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 189.

    Commercial companies, in the final analysis, can only stay in business if they produce a product which people want to buy. If, in a few years, they produce a product consisting of well educated individuals whose theoretical and practical skills are in demand by prospective employers, then they will deservedly prosper. If not, they will go bust. Not a worry for the PPE and media studies Unis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Oh dear more muddying of the water. The plethora of qualifications said to be equal to an understood level of education makes it difficult to pick out who might be suitable to train up in a profession Why not just call this a business qualification like 'certified accountant' etc which means it is suitable for publishing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    "But a course where you can get most of your info by looking up books in a library (something any member of the public could do) ? Sounds like an easy way to a degree..."

    True, but you pay for tuition and guidance in what information and sources are best lookeed for. People under estimate the value of a gatekeeper or a guide. A little knowledge is a danger thing, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    This isn't a degree - it's a post school vocational training course, for which young people will have to pay £6500. High time we sorted out the different sorts of HE offerings so students and employers know what they are getting. Total fuddle and muddle at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Pearson owns the Financial Times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Does competition really lead to a better service? My empirical record says no! What capitalist competition generally leads to is a small cartel fixing prices and maximising profits at the expense of all other things. The Russell Group sort to gain a higher fees rate.

    If the argument is that the beneficiary should pay then businesses should be contributing far more than they do now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    But some courses ... Instead of spoon feeding...

    If you believe there was any element of spoon feeding involved then you clearly have no understanding of studying for a science degree at a top university.
    But a course where you can get most of your info by looking up books in a library (something any member of the public could do) ? Sounds like an easy way to a degree...

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Uni fees in England have resulted in a 10% drop in applications ... A Drop of Ten Percent - while we are in the middle of a double-dip recession?"

    Those numbers are false. It's a 10% drop on last year - but last year saw a massive increase due to the incoming tuition fee rise. i.e. university applications remain the same as they have been for some time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    It's higher education Jim, but not as we know it. Universities can (or used to be) separated from colleges by virtue of the fact that they generate knowledge as well as teach it. Will there being a body of academics employed here doing that?

    Without knowledge generation our country would rapidly move backwards in education standing worldwide harming the whole sector while a few cream the profits

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    @165. Under-Used

    No, I do not assume that all the benefit lies with the individual.

    What I also do not assume is that the benefit of more and more state funded education is linear. The benefit to the individual and society decreases, the more you accrue. Think about it, is a 3rd PhD as beneficial as learning to read and write?

    This is why you have to draw a line somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Education,is a key factor in socio-political interactions, social mobility and stratification in the UK, but human knowledge has now become so complex, especially technology and science,that handling it is itself an issue.With so much implication for the human race,objectivity, equality of provision and opportunity should underly Education, not corporate agendas whose world vision is themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    The question is will Student Loans be accessible to pay for this course? Surely with the internship this is professional development not further education.

    Profit is not a dirty word, but I would like to know the answer to one question; what proporton of the UK Tax revenue is ultimately rendered as profit to private enterprise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Nothing new. Mcdonalds have had a "Hamburger University" for many years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    "A legitimate fear would be that Pearsons would provide a services whereby people put money in and get a degree out; something that *looks* like a successful institution but is actually just a diploma mill selling a shallow product to anyone desperate enough to buy it."

    True, but I don't see why that is confined to the private sector.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    My experience at a highly reputable red brick uni was that the lecturers/tutors were uninterested in their students. We were palmed off onto Masters students who were evenly less interested in helping anyone learn.

    The more competition they have the better, whether from the excellent BPP, Pearson or whoever else puts together a course good enough to persuade students to part with £20,000.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    How does something as nebulous as business and enterprise earn a BSc?
    It's patently not science, more like an informed guessing game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Great idea BUT ....
    MITx is already offering at least one FREE online course. Obviously critics have to be paid for their time. The student need only declare they've obeyed the rules of story-writing before criticism to earn their degree & this could all be done for well under the tuition fees quoted. Earn your Christmas presents please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    @100 Connor MacLeod said "I attended a top 5 UK university where we were expected to attend 4 to 8 hours of class per day ! Clearly, all UK degrees are not the same. Unfortunately many employers don't seem to realise this..." But some courses are based around introductory lectures followed by hours of independent reading, research and essays that one takes to seminars. Instead of spoon feeding...

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    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.

    If they kept University only for the brightest 10% (regardless of income) then there could be free education without wasting money. If they can waste billions on a war in Iraq that most voters didn't want, then they could do it...

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    In the past companies used to sponsor people to go to university.... How times have changed, and not for the better I hasten to add.

    I still can't get used to the way modern Unis work, with entry standards so low 80% of the country seem able to get in rather than the 10 to 15% in the past.

    We need to have technical colleges and erm polytechnics for this sort of thing


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