Have you heard of Nexford University?

Before the global pandemic struck just over a year ago, there was already a paradigm shift taking place in the world of higher education. MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) were starting to be offered from a wide array of universities all over the world via edtech platforms such as Coursera, Edx, and South African startup GetSmarter (since acquired by 2U).

To date the general consensus however is that MOOC’s have failed largely due to their abysmal completion rates. They were poised to transform education, but according to a 2019 MIT study completion rates were as low as 4% over a 5 year period. A simple explanation for this is that because MOOC’s are mostly free or cost a nominal amount, people just don’t commit like they would to a course costing several thousand dollars.

When someone has “skin in the game” they usually have a more disciplined and dedicated approach. By putting a heftier price tag on certain MOOC’s edtech platforms hope this will bolster completion rates. However, this is at odds with the raison d’etre of MOOC’s which is to democratise higher education by removing the financial barriers.

Another challenge facing MOOC’s is that they’re simply taking traditional university modules and changing the way in which they can be learnt. The world is very different to what it was 50 years ago. The digital revolution has changed the way society interacts, works and learns. The skills needed to succeed in this world are very different to the skills bricks and mortar universities have been developing over the preceding decades.

Enter Nexford University. This online university is tackling two major problems that exist within modern day higher education - relevance and affordability. Launched in 2019 by Fadl Al Tarzi, Nexford is pioneering the “learning as a service” model which places greater focus on practical rather than theoretical skills. There is no denying that a chasm currently exists between the skills university students are graduating with and the skills employers are looking for.

Nexford aims to solve this challenge by offering undergraduate degrees in business administration, 360° marketing, AI and automation, building a tech startup, business analytics, business in emerging markets, digital transformation, e-commerce, and product management.

On the cost side Nexford’s tuition structure seeks guidance from the SaaS industry by utilising a LaaS (learning as a service) model. Instead of paying for your degree each year, its accredited degrees which cost between $3,000 to $4,000 are paid in monthly instalments.

In its largest market, Nigeria, an MBA costs about $160 a month, while a bachelor degree costs $80 a month. The catch for the monthly instalment structure means the faster a learner graduates, the less they pay, thus incentivising a more studious approach.

Nexford is certainly primed to do very well across Africa where there is an urgent need for tech-centric skills that can feed into the fast-growing startup landscape. Moreover, the pay-per-month cost structure along and relative affordability of the degree programs combined with the remote learning aspect will open up an addressable market far larger than any bricks and mortar university can on the continent.

This optimism isn’t just shared by us. They’ve just raised pre-series A funding of $10.8 million led by Dubai-based VC, Global Ventures. This takes their total investment tally to $15.3 million. Watch this space.

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