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FutureLearn sold to GUS, Jo Johnson to chair

Digital learning platform FutureLearn has been acquired by Global University Systems, with former UK universities minister Jo Johnson announced as chairman.

The partnership wll increase FutureLearn's support for the UN's SDGs. Photo: UK Parliament

FutureLearn has served some 19 million students to date

The deal will allow Netherlands-based GUS to provide FutureLearn with access to its proprietary AI-powered career management solution, widening FutureLearn’s offering to provide fully-fledged career advancement, linking learners with content, accreditation, mentorship and career opportunities.

Andy Hancock, CEO of the digital platform, said the partnership is “a great outcome for FutureLearn”.

He told The PIE, “As part of GUS, FutureLearn will now have scale to take its offering to learners and to educational partners across the world, including in areas where FutureLearn is not currently operating.”

The company plans to expand to Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean, giving students in these locations access to thousands of courses, helping them build career-relevant skills and gain internationally recognised certifications.

“Demand for improved higher education is growing strongly in the developed and developing world. FutureLearn adds yet another educational offering to the GUS group,” Hancock added.

“Demand for improved higher education is growing strongly in the developed and developing world”

“We’ve secured a strong, strategic partner with broad sector knowledge which can support the scale and investment we need.”

In a statement, FutureLearn, which launched in 2013 and originally partnered with the British Council, said that the new partnership with GUS will “enhance career opportunities for millions of learners”.

Aaron Etingen, founder and CEO of GUS, said he is “delighted” that the organisation can play a role FutureLearn’s story and assist in adding to the some 19 million students FutureLearn has educated to date.

“In just under 10 years, FutureLearn has become the largest and most impactful online learning platform,” said Etingen.

“Over the last 20 years GUS has developed proprietary, AI-powered career management capabilities which can strengthen the FutureLearn platform and unlock access to global markets.”

GUS already owns a number of for-profit higher education institutes including Arden University, the University of Law, the University of Europe for Applied Sciences and University Canada West.

Johnson, who was appointed chairman of the board of FutureLearn, said that the company is in an “exciting stage in its growth to become a world leading platform for learners seeking to reach their personal and professional goals through short online courses, microcredentials, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.”

“No company has greater potential to bring world class learning opportunities to more people,” added Johnson.

An advisory board was also announced, chaired by former cabinet minister David Blunkett and Douglas Blackstock, president of the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Further appointments are expected to follow.

The partnership will also increase its support for the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include ensuring equal access to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, and substantially increasing the number of young people and adults who gain skills relevant to employment and entrepreneurship.

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