Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UK Sizes Up African Online Market

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

UK Sizes Up African Online Market

Article excerpt

Vast territory offers post-Brexit opportunities, says CEO of online platform. Matthew Reisz reports

British universities are showing an increased interest in developing their online provision in Africa since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

That is the view of Nicos Nicolaou, chief executive officer of Unicaf, which partners with Western universities to offer business and professional degrees across sub-Saharan Africa through its mobile-friendly platform. It forms part of the Edex Educational Excellence Corporation, which runs the University of Nicosia, the largest on Cyprus.

As of now, Unicaf has signed up more than 8,000 students for degrees accredited by the University of South Wales, the University of Marymount in Virginia and its own University of Nicosia. It has set up learning centres in a number of African countries, explained Dr Nicolaou, with "a digital library, a computer lab, internet, a generator, so it's a place for students to get application documents, pay their fees, sit and access our platform - we give them free tablets.

"These students have very limited facilities, no internet, no electricity, no computer [at home]. They have the option of studying fully online or using the learning centres [in countries where they are available] and having some face-to-face sessions approved by partner institutions on a blended-learning model."

There are at least two reasons why Dr Nicolaou foresees rapid expansion. One is the sheer size of the market: "Our only constraint is our capacity to process applications in a continent of 1.2 billion people, with half of them below 19. Nigeria [alone] has 1.2 million high school graduates every year and 500,000 university places." Many would-be students are unable to afford the fees in Western institutions, even if they can obtain visas, but are keen to gain their qualifications at greatly reduced prices. …

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