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U.K. MOOCs Alliance, Futurelearn, Adds British Council To Its Free Higher Education Roster

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The U.K. MOOCs alliance, Futurelearn, which was announced last December and will be offering its first free courses “from mid-2013″ with the aim of creating a globally accessible British higher education brand, has added another member to its consortium of backers. The British Council is the latest to join the Futurelearn alliance, following the British Library and a further five universities which piled in last month. The total number of institutions now supporting Futurelearn is 19.

The British Council, which operates in more than 100 countries and has charitable status, operating under a Royal Charter, has particular experience in running English language courses and in arts and culture-related education. It’s unclear whether it will be offering its own branded courses via Futurelearn or helping other partners develop course content. Possibly a bit of both.

A spokeswoman for Futurelearn commented via email: “The British Council will be working with Futurelearn on a variety of levels including course development, assessment and examinations. Last year, over 2 million people took exams with the British Council in more than 90 countries. They’ll be bringing this and their vast experience of Higher Education to bear in their work with Futurelearn.”

Commenting on the tie-up with Futurelearn, the British Council’s Chief Executive, Martin Davidson, added in a statement: “The British Council has been bringing the UK’s education sector to people around the world for almost eighty years, so it’s very exciting that with Futurelearn we’re able to expand that to millions more people through the MOOC platform.

“We hope that our recognised experience in English-language learning and delivering assessments and examinations in nearly a hundred countries will contribute to making Futurelearn even more attractive for ambitious learners around the world.”

Futurelearn Launch CEO, Simon Nelson, described the British Council as a “tremendous addition to the Futurelearn family,” in another statement, flagging up its “long track record of creating educational opportunities for people on a global scale.”

U.K. universities backing Futurelearn are the five that joined last month — Bath, Leicester, Nottingham, Queen’s Belfast and Reading — along with the original 12 partners: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, King’s College London, Lancaster, Leeds,  Southampton, St Andrews, Warwick and UK distance-learning organization The Open University.