Tony Blair was the prime minister who achieved his goal of enrolling more than half of all young people in college by this century. Today, his son is pioneering a way to award degrees without needing a university at all.
Euan Blair’s company, Multiverse, has become the first learning provider to be licensed to award on-the-job degrees.
Multiverse will be able to award degrees in subjects such as data science and technology, with all learning being taught on the job through apprenticeships.
The first cohort of 170 people will enroll in Multiverse Degrees this month, and about double that number is expected to begin when applications for 16-24 year olds open later this year.
They will train alongside full-time jobs with partner companies such as Rolls-Royce, Travis Perkins, Mastercard and Trainline.
Training will be free, meaning there will be no student debt, a big selling point as the cost of living soars.
Last year, Dyson became the first company licensed by the Office for Students to award on-the-job degrees, but Multiverse is the first learning provider to do so. The Student Office is currently reviewing applications from other providers.
Writing on LinkedIn on Thursday morning, Euan Blair said the moment was a “huge step forward” for the company.
“From today, we have the power to issue our own degrees. It’s no small feat: it’s a rigorous and detailed process that started some time ago and is backed by inspections and audits from a host of government regulators.
The new credentials allow the educational technology company to issue certificates up to bachelor’s degree level to those who complete their programs.
Blair said: “Unlike a traditional college degree, it will mean what you can do, not just what you know. It is completely free for the individual, fully paid for by employers, with no debt or deferred income. You are paid a salary throughout the process because it is ultimately a job, so you don’t need to try your luck in what is likely to be an increasingly difficult job market.
“These powers give us another powerful tool to open up an academic-only education system and fundamentally transform who has access to the best careers. Apprentices start in the UK this month, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Multiverse works with over 8,000 apprentices and was founded by Blair junior in 2016 to match those without a college degree with employer-paid jobs and training.
It was valued at $1.7bn (£1.4bn) in July this year when it sought additional investment. The company intends to use the new round of funding to expand its business in the United States as well as expand its range of tuition programs.
Elisabeth Barrett, vice president of learning at Multiverse, said the program was more inclusive than traditional college-bound learnings. “In university degree courses, only 12% of 19-24 year olds come from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Among those under 19, graduate apprentices are more than five times more likely to come from the most privileged neighbourhoods.
In contrast, Barrett said that more than a third of apprentices placed by Multiverse so far were experiencing “one or more indicators of socio-economic disadvantage”.
Jean Arnold, director of quality at SFO, said all applications for degree-awarding powers should be tested for factors such as their academic governance, experience and standards.
Arnold added: “We support innovation in the sector to improve course options and quality for students. We are pleased to grant degree-awarding powers to Multiverse as a provider that provides opportunities and choices for students.