By Cindy Ren
Digital education provider 2U and LSE have announced an expansion of their current online learning partnership.
This will increase the number of courses that 2U, an educational technology company that offers online degree programs, offers at the University of London(UoL) through LSE. 2U and UoL will go from offering four undergraduate programs and nine short courses to seven undergraduate programs at LSE. Four of the seven online undergraduate degrees that will launch this year include the BSc Data Science and Business Analytics, BSc Economics, BSc Economics and Management, and BSc Business and Management.
The online courses that 2U offers are completed entirely online. The programs, geared towards adult students, cost roughly £20,000 for overseas students and take up to four years to complete. This is significantly cheaper than current on-campus tuition fees, which stand at around £27,000 for domestic students and up to £65,000 for overseas applicants. This is not-withstanding the high living costs that students incur studying and living in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, which the LSE estimates at £1,100-£1,300 per month. There are, however, concerns that larger cohorts completing the 2U affiliated courses may reduce the value of the online degree vis-a-vis on-site degrees.
There are also concerns that 2U, a for-profit organization, would unduly profit off of LSE, which is an exempt charity regulated for charitable purposes by the Higher Education Funding Council of England. At previous academic institutions, 2U has been known to take up to 60% of tuition fees. Currently, the market for these online learning companies may be worth more than £6 million.
The Beaver reached out to the LSE in regards to these concerns, and a spokesperson responded: “The courses are non-credit bearing and are designed to offer working professionals and others insights into key areas of social sciences and social science research. However, as with other ancillary programmes, they are subject to quality assurance. This governance is overseen by a committee of senior academics drawn from around the School who approve new course proposals and monitor outcomes/standards”. Moreover, the spokesperson added that “The supplier for delivery of these courses was selected following a competitive exercise managed by the LSE procurement function. This partnership brings in resources to LSE while helping with the School’s strategy of promoting lifelong learning and widening our reach to non-traditional students.” Lastly, the spokesperson confirmed that “these courses do not take away resources from current students—indeed, they generate a financial return for the School to invest.”
However, the LSE spokesperson did not address queries on the exact economical arrangement with 2U and claimed that information on ‘LSE’s profit per online student’ and ‘2U’s profit per online student’ is commercially sensitive.