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Edwin van Rest, CEO, StudyPortals

StudyPortals.eu is the largest directory of study abroad opportunities in Europe, listing some 1,200 institutions. CEO, Edwin van Rest, talked to The PIE about its stellar growth and new distance learning portal.

The PIE: Tell me how StudyPortals came to life.

"In the last five years, Europe has become a player and I think Asia will do the same in the coming ten"

EvR: Well, when I was studying, I went to study in Japan for my Masters degree in Osaka and had a great time there, so that’s why I learned the value of international study programmes. I came back with lots of great stories and many of my friends said “I wish I had known about the opportunity to go abroad”.  At the same moment, the Bologna Process was taking effect in Continental Europe.

The PIE: What did this mean?

EvR: The biggest impact of the Bologna Process was the introduction of the Bachelors and Masters system, because it used to be that you would go pretty much five years at the same university and complete your Bachelors and Masters degree – there was no split. In 2000 there were 500 Master programmes in Continental Europe and now there are 50,000, of which about 7,000 are taught in English. There was a whole new decision for students at the end of their Bachelor phase.

I was already active in an international student association, and then within that context we launched Masters Portal to give students an opportunity to compare all the options. But also we saw our universities being very eager to attract international students to those new Master programs.

The PIE: Which is the most visited site?

EvR: Masters Portal is our most popular site. I think it has 60% of the total traffic, which is going to be 2.1 million this month.

“Masters Portal has 60% of the total traffic, which is going to be 2.1 million this month”

The PIE: When you launched, which countries were represented?

EvR: Well we tried to get a good geographic spread, so if we had the top five institutions in a country, we always moved on to the next country. When we had 70 schools we reached the point of critical mass. All of a sudden students could see that they could study in Scandinavia for free, at the same time they could study in the UK for 10,000 euros.

The visitors took off in 2008 and all of a sudden we had five to 15 universities per week contacting us to join without us ever having to contact them. Now we’re at 1,200 participating institutes, that includes almost all of the European top 500 institutes.

The PIE: So what’s next for StudyPortals?

EvR: Well, we will be launching a distance learning portal. That is our main innovation this year. We are doing that together with the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, so that includes institutions such as the Open University UK and London School of Economics.

“We’re at 1,200 participating institutes, that includes almost all of the European top 500”

The PIE: Do you have any idea how big the market is for distance learning as opposed to learning in-country?

EvR: Well, we have just started obviously but we now have 180 institutes that are participating and they are presenting 1,200 degree programs, so that would be only in the order of 5% of traditional education.

However, numbers for the program might be much higher and I’ve seen over the last three years a really growing interest in distance learning. That’s both in the setup of dedicated distance learning universities, or just in the institute, such as the University of Liverpool with its cooperation with Laureate, and that is going to happen a lot more in the UK.

There is also interest in real traditional universities offering one or two of their programmes online. Of the 180 institutes that are currently on Distance Learning Portal, 150 of them are traditional institutes.

The PIE: That’s really interesting. I also expect that there will be a huge difference in the sort of students you attract. [More>>]

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