Major online players 2U and edX join forces in $800 million deal

Deal will enable for-profit provider 2U to reach almost 40 million learners on edX 

六月 29, 2021
Online learning
Source: iStock

Two of the biggest players in online education are to join forces in a deal worth $800 million (£580 million), it has been announced.

2U, an online education company that already has more than 80 university partners, said it would pay the sum to acquire “substantially all” the assets of edX, the non-profit platform founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The deal will create a huge entity in online learning with access to more than 50 million students worldwide and have well over 200 universities and other institutions as partners, according to a joint press statement.

It adds that “fulfilling a commitment to preserve and advance the edX mission”, 2U planned to run edX as a “public benefit entity” that would balance the interests of shareholders with others. 

The organisations said 2U had also committed to “continuing to fulfil the edX mission”, including by “guaranteeing affordability” through the use of free courses and “protecting the intellectual property rights of faculty and universities that contribute massive open online courses”.

According to the statement, the proceeds of the deal will also fund a non-profit led by Harvard and MIT that will be “dedicated to reimagining the future of learning for people at all stages of life” and “addressing educational inequalities”.

Harvard and MIT presidents Larry Bacow and Rafael Reif said the move would put edX’s original mission “on a whole new scale, connecting many more learners with a wider range of high-quality options for content, credentials and degrees”.

“With online education rapidly changing, it’s the right moment for this leap of evolution for edX,” they said in a joint comment.

“At the same time, the non-profit that emerges from this transaction will enable us and our partners to support innovation that enhances learning for all and, we hope, play a catalytic role in closing the learning gap that exists for far too many.” 

EdX currently offers over 3,000 online programmes, most of which have a free option, but also the ability to pay to build credits towards degrees. 2U has more than 500 programmes, including short courses, boot camps and professional certificates, as well as degrees.

Anant Agarwal, founder and chief executive of edX, said that “joining forces with 2U marks a major milestone in our evolution”.

“2U’s people, technology, and scale will expand edX’s ability to deliver on its mission of providing access to high-quality education to enable all learners to unlock their potential,” he said.

The deal creates further consolidation in an already highly competitive arena for online education that also includes major players like Coursera, a for-profit originally founded by two Stanford University professors.



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