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 209.

    Why get a degree if it's not to get employment? Education for the sake of education is a luxury for older students in employment or retirement not for the average undergraduate. Many employers/recruiters sift through applications selecting Oxbridge candidates first and others by recognisable University name next. These get interviews. The value of a degree is what employers bestow on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    #203 I really don't understand the chip on your shoulder. You really don't like the concept of any arts student not being on the dole because it doesn't suit your prejudices.

    I studied genetics for 3 years, did an MSc in Clinical Biochemistry, work as a cancer immunologist... and on a day to day basis need NOTHING I learnt on my degrees. You learn the skills on the job not before hand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    In effect the arts degree fees subsidise the science & medical ones.
    Perhaps that is why the government funds medical degrees with £9,804 per year, and arts degrees with £0

    page 14

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    I think this can only be a good thing if it results in increased choice for students and forces others within the sector to raise their own standards in order to compete. I'm not surprised that more traditional universities are worried about it! Ultimately, it is of course employers who have the final say on the success of any new system and only time will tell. I'll be watching with interest!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    A couple of my ex-colleagues have sons with good Science and Maths degrees from good Universities. Of the 4, the Maths degree now works as a manager at McDonalds, the Electronics degree cannot find work and is now retraining as an apprentice electrician, the Chemistry and Physics degrees cannot find work and work in a charity shop for work experience.

    Business degrees! Don’t make me laugh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    We live in a strange world. Unregulated capitalism is the cause of our problems but yet we see a huge increase in the last 2 years. Things can only get worse...

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    "My house mate got a job with the civil service "

    Why doesn't that surprise me ? We all know what an example of smooth running efficiency the civil service is !!! What practical use is his history degree for a job in pensions ? If they hired more maths,science, economics, business & geography/sociology graduates, things might be better...

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    #200 It doesn'tt cost £9000 a year to fund an arts degree. However it costs £20-50,000 a year (depending which year) to fund a medical degree and the uni can only charge 9K for that too. In effect the arts degree fees subsidise the science & medical ones. Thats something any prospective arts student should consider.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    @85. Muppet Master
    You are alluding to the fact that many people do "useless" degrees in subjects like media studies end up unemployed. Personally I wouldn't think twice if I could swap my BSc and PhD certificates in Physics. This is why the country is on it's knees; lots of jobs for people with media studies, bussiness and marketing type degrees but none for people with science/ engineering

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    "maybe because THAT'S WHAT A UNIVERSITY IS FOR! You are meant to start learning for yourself! Did you want them to write your essays too?"

    Then why does it cost so much (either to the taxpayer or student)?! 10 hours lectures per week plus access to a University library should not cost £9000!

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.


    True, but you pay for tuition and guidance...

    Yes, and as long as that is present and high standards are maintained I have no problem with that. But now it is very difficult to know which universities apply and maintain these standards. At least with a structured course at a top university you can guarantee that the most important elements are taught & tested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    #164 My housemates lecturers were probably doing their own research. Most university staff DO NOT teach full time. I'm a cancer research scientist until recently with a big uni (now private) and only spent a few hours a week with students. My house mate got a job with the civil service (pensions) on a damn site more than I earn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    University staff are generally divided into research staff and teachers. Research staff bring funding and prestige to the University while teaching staff generally teach but may also do some research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    @180 Nick

    From an epistemological standpoint learning to read and write would certainly be of more immediate benefit than any PHD. As such we teach people to read and write for free, but that isn't altruistic; it's common sense. If A - Z can be free why not PHD? Education isn't just about economic productivity either, it's non-linear in many ways. My brain isn't coin operated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I would have thought that if Pearson's considered themselves capable of turning students into quality business personnel they would instead offer paid internships or apprenticeships.

    Having said that, time will tell and the market will prevail. If students feel their career prospects benefit from the course in proportion to the cost of it, it will be a success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    @ Connor MacLeod, 183. The science students I knew DID spend more hours in their department - but largely doing practical experiments, which could be derided as 'messy play' if my degree was 'looking things up in books.' The point is, though, that measuring the level of challenge of a qualification based solely on teaching hours is a reductive game - the grade always comes from independent work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    @171. ConnorMacLeod

    If they kept University only for the brightest 10% (regardless of income)

    Sadly I don't think you can ever take income out of the equation. Whatever measure you use to assess the brightest, those with wealthy and/or committed families will find a way to game the entry criteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    The next step in the Tory onslaught on State run enterprise. With the propaganda fronted by their friends in the media most people are gulled into believing it would all be wonderful in the private sector.

    Will you wait until 30% of the population has no access to health cover as in the Tory favoured US system?
    Remember G4S in the Olympics and the privately run old people's homes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Wow top companys making you pay for an internship by selkling you nan education how much do they donate to the tory party

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    @54.Bradford:"My experience is that lecturers are largely well paid but underemployed. Most have only tenous links with the world outside of academia. Many are bogged down in pet academic projects & the teaching of undergraduates is a nuisance to them."

    Hmm, maybe because THAT'S WHAT A UNIVERSITY IS FOR! You are meant to start learning for yourself! Did you want them to write your essays too?


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