FutureLearn is a British digital education platform founded in December 2012. The company was acquired by Global University Systems in December 2022 and previously jointly owned by The Open University and SEEK Ltd.[4] It is a massive open online course (MOOC), microcredential and degree learning platform.

Type of site
Online education
Available inEnglish, French, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese
OwnerGlobal University Systems
Key peopleIan Howell (June 2023)[1] (Managing Director)
Jo Johnson (Chair of the Board)[2]
Users17 million (September 2021)[3]
LaunchedDecember 2012; 11 years ago (2012-12)
Current statusActive

As of November 2023, it included over 260 UK and international partners, including industry and government partners and 20 million total registered learners.[5]



FutureLearn was launched with 12 university partners, seeking those who "consistently rank at the top end of the…league tables".[6] The 12 founding partners are: The Open University, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, Cardiff University, University of East Anglia, University of Exeter, King's College London, Lancaster University, University of Leeds, University of Southampton, St Andrews University, and University of Warwick.[7]

The launch was described as a move to 'fight back' and provide a space for UK institutions to engage in the MOOC space.[8][9]

In 2016, FutureLearn became the first platform for students to earn credits towards a degree from a top UK university from their tablets and smartphones.[10]

In April 2019, FutureLearn announced that SEEK Ltd would invest £50 million in the company. In return, SEEK would receive a 50% stake in the company.[4]

In December 2022, Global University Systems, which owns and operates several private for-profit colleges and universities, acquired FutureLearn, and Jo Johnson became chair of the board of the company.[2]



FutureLearn's courses span a broad range of topics. The first course opened on 14 October 2013.[11] The first courses to be made available included "Web science: how the web is changing the world" (University of Southampton), "Introduction to ecosystems" (The Open University), "Improving your image: dental photography in practice" (University of Birmingham), "Causes of war" (King's College London), "The discovery of the Higgs boson" (University of Edinburgh), "Discover dentistry" (University of Sheffield), "Muslims in Britain: changes and challenges" (Cardiff University), "Begin programming: build your first mobile game" (University of Reading) and "England in the time of King Richard III" (University of Leicester). The first course to launch was "The secret power of brands", conducted by professor Robert Jones of the University of East Anglia.

As of January 2024, FutureLearn now has an expansive course portfolio stemming across the full spectrum, with a focus on business, teaching, healthcare and IT courses.

Social impact



In December 2022, following Taliban restrictions on education in Afghanistan, FutureLearn offered free access to the online education platform for women and girls in the country.[citation needed]

Jo Johnson, Chairman of FutureLearn, said: "For girls and women who can access the internet and afford the time, this could be a lifeline. While this is of course no silver bullet – poor connectivity, poverty and language barriers mean many women may not be able to access the material – it can nonetheless play a valuable part in enabling women in Afghanistan to assert their inalienable human right to education."

As of December 2023, there were over 33,000 enrolments on the scheme from learners in Afghanistan, 14,000 of which came from learners that had previously never accessed the platform.


On 27 March 2023, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, FutureLearn announced that staff and students at Ukrainian universities would be able to enrol for free on FutureLearn courses.

UNESCO Learning Cities

On 20 September 2023, at an official side event of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and FutureLearn announced a partnership to accelerate Education for Sustainable Development in UNESCO learning cities. In a landmark campaign, FutureLearn, a member of the Global University Systems’ network of institutions, will provide free access to online courses on sustainable development issues for 100,000 lifelong learners in UNESCO learning cities across the globe.

‘The challenges our planet faces can only be effectively addressed when each and every one of us possesses the knowledge and skills essential for driving personal and societal transformation required to change course. Education for Sustainable Development is key to this endeavour,’ underlined Mr Raul Valdes Cotera, Chief Programme Coordinator a.i. at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, in his video message to the side event. ‘I am therefore excited that, through our collaboration with Global University Systems and FutureLearn, 100,000 learners from UNESCO learning cities across the globe will acquire the essential skills to champion sustainable development,’ he continued.


  2. ^ a b "FutureLearn sold to GUS, Jo Johnson to chair". The PIE News. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Mary Queen of Scots: New Glasgow University course into doomed monarch". Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Investors bet big on the companies formerly known as MOOC providers". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  5. ^ "FutureLearn partners page". futurelearn.com. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  6. ^ Parr, Chris (20 December 2012). "Futurelearn picks league table stars for debut line-up | General". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  7. ^ Marszal, Andrew (14 December 2012). "UK universities to launch free degree-style online courses". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  8. ^ Claire Shaw (20 December 2012). "FutureLearn is UK's chance to 'fight back', says OU vice-chancellor | Higher Education Network | Guardian Professional". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  9. ^ Parry, Marc (13 December 2012). "Leading British Universities Join New MOOC Venture - Wired Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  10. ^ Moules, Jonathan (26 May 2016). "FutureLearn to enable study on Moocs to count towards a degree". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  11. ^ Parr, Chris (19 February 2013). "PM hails new arrivals to Futurelearn". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 4 September 2013.