Sylvan Learning Systems, the Baltimore-based world leader in for-profit higher education, announced last month that it will change its name to Laureate Education. The company will, however, continue to develop its network of online and campus-based universities that serve more than 130,000 students.
Douglas Becker, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, says the global demand for accredited university-level education has been growing at an "explosive" rate.
"Over the past three years, revenues from post-secondary education have increased at a compounded annual growth rate of 69 per cent," he says.
Through its online universities, the company says, it is able to offer the growing population of non-traditional students the convenience and flexibility of distance learning to pursue undergraduate, masters and doctorate degree programmes in fields such as engineering, education, business and healthcare.
In 2003, the company reported full-year revenues of $472.8 million (£257 million), an increase of 41 per cent on 2002. Operating income rose 135 per cent to $33.6 million.
On the Nasdaq stock market, Laureate's shares were trading at $39.85, 6.35 per cent above the opening price and well ahead of the 52-week high of $38.15.
The company claims to have created the only truly international network of campus-based and online universities with the goal of expanding access to higher education with programmes that are relevant to the professional success of its students.
On campus, it offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programmes including business, health sciences, law, information technology and architecture.
It has acquired eight accredited universities and one technical/vocational institute, several of them in Central and South America. Online, it offers more than 30 graduate and undergraduate programmes including education, management, health and human services, engineering, information technology and psychology.
One programme is offered through KIT eLearning, an exclusive online partner to Liverpool University. In April, before its name change, the company acquired Amsterdam-based KIT eLearning, which offered two online degrees - an MBA and an MSc in information technology through Liverpool. Some 1,800 students from more than 80 countries are enrolled on the programmes, and a ten-year agreement signed as part of the deal sets an eventual target of 10,000 online students.
The four-year partnership between Liverpool and KIT is designed to appeal to students throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia who would prefer a degree with UK rather than US associations. Liverpool is responsible for the quality of programmes and degree awards.
Drummond Bone, Liverpool's vice-chancellor, says: "The online masters programmes share the university's traditions of excellence and dedication to quality that are incorporated in our programmes. They reflect our commitment not only to keep pace with but to stay ahead of the constantly evolving and increasingly global demand for higher education and professional advancement."
KIT's responsibility is to make Liverpool's courses available online, and KIT's Amsterdam offices will become the headquarters for all Laureate's online activities outside the US.