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PM hails new arrivals to Futurelearn

David Cameron has welcomed news that five more universities have signed up to offer courses on Futurelearn, the UK’s massive open online course provider.

The universities of Bath, Leicester, Nottingham and Reading, along with Queen’s University Belfast, will all offer courses on the Mooc platform, which is owned by the Open University, bringing the total number of university partners to 17. In addition, the OU has signed an agreement allowing it to develop online courses using resources from the British Library.

Speaking on a trade visit to India, Mr Cameron said the Futurelearn initiative meant that Indian students would be able to access “some of the best teaching and learning online from their home in Mumbai or Delhi”.

“Britain boasts some of the best universities in the world,” he said. “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.”

Futurelearn was announced by the Open University in December last year with an initial 12 universities signing up. It aims to rival established US Mooc providers such as Coursera, edX and Udacity, which began offering courses last year.

Of the 17 universities now partnering, 10 are members of the Russell Group of large research-intensive institutions, and three are from the 1994 Group of small research-intensives.

Simon Nelson, CEO of Futurelearn, said: “Until now, this market has been dominated by companies based in the US, but with 18 UK partners [including the British Library], we are determined to provide the smartest and most engaging online learning experiences and revolutionise conventional models of education.”

David Greenaway, vice-chancellor of Nottingham, said that Futurelearn had “the potential to be transformational”, adding it would “help leverage the high quality academic resources and innovative technologies that UK higher education has to offer”.

Details of the first Futurelearn courses have yet to be confirmed, but they are due to open to students in the second half of 2013.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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