The Guardian homeBy Anna Fazackerley. Moocs – massive online open courses – have taken off in America. Why are UK universities holding back? About once a fortnight Matt Robb, senior principal at consulting firm Parthenon, has a conversation with a financier who wants to inject serious finance into a British university. According to Robb, the right idea could net finance of between £50m and £100m. Yet this isn't about new lecture halls or research facilities. Financiers are hearing stories about a global revolution in online learning in the US, and they are eager for that revolution to catch on over here. But so far they have been disappointed. "UK higher education is extremely good, but the scale of ambition is low," says Robb. "I was talking to an investor the other day who said: 'At the moment no university is looking at anything big enough for us to write a cheque'."
In the UK, distance learning remains a niche concern – something that is seen as more the territory of the Open University than the mainstream. Universities say they've been offering their learners online options for years. But there is scarcely a whiff of the evangelism and excitement bubbling away in America, where venture capitalists and leading universities are ploughing millions of dollars into mould-breaking massive online open courses, or moocs, which offer free education to huge numbers of students across the world. Read more...