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 169.

    Should we be surprised? The fees charged by universities are way too high and if you think about it, a degree course should cost nothing like £9k per year. It's only a matter of time till we get "EasyDegree" or "VirginUni" so universities should take note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    It won't be a degree, not really. Anyone who's ever been to a proper University will know that you graduate with more than just a qualification, you, in many cases, are a different person altogether.

    I see a number of posts from people who didn't go to Uni and now have a massive chip on their shoulder about it - frankly pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    157. captainarmchairhero
    We are going to end up with even more students being ripped off by low quality meaningless degree courses.

    A company survives on its reputation, sell rubbish and no one buys it. Basics in business

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    The dinosaur Pearson is entering a model of public education that is about to be transformed by Coursera, Udacity, and MIT/Harvard.

    Why would anyone pay fees to a company that isn't especially good at running it's own business?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @159 Nick

    Do you believe that that's what people would do? You seem to be assuming that the sole beneficiary would be the person in receipt of the education. Barristers defend the innocent too, they also pay taxes. Is there a better way to spend money than to have a highly educated and skilled population with a diversity of talent and its consequent productivity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    However so what?

    So what were his lecturers doing with all that spare time ?
    Remember your mate had the luxury of having almost the whole (9am-5pm) week free to do all his work - where is the pressure, the need to manage time efficiently under a heavy workload ? Skills prized by employers - degrees with a heavy workload force you to learn this. If you don't - you fail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Typical those with the mean$ will further themselves even more! All education that benefits a nation should be FREE FOR ALL!

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Whatever next, universities publishing books?

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    G4s are the next private company to offer courses in:
    1) How (not) to manage a project.
    2) Interviewing people without an interview.
    3) Recruiting people for beginners.

    Aren’t Edexcel the ones who made a complete town halls of the school exams a few years ago? A good track record in this field then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    This is the thin end of the wedge. However, the Coursera courses, mentioned at the end of article, are free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    @152. Under-Used

    So should we pay for people to hop from one degree course to another? Should we fund MBAs and trainee barristers?

    The government has a responsibility to spend tax revenue wisely and if the money could be better used elsewhere then it should be used elsewhere.

    Have a look at the bursary schemes that universities offer, those from poorer backgrounds pay significantly less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    if people with children coming to the point of exams with an eye on the jobs market think it's ok then fine. i hope this is not the start of full privatisation of our schools,we are on the way to becoming the 51st state of uncle sam,all that flagwaving over the last two weeks appears to be of little consequence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    We are going to end up with even more students being ripped off by low quality meaningless degree courses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I think last weeks Doonesbury said all that needs to be said about "for profit" universities and the motivation for existing universities to get involved . Another scam to remove money from the public sector and transfer it to "our friends in the City"

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Decent free full-time education from 4 to 16. Free part time education from 2-4. Everything else should be subject to fees offset by bursaries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    135. There ARE worthwhile things to apply your knowledge to. It's just not necessarily going to be your job!

    Of course, when you make people shell out on fees, suddenly there's an expectation of a financial return on that investment. So yes, young people are disappointed, but it's partly because education is presented to them as a way to get a job and not much more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    #151 I had a similar situation with one lecturer. She taught a 20 lecture course with each lecture matching 1 chapter in her book. Didn't bother with handouts because they were 'in her book'.... available in paper back for £39.99. Oh... and she 'forgot' to request the university library to stock some copies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The larger point is that people should not have to pay for education at all. Whether it's higher or lower education the nation as a whole benefits. Paying for knowledge, and let's not even go into who actually owns that knowledge, is and will always be a barrier to curiosity. If every time I wanted to know an answer to a question I had to reach for my cheque book I'd quickly learn a bad lesson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    @ TR7RV

    The problem with Pearson, and the other educational publishers who are linked with exam boards, is that they reduce the curriculum to the materials they can sell most profitably. Once they have established the course, it will be available for sale to any institution, and you will have the sales and marketing debacle that has sullied GCSEs and Vocational Qualifications.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Like most 'Slippery Slopes', its hard to draw a line & say this is one step too far.

    Now that Universities view students as just 'Customers' who generate 'Profits' & more importantly 'Bonuses', things like this are both inevitable & hard to criticise without sounding hypocritical.

    It's just a shame really, our university system used to be so good & now it is just another commercial franchise!


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