18 Feb 2013

Prime Minister welcomes Futurelearn expansion as British Library and five universities join

On a trade visit to India the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has welcomed news that more top partners are joining Futurelearn, the UK’s first provider of free, open online courses from multiple top-ranking institutions.

Futurelearn, which is owned by The Open University (OU), has signed an agreement with the British Library (BL) to develop online courses using BL resources. In addition, the universities of Bath, Leicester, Nottingham, Queen’s Belfast and Reading have now joined the existing partners bringing the total number to 18. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all now have universities in Futurelearn.

The announcement was made as six of the Futurelearn partners take part in a major business and skills mission to India with the Prime Minister. Welcoming the news, David Cameron said:
"Britain boasts some of the best universities in the world. This innovative new offer led by The Open University will mean that Indian students can access some of the best teaching and learning online from their home in Mumbai or Delhi. I'm delighted that Futurelearn is expanding to include more British universities and the British Library. I hope it will encourage many more Indian students to take the next step and study with a UK university."

Welcoming the new partners, Open University Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of Futurelearn, Martin Bean said:
“We’re in the middle of an exciting time for higher education in which anything is possible. I am delighted that these iconic institutions - the British Library and five top universities - have joined us on our journey to make Futurelearn the world’s best source of free, open, online courses. I’m convinced that Futurelearn will quickly become a great, innovative British export. We’re building on the country’s 800-year history of higher education to deliver a best in class teaching and learning experience that will benefit students all over the world”.

Simon Nelson, CEO of Futurelearn, said: “I am thrilled that more of the UK’s top institutions have joined Futurelearn, which will bring the best of UK teaching to students worldwide. Until now, this market has been dominated by companies based in the US, but with 18 UK partners, we are determined to provide the smartest and most engaging online learning experiences and revolutionise conventional models of education.”

Martin Bean has been joined on the delegation to India by Vice-Chancellors from the universities of Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton and Warwick and the Chief Executive of the British Library.

Futurelearn was launched on 14 December 2012. It is an online platform that will make courses from the UK’s best universities and institutions available online for free. It will establish the UK as a global leader in online higher education (HE), offering world-class UK university courses to students throughout the world.

In addition, it will strengthen the UK HE Sector by:
• Maintaining the world-leading brand of UK HE, which currently has 18 of the top 100 universities
• Building an international growth opportunity within the UK HE sector, where direct exports in 2008/09 were £7.9bn
• Building innovation in UK HE by developing world-leading online teaching and learning practices.

Futurelearn was launched by The Open University and the new partners join existing partners from the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, King’s College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Southampton, St Andrews and Warwick.

The first Futurelearn courses will be open to students in the second half of 2013.

Please see new partner quotes (right).

Notes to Editors:
1. Futurelearn Limited is a private limited company incorporated in England under registration number 8324083
2. The term “partner” in this news release does not constitute a partnership in the legal sense and the Parties shall not have authority to bind each other in any way. The term is used to indicate their support and intent to work together on this project.

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