By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Moocs (Massive Open Online Courses) are back on the news agenda this week, following the official launch of the UK’s FutureLearn platform yesterday, an event to which Study Travel Magazine was invited, with some rather interesting debates about the role of agents in this new international education landscape.

FutureLearn includes 21 universities from the UK as well as another two global institutions, and unveiled a range of short modules available at the launch event, ranging from studying the time of Richard III to examining the power of modern brands.

At the launch, David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science commented that Moocs represent a new recruitment avenue for universities and could cut agents out of the process, believing that Moocs can essentially be a taster offered for free to prospective students, who may then enrol on their courses.

The Minister didn’t expand upon why he feels it is necessary to cut agents out of the process. The recent growth strategy published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – the department to which Mr Willetts belongs – was relatively comfortable with the role of agents, the services that they provide to students and the business that they drive towards to the UK.

Thankfully, the university representatives at the launch were much more open-minded in their thinking. One attendee commented to our journalist that far from being a threat to agents, they viewed Moocs as an aid to agents: something that may help them to sell a university programme, and indeed a course which agents could themselves undertake as a cost-free method of understanding their partner institution and its teaching style.

Much has been made of how the free access to Moocs could dramatically alter the international education landscape, providing access to, in this case, UK degree modules to students that would never usually be able to go there themselves. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that universities ultimately see Moocs as a sales/promotional tool in showcasing their full-degree courses.

In other news this week, Cyprus has officially launched an association of English language schools. From a relatively small base, this destination reported growth of 40 per cent last year, and the formation of an association is a positive step forward in maintaining and driving standards as the industry expands.

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