Eduventures® Research Announces New Report on the Realities of the Higher Education Non-Degree Market

March 7, 2023

In-Depth Report Helps Institutions Understand the Non-Degree Marketplace by Focusing on Three Leading Providers

Boston, MA — March 7th, 2023: Encoura, LLC, a leading educational data science and research organization, announced today the publication of an in-depth report on the higher education non-degree market. Written by Richard Garrett, Eduventures Chief Research Officer for Encoura, the report helps colleges and universities understand the important, but often exaggerated and data-poor, non-degree marketplace. Amid the multitude of non-degree platforms, companies, models, and partnerships, the report focuses on three of the largest providers: Coursera, edX (owned by 2U), and Udemy.

Non-degree programs can offer learners a compelling combination of workplace relevance, fast completion, and affordability compared to degree programs. At a time of falling degree enrollment, many colleges and universities are looking to non-degree programs to grow revenue.

The report addresses the three big questions surrounding the non-degree market opportunity from the perspective of higher education leaders:

  • What does evidence from leading companies and institutions reveal about the current size of contemporary non-degree markets?
  • Does enrollment and other data suggest that these companies, and their university partners, are building game-changing businesses?
  • And do these non-degree offerings complement or compete with degrees?

Eduventures reviewed the quarterly, annual, and other reports from 2U, Coursera, and Udemy, sifting intelligence on revenue, profit, enrollment, marketing spend, learner demographics, and spend per student.

Coursera, edX, and Udemy, and similar initiatives are the latest attempt to harness the game-changing potential of online learning to redraw the postsecondary education landscape. Their non-degree portfolios represent a significant advance—in terms of technology, pedagogy, and range—over past efforts.

The non-degree market is sizable and growing, but higher education institutions need to be careful. It is true that the companies profiled in the report and their higher education partners enroll large numbers of paid non-degree learners, but these numbers are far fewer than headlines suggest. Firms profiled report large and sustained losses and very high marketing spend ratios highlighting significant growth and competition challenges, to which recent company layoffs attest. Non-degree enrollment still stands in the shadow of larger and more profitable degree programs. The non-degree segment is already very crowded, cautioning higher education leaders weighing program prospects and investments.

Richard Garrett commented, “Today’s non-degree market is bigger and more innovative than ever, and the three companies we profiled—Coursera, edX (owned by 2U), and Udemy—are leaders in this space. But the non-degree market is at an inflection point.”

Eduventures contends that companies (and institutions) must address an unresolved tension between the path to a more engaging non-degree student experience—which may require heightened spending on new technology and less efficient synchronous learning elements—and the path to corporate (and program) profitability. Such investments may pay for themselves in terms of lower learner acquisition costs, stronger retention, and superior margins, but alternatively they may test company business models.

Garrett said, “With this report, Eduventures provides much-needed clarity in a market that is heating up in scale and significance, but where higher education institutions and their corporate partners must tread carefully to find success.”

Members of the press who wish to obtain a full copy of the report can email Ellen Slaby at eslaby@eduventures.com.

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