Simon Nelson, FutureLearn's CEO, addresses your main questions surrounding the announcement that SEEK is joining The Open University as 50/50 shareholders in FutureLearn.
Update as of 3pm May 2, 2019
Read the original blog post announcing the news here.
Thank you for all your messages of congratulations, we’re really excited about what this investment means for the future. I can see that there are some questions and concerns about what it means, so let me try to clarify things. We’re not changing the company’s purpose – to transform access to education – nor our strategy. But we want to be one of the world’s major players in opening up education through online services. This investment, and the opportunity to work with our new investors, means that we can do more, more quickly to deliver on our ambition.
What type of company is FutureLearn?
There’s been a bit of confusion about whether or not we’re a charity. The short answer is no.
FutureLearn was set up by The Open University, which is a registered charity, but FutureLearn was never set up as a charity or not-for-profit organisation: it was established as a commercial arm of The Open University and it was always the intention that we would, over time, generate profits for them, as our shareholder.
The Open University was previously our 100% owner and shareholder, and now SEEK Group has joined them to become equal shareholders, with 50% of the company each.
But it’s important to say that we’re focused on making a profit in line with our values and those of our partners and owners, driven by our purpose to transform access to education.
Free-to-join courses will continue and we’ll also be offering more job-focused subjects
We will continue to offer free-to-join courses and we have absolutely no plans to restrict the variety of courses we offer.
As some of you have picked up on, we are beginning to offer more courses that will help people in their careers. We’re doing this because we see that the world of work is changing, a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past and people will increasingly need to reskill or upskill throughout their working lives. That means there’s a rapidly growing, global demand for more flexible learning in career-related subjects, as traditional industries are transformed by technology, and jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago lead to huge skills gaps. So we’re responding to that by working with our partners to develop more courses to meet that demand. But again, this is additional to our existing portfolio. We’re not swapping anything out for these new courses.
Our team is passionate about learning for the love of learning and we have no plans to restrict the variety of courses offered. We already offer courses, and even fully online degrees, on everything from data science to ancient history and it’s one of the things we love about working here. We want to attract a range of learners, not just one kind of learner. That’s the beauty of our platform – the conversations you can have with people from completely different backgrounds, locations and perspectives than you, as you all learn together.
There’s no change to our purpose to transform access to education
We are genuinely delighted with the investment from SEEK. They are exactly the right investor for us. Their stated purpose is to help people live more fulfilling and productive working lives and help organisations succeed. They are focused on people and how they can help them, which is aligned to The Open University’s purpose to open up education to all and our purpose to transform access to education.
SEEK has invested in our business strategy; they’re not asking us to change what we’re doing. They believe in what we’re doing, want to help us achieve our goals and are very much aligned with our values. Here are some videos about their community focus and their culture so you can get a better sense of who they are.
Marketing and advertising
I’ve seen some concerns about receiving emails from SEEK and seeing lots of advertising on our website. This won’t happen. There are no plans for SEEK to use the FutureLearn website for advertising purposes.
What does SEEK get?
Some of you have also been asking about what SEEK gets out of this investment – great question!
SEEK want to help people live more fulfilling and productive working lives and help organisations succeed. They see a huge opportunity for the employment market and the education sector to work together. They see new job roles being created and people who need to reskill and upskill to get those roles. These people often can’t take time out of their lives and careers to physically go to training courses, so online learning is the only solution for them. That makes FutureLearn, as one of the world’s best online learning platforms, a great fit alongside their other portfolio of businesses.
They also understand who we are as a business and who you are as our learners, and believe in what we are trying to achieve.
I hope this answers your biggest questions and that you will continue to take the courses and qualifications on offer from our excellent partners, enjoy them, and recommend them to others if you think they are good!
And finally, I want to thank you all again for your support over the years and hopefully long into the future.