A group of top research universities, Universitas 21, has launched an online MBA as a first step to capturing a $111 billion (£66.7 billion) untapped postgraduate market.
U21 Global, a partnership between Universitas 21 and Thomson Learning, will begin teaching its first MBA students at the end of July. UK universities involved are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham and Birmingham.
Alan Gilbert, vice-chancellor of Melbourne University and chair of U21 Global, said: "We are on the brink of an historic opportunity."
He said that U21 Global would eventually move into the undergraduate market. "In less than a decade there will be about 100 million people in the world fully qualified to go to university but unable to go. It is only a matter of time before an enterprising on-line provider meets this demand," he said.
Fees will vary across the world, with UK students paying £12,500 and Indian students $12,000.
Thomson Learning has put in half of the $50 million funding, with the remainder coming in varying degrees from university members.
Sir Colin Campbell, vice-chancellor of Nottingham, said: "Huge demand exists for online learning, especially in Asia. But potential online students are conscious of the need for high-quality courses."
U21 Global degrees will be accredited by U21 Pedagogica on behalf of the U21 member universities worldwide.
John Hood, chair of U21, vice-chancellor of Auckland University and just announced as Oxford University vice-chancellor, said: "No U21 institution would have been willing to associate its name and reputation with anything other than the highest standards."