The Importance of Partnerships in Education
- David Barnett

Managing Director of Pearson


Why are partnerships so important for the Education sector?

We're all acutely aware of the transformative power of education, the level of unmet demand for education, and the projected growth of this sector in the global middle class.

All these factors point to a once in a generation opportunity - an opportunity to transform millions of lives through education. But this opportunity will only be realised if we work together in partnership. We need to look at education less like a race between competing providers, and more like an ecosystem, made richer and stronger through many players sharing, partnering, and succeeding together.

No one individual or institution has all the answers or all the solutions and expertise to meet every problem on their own. It's crucial we foster a culture of partnership and cooperation, especially in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment.

This mission of working with others - and to have a measurable impact on learning - is what drives the culture at Pearson and unifies our 40,000 employees around the world. But some questions still remain - how do we grab this opportunity in front of us? What does working in partnership really mean? How do we show we have a measurable impact on learning?


What was the founding principle of Pearson's partnership with Monash University?

At Pearson we are putting the learner at the centre of everything we do. To help do this, we have promised to publicly show that our products and services are leading to a measurable improvement in learning outcomes. This transformation as a company is what we’re calling efficacy or, perhaps more accurately, our path to efficacy.

In Australia, we formed a new partnership with one of our local leading educational institutions - in fact Australia’s largest university and a member of the Go8 - Monash University. Working together, Monash and Pearson have created Monash Online. It's an exciting partnership which looks to combine the same rigorous, academic standards of Monash's campus based courses and, through student recruitment and retention services from Pearson, bring this to life online.

While this involved combining our different areas of expertise, we were guided by a shared set of founding principles;

  • to design courses around the needs of the learner
  • to provide access to learning at times and in ways that made it convenient to them
  • to allow learning to flourish and to impact on students' completion.

This meant providing multiple start dates (x6) across the year, making live and recorded seminars available 24/7, and providing dedicated student support services that help promote engagement.




What has this partnership with Monash produced so far, that the 2 companies could not have done, independently?

We’ve launched four courses overall, three last year and one this year. One of the four courses, the Post-Graduate Diploma in Psychology, is now on its way to becoming Monash's largest postgraduate course. Importantly these new, high quality online courses are delivering for students who might have otherwise struggled to access them on campus.

Over half the students enrolled (55%) live outside of Victoria and would have therefore struggled to access the traditional campus based course in Melbourne. They are also typically mid-career, with an average age of 36 and are looking to up-skill or re-skill. In fact, the majority (51%) of students cited a career change as their top motivation for enrolling. 


Do you have any examples or stories about how this partnership has helped students?

I do have a very recent example about a GDP student and what it meant for her.

Wendy lives in a part of rural Australia with her family. Wendy is particularly proud of where she is today because her first experience with education didn’t go so well – in fact, she left school before completing Year 12.

Wendy's work history has involved helping people through very challenging personal circumstances, particularly in her role as a counsellor for troubled young adults in both schools and the prison system. In order to progress further, Wendy wanted to undertake professional study. Given her experience and a desire to help young people, our GDP program was the right course to help her develop her ability to make a difference, for others and for herself. But there was a problem. Over the course of our most recent teaching period, Wendy had to overcome some extremely challenging personal circumstances in order to successfully pass the latest unit of her course, an advanced statistics unit.

She contacted our Student Success team prior to the start of the teaching period to let us know that although she didn’t want to withdraw, she was concerned about being able to keep up with the unit due to a worsening medical condition, a condition exacerbated by stress.

She had also encountered some technical issues, which the Monash Online Student Success team, managed by Pearson, was eventually able to help her overcome, but she still felt overwhelmed by her situation. However, with some hard work, a huge level of passion and determination, as well as sustained and dedicated assistance from the Student Success team, Wendy managed to submit her assessments on time and stay engaged.

She was eventually able to pass this statistics course, which for Wendy (and probably for lots of us!) was a huge achievement. For Pearson and Monash, we made a measurable impact on this student's progress and ultimately, hopefully, on her life too.

I’m personally proud of this story and the contribution we’re starting to make and I’m also really excited about the future.




Finally, does every business have a responsibility to consider partnerships that have benefits for the learner?

Partnerships are going to be increasingly important for all of us who work in education.

As I said earlier, this ecosystem won’t thrive with one or two big winners, it can’t. Instead, it will be made richer, better and bigger by many players interacting, trying new things, benefiting from this exchange and building new ways to learn.

Dr Michael Crow, President of ASU, the largest public university in the US, made it clear in his keynote at UA earlier this year that ASU would not be where they are today without the 130 or so partnerships they have.

'We have learning technologies that have altered forever the trajectory of our institution. Some we have made, some we've made with other academic partners, some we have made with companies as partners … it has changed everything. Success rates, graduation rates, cost reduction …everything'.


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