ONLINE PROGRAM PARTNERSHIPS
“There’s quite a lot of risk
involved. Universities have to
put up a lot of funding if they
want to do this themselves
Geoff Webster, CEG Digital
However, OPMs are generally (but not always) more
geared towards postgraduate study as opposed to the
undergraduate level, and the demographic and needs that
they target are markedly different from the typical 18-22
year old bracket doing their first degree.
“These are properly taught pedagogically-sound masters
programs that tend to be delivered on a part-time basis over
two years,” says Webster, whose partnership with Falmouth
University saw CEG Digital shortlisted for the PIEoneer
Award for the public/private partnership of the year.
He continues, “You’re addressing a segment of the market
who don’t have time to give up their jobs and come to the
UK to study for a year full-time.”
According to Webster, most of the enrolling students tend
to be in employment and taking the master’s qualification
to either advance their careers within their chosen field or
change tracks to something else. “The average age of our
students is 38, so it’s quite a different demographic.”
There is also something to be said for how OPMs often
target postgraduate courses over undergraduate ones, where
“for graduate masters, MBA and doctoral programs” reten-tion
46 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #26
PHOTO: CEG DIGITAL
rates are “very strong”, notes Hunter, adding that his
company has to take a more hands-on approach for adult
bachelor programs to help students complete the courses.
“It’s not uncommon to have retention rates of 88 to 92
per cent in those fully online grad programs,” he says.
“That’s a student who’s familiar with how to navigate
higher education. They’re coming back to get a graduate
degree for a very specific reason, usually career-oriented.”
Investing in online
With the potential of fewer students next year, it’s unlikely
universities will choose to invest in their own online pro-grams.
It’s not a new issue, as OPM providers say univer-sities
are often unwilling or unable to invest the resources
and funds needed to launch these programs successfully.
There are exceptions, most notably the universities of
Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK, which have their
own online programs created and managed in-house, but
they are largely the exceptions to the rule.
“There’s quite a lot of risk involved. Universities have to
put up a lot of funding to do this themselves,” says Webster.
“They have to be confident that they can hire and recruit
the right level of expertise and that they can devote enough
management time to it. There’s quite a lot of benefit in
having a private sector partner come in.”
There can also be push-back from the academic com-munity,
as Durham University in the UK realised: it rowed
back on plans to cut “live” teaching by 25 per cent as part
of a radical shift towards providing online learning after
its local UCU (University and College Union) representa-tive
called the university proposals “destructive” and “an
attack on staff”.
Students graduate from their online
programs at Falmouth University