own research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Private companies exist to make profit, therefore they hire less staff and cut corners to drive efficiency. Class sizes of 100 students? I can't imagine DUIS being too pleased about that and as for giving them degree awarding powers? If too many people are going to university, as the government said, why create more? What will an employer think when these degrees land on his desk?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Yet another industry the the wealthy profiteers can exploit with the help of the gov't.
    Is money and the bottom line all that really matters any more?
    I guess to many the answer is yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    102 Very easily, 30 weeks a year 25 hours a week at 50 quid an hour only adds to an outlay of just over 56K a year, 40 students 260kpa.
    Just consider it how I imagine Pearson have. We used to offer graduate training schemes, now instead, we can charge people for going on them and instead of risking poor employees, we can just pick the best students after they have paid. Win Win for a business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Hang on! Pearson run Edexcel who can't organise exams to save their lives. And now they want to run degreee courses.

    McDonald's Hamburger University springs to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    A4e anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Higher education is going through many changes, with entirely online courses now available from top universities. Massive funding shakeups and an increasingly global demand for graduates. In 10 years time the industry will be barley recognizable by today's standards.

    As long as the knowledge is passed on, and good research is carried out, seeing the redbricks fall won't be the end of the world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    75. "So speaks someone who couldn't get into Oxbridge, and now has a huge chip on their shoulder about it."

    Is that the kind of brainsmarts you need to get in then?

    Merely suggesting that someone might get through a prestigious university without learning much doesn't seem like some great heresy to me. And I most certainly did not apply for Oxbridge!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Why do so many people are concerned about For Profit Higher Education but very few object to Private Schools? In my view, the Higher Education sector needs to be diverse, with different kinds of courses and providers, if a modern economy has to function and people's aspirations have to be met. We are not talking about 'privatization' of the sector, merely the existence of a private option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Doesn't the USA have loads of these? Send 'em the money, get a 'stificate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    --or you can buy a degree in medecine from Mexico University.


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