UK universities to offer free online courses

More than 20 leading universities to offer 'massive open online courses'

Top UK universities are to begin offering free online courses open to anyone around the world from today.

More than 20 leading institutions, including Southampton, Warwick and Reading have signed up to provide short courses in subject areas such as science, maths and technology.

The degree-level courses will be accessed through an online hub called FutureLearn, a private firm owned by the Open University.

It says its aim is to "increase access to higher education for people worldwide by offering a diverse range of high-quality courses and content from great universities, educators and institutions".

Students in any country will be able to sign up for a course through the FutureLearn site and study for free.

It is understood to be the first time that a UK-based organisation has been set up to offer what are known as "massive open online courses" (MOOCs).

MOOCs are already popular in the United States where there are a number of established hubs, including Coursera, which carries classes from top Ivy League universities such as Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Brown, as well institutions in other countries, like the University of Amsterdam and Peking University.

Reading University's course is expected to be based around programming.

Vice-chancellor David Bell said it would teach key concepts and skills, such as using logic and writing algorithms, and will be of interest to school students, undergraduates and adults looking to try something new.

"Offering free taster courses online is a no-brainer. Universities shouldn't be afraid to open up teaching and research, either in the UK or beyond. Learning never stops and as the economy's demand for higher-skills rises, universities should be in the vanguard when it comes to providing new opportunities.

"Making courses accessible online, on mobiles and tablets means that people can fit their studying around their lives, rather than their lives around study."

Southampton University's course is understood to be in the area of computer science.

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam said: "This represents an exciting opportunity for the university to be at the forefront of educational innovation in the UK and engage a wide community of learners.

"I have been deeply impressed by the enthusiasm that has been observable within the university community for MOOCs, much of it inspired by a commitment to improve access to world-class learning opportunities to millions around the world who otherwise would have little or no access."

FutureLearn has won support from the Government, with Universities Minister David Willetts saying it was an "exciting development for UK learning".

"I encourage all our institutions to explore the opportunities offered by new modes of technology, such as MOOCs. This will keep the UK ahead in the global race to deliver education in worldwide markets," he said.

Warwick Business School at Warwick University will be running a course called "The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology".

Professor Nick Chater, head of Warwick Business School's Behavioural Science group, said: "Our course is a taster for what we have on offer at Warwick Business School - exciting, cutting-edge perspectives on human behaviour, organisations, business and society.

"FutureLearn is a platform that we can use to share that with more people and hopefully encourage people to come to Warwick and find out more about it.

"People will be able to find out about the latest developments in many subjects through MOOCs. I would still expect, though, that there will be a continuing strong demand for the personal interactions with academics and fellow students which is an integral part of an undergraduate degree, Masters or MBA."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'