US firm’s global network has ‘powerful university at centre’

Cintana will ‘accelerate’ existing universities and create ‘start-ups’ around world, taking a share of increased earnings

August 16, 2021
Source: Getty

A US education company involving Arizona State University bills itself as “accelerating” universities around the world to growth and creating “start-ups” using a new model, a global network with a “very powerful university at the centre” rather than a corporation.

Cintana Education was founded by Douglas Becker, founder of Laureate Education, in collaboration with ASU – a public university known as a giant of online education – and its president, Michael Crow.

After initially announcing their link-up in 2019 but seeing it held up by Covid, Mr Becker offered further details on the emerging global network, so far numbering eight “affiliates”.

Mr Becker, who in 2018 left Laureate, which has been described as the world’s biggest for-profit university company, said it was now possible to envisage that “we could have a network with 100 universities in it”.

“Laureate became a global network of universities with a very powerful corporation at the centre – which is great and I loved spending 20 years of my life doing that,” he said. “But Cintana is conceived as a network of universities with a very powerful university at the centre, and that’s Arizona State.”

That would open up to affiliate universities the chance of research collaboration with ASU faculty and pathways to dual degrees.

Mr Becker described the two different models Cintana would focus on, the first being “acceleration” for an existing university, a path being followed by one Cintana affiliate, the non-profit Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, the oldest private university in Mexico. The university has 12,000 students, but “they want to be a national player, they want to be online, they want to be recognised, they may have an interest in becoming US accredited”, said Mr Becker.

The institution can now “call itself powered by ASU” and “through Cintana have access to a repository of content that allows them to utilise ASU’s curriculum in their own curriculum in Mexico”, he continued.

The other model will be the creation of new universities, where another Cintana affiliate is the American University Kyiv, scheduled to open in 2022. There, Mr Becker said, “three of the largest employers in Ukraine have teamed together to fund the creation of a new university because they want to see innovation in higher education to drive and support the workforce of the future. Who better to help with that than a university like ASU?”

Most universities partnering with Cintana will be “non-profit and in some cases government linked”, where universities or ministers are looking for new models to drive innovation or to build capacity, he said.

In terms of Cintana’s corporate structure, Mr Becker said ASU’s enterprise arm was among the shareholders. “It’s a for-profit corporation, but it is a public benefit corporation,” he continued, “which in the US is really meant to create a framework for companies that are very mission driven, that aren’t only about generating shareholder returns but that want to access investor capital.”

Cintana would not acquire or invest capital in universities, “however, what we are doing is investing an enormous amount of…human capital; we will drop in experts in strategy and planning…drop in an expert on medicine, on online education” or on navigating the path to securing US accreditation, Mr Becker said.

The university will “share with us some small percentage of their increased growth”, meaning “we can get repaid for that over a very long time”, he added.

Dr Crow said: “ASU is engaging with the intention of being part of a movement around the world to expand access to higher education and to expand high-quality outcomes.”


Print headline: ‘Powerful university’ key to firm’s global network

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