Dr Nicolaou believes the use of modern technologies can enhance teaching and learning effectiveness and, thus, may substantially contribute towards the goals and objectives associated with sustainable, inclusive growth and development.
“Distance education can eliminate current barriers to higher education in Africa, imposed by space and time, and can dramatically expand access to lifelong learning. Using flexible delivery models, students will no longer have to visit a physical location at specific times and days. A modern higher education institution, such as Unicaf University, no longer has to be at any specific physical location but, through the use of technology, can exist anywhere, anytime for students who wish to access study materials and complete a particular academic programme fully online.”
COVID-19 Has Changed Education Forever
There has been a high growth and adoption in education technology around the world in recent years, with edtech investments of up to USD 18.66 billion in 2019, and projections for the online education market expected to reach USD 350 billion by 2025. COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to the wider use of technology in delivering education.
“Because of COVID-19 online learning expanded dramatically. Almost all universities had to shift to remote learning to serve their students. In a very short time, everyone had to shift from face-to-face teaching to online, using a variety of technologies. The pandemic provided the catalyst needed for universities to move online and to use digital platforms for teaching and learning,” says Dr Nicolaou.
“What was considered to be the future has been accelerated to become the present; and my expectation is that this shift is here to stay, in one form or another. Various technologies, which are employed for online teaching, will reshape learning, both inside the classroom and beyond, well after the present pandemic subsides. In the same token, regulators have realised how crucial online education is and started encouraging universities to offer online programmes,” he adds.
The Future of Online Education in Africa
Africa accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s youth population (aged 15-24), which is also the fastest growing in the world; however, there is a dearth of quality and affordable higher education. School enrolment rates at the tertiary level stand at 8 per cent, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (https://bit.ly/3eGhkYq), significantly below the global average of 32 per cent. Online education has the potential to increase access to higher education, making it cheaper, more flexible and more accessible to a wider range of students, and that is what Unicaf does.
Launched in 2012 and with headquarters in Europe, Unicaf is a top higher education online platform with students in 158 countries, and also a scholarship programme, facilitating higher education studies at affordable cost. The digital platform provides access to quality university degree programmes and professional courses from reputable partner institutions in the UK, the USA and Africa, and is addressing an underserved part of the higher education market through an affordable and flexible online learning model,” says Dr Nicolaou.
Two years ago, Unicaf raised $28 million Series B financing to meet the growing demand for high-quality university education across the continent. The $28m Series B was led by Goldman Sachs with participation from CDC Group, University Ventures, and EDEX, the founder of the University of Nicosia.
During the pandemic, Unicaf has been able to demonstrate its capabilities and increase its reach and has helped thousands of students to study online towards an internationally recognised degree without being affected by lockdowns and other restrictive measures.
“Within the last 12 months, we have received thousands of applications from students interested to study through online programmes. This is additional proof of Unicaf’s dominance in Africa’s online education market and the strengthening of its brand and reach,” says Dr Nicolaou.
Spotlight on Africa’s Largest Online University
Developments in technology and changes to the global approach to teaching—including collaborative and project-based learning, mobile-friendly learning platforms, and adaptive personal learning—are not yet used at scale in Africa. Unicaf is expanding across the continent through a growing network of university campuses and learning centres offering blended and open learning options. Unicaf currently has a physical presence in 12 African countries and has plans to expand to five additional countries within the next two years.
“Unicaf and Unicaf University’s (www.UnicafUniversity.com) strategy is to continue expanding throughout Africa by obtaining additional university licences in new countries and enriching the portfolio of programmes they are offering. Along with its partner universities, Unicaf has already served more than 40,000 students, by awarding them over USD 100 million worth of scholarships to study for internationally recognised degrees at a fraction of the cost, and to positively transform their lives,” says Dr Nicolaou.
“Our software development team will continue developing new state-of-the-art technologies, aiming towards enhancing the existing technologies we use in our digital platform. Such technologies help all our operations become more efficient and more scalable,” he adds.
Unicaf’s platform provides students with several key benefits, including:
- Flexible delivery allows students to accommodate work and family responsibilities. Everything students need to complete their studies is embedded into the platform, including a digital library, e-books and other learning resources.
- Qualifications: Students can earn internationally recognised degrees from Unicaf University, or its British partner universities, at a fraction of the cost. It is accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education in the UK as an Independent Higher Education Provider. Students are therefore given the opportunity to earn degrees with international recognition and obtain valuable skills and credentials to enrich their professional qualities and help them advance in their careers.
- Scholarships considerably reduce the cost of fees, and any remaining balance can be paid in easy monthly instalments.
- Employment: Most students declare that they were able to find a better job, get a promotion in their current job and/or earn more money as a result of their studies with Unicaf. Unicaf University programmes are developed in collaboration with employers to meet their specific needs.