Tuesday 05 March 2013

The first free, open, online platform for courses from multiple UK universities has announced a partnership with the British Council, the international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

Futurelearn was founded by The Open University (OU) in December 2012 and now has 19 partners including the British Council. Today’s announcement comes as the OU participates in Going Global 2013, the British Council’s conference for leaders in international education, taking place in the Middle East.

Also taking part in the conference, the UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said:

'I am delighted that the British Council is now a partner of Futurelearn and that their collaboration is announced as we join leaders in education from across the world at Going Global 2013. UK Higher Education is a hugely important export and one of which we can be justly proud. Futurelearn is an excellent demonstration of the UK's commitment to extending the benefits of the UK's best institutions using technology coupled with first-class teaching and learning. The British Council will bring great strength and depth to Futurelearn by working with the company on matters including course development, assessment and examinations.'

The OU Vice Chancellor and Chair of Futurelearn, Martin Bean said:

'Like Futurelearn, the British Council is dedicated to sharing the best of British education with students from around the world. The British Council’s experience and expertise add great value to Futurelearn, and I look forward to working with them to deliver high-quality online courses for all.'

The British Council’s Chief Executive, Martin Davidson said:

'We’re very pleased to be announcing our collaboration with FutureLearn. The British Council has been bringing the UK’s education sector to people around the world for almost eighty years, so it’s very exciting that with Futurelearn we’re able to expand that to millions more people through the MOOC platform. We hope that our recognised experience in English language learning and delivering assessments and examinations in nearly a hundred countries will contribute to making FutureLearn even more attractive for ambitious learners around the world.'

Futurelearn Launch CEO, Simon Nelson said:

'Our vision for Futurelearn is to deliver learning experiences for people across the world that delight and inspire them. With its long track record of creating educational opportunities for people on a global scale, the British Council is a tremendous addition to the Futurelearn family. They join 17 of the UK’s top universities and the British Library who are already working with us to deliver the best free open online courses available for students everywhere.'

The first Futurelearn courses will be delivered later in 2013.


Notes to Editor


  1. About Futurelearn: Futurelearn Limited is a private limited company incorporated in England under registration number 8324083
  2. About the Open University: The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas. The OU is rated the top university for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005.  In 2011/12 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses. In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 23 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 56 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.
  3. About the British Council: The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. It is a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations. They work in more than 100 countries, and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English arts, education, and society programmes. The British Council earns over 75% of its annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK government grant provides the remaining 25%. The British Council matches every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of their charitable purpose.
  4. The term 'partner' in this news release does not constitute a partnership in the legal sense and the Parties shall not have authority to bind each other in any way. The term is used to indicate their support and intent to work together on this project.
  5. For media enquiries please call emma.thwaites@open.ac.uk +4(0)7990 804805 orliezel.tipper@open.ac.uk on +44 (0)1908 654573 or +44(0)7990 795055