Two profound issues face the upper training sector globally — affordability and relevance. Whether you reside in Africa, Europe, or the U.S., a serious cause why folks don’t go to college or faculty and even drop out as a result of they can not afford tuition charges. On the opposite hand, relevance reveals the large hole between what conventional universities educate and what world employers really search for. It’s not a secret that universities focus a bit an excessive amount of on idea.
Over the previous few years, there was the emergence of quite a few various credential suppliers making an attempt to present college students with the required abilities to earn and make a dwelling. Nexford University is considered one of such platforms, and right now, it has a closed $10.8 million pre-Series A funding spherical.
Dubai-based VC Global Ventures led the brand new spherical. Other buyers embody Future Africa’s new thematic fund (targeted on training), angel buyers, and household workplaces. Unnamed VCs from 10 international locations, together with the U.S., U.Okay., France, Dubai, Switzerland, Qatar, Nigeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, additionally took half.
To date, Nexford has raised $15.3 million, following the primary tranche of $4.5 million in seed funding raised two years in the past.
Fadl Al Tarzi launched Nexford University in 2019. The tech-enabled college is filling affordability and relevance gaps by offering entry to high quality and reasonably priced training.
“That way, you get the best of both worlds,” CEO Al Tarzi stated to TechCrunch. “You get practical skills that you can put to work immediately or for your future career while actively keeping a job. So the whole experience is designed as a learning as a service model.”
Nexford Unversity lets college students research at their very own tempo. Once they apply and get admitted into both a level program or a course program, they select how briskly or sluggish they need this system to be.
The CEO says no matter college students study on the platform is straight relevant to their jobs. Currently, Nexford gives undergraduate levels in enterprise administration; 360° advertising; AI & automation; constructing a tech startup; enterprise analytics; enterprise in rising markets; digital transformation; e-commerce; and product administration. Its graduate levels are enterprise administration, superior AI, e-commerce, hyperconnectivity, sustainability, and world enterprise.
Nexford’s tuition construction may be very completely different from conventional universities as a result of it’s modelled month-to-month. Its accredited levels value between $3,000 to $4,000 paid in month-to-month instalments. In Nigeria, as an illustration, an MBA prices about $160 a month, whereas a bachelor diploma prices $80 a month. But the catch for the month-to-month instalment construction means the sooner a learner graduates, the much less they pay.
What’s it like learning with Nexford University?
Nexford University doesn’t supply standardized and theoretical assessments or assignments as most conventional universities do. Al Tarzi says the corporate employs what he calls a competency-based training mannequin the place college students show mastery by engaged on sensible tasks.
For occasion, a scholar engaged on an accounting course will most probably want to create a P&L assertion, analyze stability sheets and determine the place the error is to right it. The platform then offers the coed completely different eventualities exhibiting firms with completely different revenues and expense ranges. The process? To analyse and extract sure ratios to assist make sense of which firm is worthwhile and the opposite unit economics concerned.
Though Nexford performs within the edtech house, Al Tarzi doesn’t suppose the corporate is an edtech firm. As a licensed and accredited on-line college, Nexford has an enormous quantity of automation throughout the group and offers college students with assist from college and profession advisors.
After providing levels, Nexford places on its placement hats by fixing its graduates with accomplice employers.
There’s an enormous scarcity of jobs in Nigeria, and regardless of the excessive unemployment, it’s really troublesome to discover extraordinarily certified entry-level graduates. So Nexford has carried out a number of partnerships the place employers sponsor their staff or soon-to-be staff for upskilling and rescaling functions.
An illustration is with Sterling Bank, a neighborhood financial institution within the nation. Most Nigerian banks have yearly routines the place they rent graduates and put them on weeks-long coaching packages. Sterling Bank employs any candidate it feels did nice after the capital intensive (eight weeks generally) packages.
So what Nexford has accomplished is to accomplice with Sterling to fund the tutoring for highschool leavers. When these college students undergo Nexford’s packages for the primary yr, they start to get part-time placements at Sterling. Upon commencement, they get a job within the financial institution.
“That saves Sterling the training cost and our tuition fee is almost equal to the training that they provided for students. Also, students start paying back once they get placed, so it’s a win-win.”
Nexford University has learners from 70 international locations, with Nigeria its largest market but. Nexford additionally has blue-chip partnerships with Microsoft, LinkedIn Learning, and IBM to present entry to instruments, programs and programmes to enhance the learning expertise.
One of the foremost positive factors of this learning expertise is the way it prepares folks for remote jobs. Nexford is bullish on its digital abilities grid, the place folks will get jobs remotely no matter their location on the platform.
“Across Sub Saharan Africa by the year 2026, there’s gonna be a shortage of about 100 million university seats as a result of huge growth in youth population not met by growth and supply. Even if you want to build universities fast, you wouldn’t be able to meet the demand. And that spirals down to the job market. We don’t think the local economy will produce enough jobs in Nigeria, for instance. But we want to enable people to get remote jobs across the world and not necessarily have to migrate.”
Last yr, Nexford’s revenues grew by 300%. This yr, the corporate hopes to triple the scale of its enrollment from final yr, the CEO stated.
Nexford is massive on designing college students’ curriculum primarily based on evaluation of what their employer wants. Al Tarzi tells me that the corporate all the time comply with the Big Data strategy, asking themselves, “how do we find out what employers worldwide are looking for and keep our curriculum alive and relevant?”
“We develop proprietary technology that enables us to analyze job vacancies as well as several other data sources; use AI to understand how those data sets and build a curriculum based on those findings. So, in short, we start with the end in mind,” he solutions.
The firm is eager on bettering its know-how regardless. It desires to analyse abilities extra precisely and automate extra features to improve person expertise. That’s what the funding can be used for as well as to fuelling its regional growth plans (notably in Asia) and investing in development and product growth. Per the latter, the net college says it will likely be launching accomplice packages with extra employers globally to facilitate each placement and upskilling and rescaling.
Merging each worlds of tech and the standard college mannequin is not any simple feat. The former is about effectivity, user-centricity, product, amongst others. The latter embodies rigidity and continues to lag behind fast-paced innovation. And whereas tright here’s been a growth in edtech, most startups attempt to circumvent the trade’s paperwork by launching an app or a MOOC. Nexford’s mannequin of operating a degree-granting, licensed, accredited, and controlled college is tougher however in it lies a lot alternative.
Iyin Aboyeji, Future Africa basic accomplice CEO, understands this. It’s one cause why the corporate is the primary funding out of Future Africa’s soon-to-be-launched fund targeted on the way forward for learning and why he believes the corporate is a game-changer for larger training in Africa.
“During the pandemic, while many universities in Nigeria were shut down due to labour disputes, Nexford was already delivering an innovative and affordable new model of online higher education designed for a skills-based economy.”
For basic accomplice at Global Ventures Noor Sweid, Nexford University is redressing the mismatch between the availability of expertise and the calls for of right now’s digital financial system. “We are thrilled to partner with Fadl and the Nexford team on their journey toward expanding access to universal quality higher education in emerging markets,” she stated.