Publisher Pearson launches UK degree course
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.
End Quote Roxanne Stockwell Managing director, Pearson College
We have a network of blue-chip industry relationships”
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.
End Quote Sally Hunt UCU lecturers' union
Opening the door to for-profit companies in higher education is very risky”
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.