Kaplan Open Learning Introduces Financial Services Degree

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Foundation degree classes in Financial Services -- entirely online -- will run year-round.

Kaplan Open Learning, the online higher education college, has announced it will begin offering wholly online foundation and BA (Hons) degrees in Financial Services this coming September. Kaplan Open Learning was launched in 2007 by global education and training company Kaplan and the University of Essex.

The course is aimed at practitioners in financial services who may already be qualified but are seeking to gain a higher education degree to advance in their careers. Advisers in areas such as risk, mortgages, insurance compliance and investment are expected to be particularly interested.

The online degree format offers far greater flexibility than traditional full-time and part-time degrees which require attendance on a campus, so students can pursue a degree without disrupting their work or family life. This creates an excellent opportunity for many of these working adults to gain higher education qualifications who otherwise would not be able to do so.

The online degree course will offer multiple start dates throughout the year with a continuous 52-week academic calendar, and will allow students to study wherever they have access to the internet. Scheduled online classes connect staff and students through both live audio and chat rooms to encourage active discussion and interactive learning in real time. Students can contact their own dedicated academic adviser and tutors outside regular class hours.

The Foundation degree will be awarded by the University of Essex. A third year 'top up' course can be taken that will lead to the award of a BA (Hons) in Financial Services by the University.

The course has been developed by course leader Michael Kerrison who comes to Kaplan Open Learning from the IFS School of Finance where he was director of Education Policy Development and Solutions. He has published widely on integrating online, distance learning courses and traditional classroom-based programmes for adult learners.

Steve O'Keeffe, Director of Operations at the Financial Services Skills Council, commented: ''Our research has shown that 39 percent of the financial services workforce will have qualifications at level 4 and above by 2014. Higher Education institutions play a crucial role in ensuring that the UK financial services industry employs a workforce with the right balance of skills and knowledge, to retain our position as a world leader. Kaplan have worked with the us to map their degrees to the Financial Services Foundation Degree Framework, the blueprint for the sector which is based on clear evidence of employer requirements in terms of knowledge and skills."

Alan Jenkins, Managing Director of Kaplan Open Learning, said: "With greater regulation and compliance coming into force in Financial Services, opportunities for advisers and other practitioners are set to expand. The Kaplan Open Learning Financial Services degree course has been designed to complement pre-existing qualifications and will give those already working in the sector a deeper understanding of the field as well as an advantage in advancing their careers."

The introduction of Kaplan Open Learning's online degree in Financial Services follows the successful launch of its Business Studies and Criminal Justice programmes, also entirely online and running all year long. The courses have attracted primarily, but not exclusively, those interested in adult education - i.e. working adults without degrees between the ages of 25 - 45.

Online degree courses are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. In the US alone, nearly 20 percent of all higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006. That represents a nearly 10 percent increase from the year earlier and accounts for 3.5 million students, according to the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group.

The partnership between Kaplan and Essex combines Kaplan's global reputation as a provider of education and training for the past 70 years with the University of Essex's excellent academic standing and reputation for high-quality research and teaching excellence. Kaplan Open Learning benefits from the expertise Kaplan has gained in running US-based online Kaplan University, which currently has an enrolment of 54,000 students.

About Kaplan, Inc.:
Kaplan, Inc. is a leading international provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO). For more information, please visit http://www.kaplan.com.

About the University of Essex:
The University of Essex is one of the UK's leading academic institutions, consistently ranking among the top 12 universities in the country for the quality of its research and teaching. Founded in 1964, it has more than 9,000 students drawn from around 130 countries. For more information, please visit http://www.essex.ac.uk.

About Foundation Degrees:
Introduced in 2001, Foundation degrees are a distinctive higher education qualification combining academic study with work-based learning. Typically taking two to three years to complete, they are equivalent to the first two years of an Honours degree programme and can lead to entry into a Bachelor's degree programme. In 2006, more than 60,000 students were registered for Foundation degrees in the UK.

For more information, please contact:
Elizabeth Hess, Kaplan Open Learning
+ 020 7645 8968
Elizabeth.hess (at) kaplan.com

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