Online higher & lifelong education could reach $5 billion by 2025

09 September 2020 4 min. read
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As higher education and mid-career learning programmes increase in popularity, the online education market in these segments could grow to ten times its current size by 2025. This is according to new analysis from RedSeer Consulting. 

So far, the rise of education technology (EdTech) in India has been strong yet limited to the K-12 education segments. The natural demand for after-school education supplements has offered a ready market for new technology that can enable remote learning. As a result, the K-12 segment already accounts for well over 1 million online subscribers.

According to RedSeer Consulting, this segment is going to get significantly more competitive in terms of EdTech, and the next step for businesses is to develop more personalised solutions. That being said, the real room for EdTech and online learning growth is in the segments after K-12 – higher education and lifelong learning.

Online education opportunity moves beyond K-12

The former consists of students in college degrees ranging from a bachelors to a PhD. The latter is made up of professionals who are looking to upgrade their current skill profile or learn a new skill. While both segments together have already amassed around 1 million online subscriptions, RedSeer suggests that these segments are poised for a boom.

In absolute terms, the online higher education and lifelong learning market size stands at $0.5 billion at present, which could grow to anywhere between $4 billion and $6 billion by 2025. RedSeer highlights a few coinciding factors that could be responsible for this boom.

For one, Covid-19 and the need for social distancing has become what the report describes as an “unfortunate catalyst” for EdTech in higher education. Hitherto concentrated in the K-12 segment, the demand for remote learning mechanisms in higher and lifelong education has skyrocketed. In fact, many education programmes have moved entirely to the online space, which makes EdTech a virtual necessity.

Online higher & lifelong education market size

If anything, the advancement of EdTech will in turn boost lifelong learning numbers further, as tech can offer working professionals the much needed convenience and flexibility to balance work and school. The added bonus here is that these professionals are willing to pay for what they get, unlike cash-strapped graduate students.

That being said, EdTech in both segments has been shackled until now, mostly due to regulatory barriers to offering online graduate degree programmes. This is also set to change, most notably through the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) announced at the end of July this year.

The NEP 2020 is an upgrade on the last education policy from 1996, which placed limitations on online learning and offered higher education in rigid clusters of subjects. As explained by RedSeer, NEP 2020 facilitates the “unbundling” of higher education programmes using a credits-based system, and “democratizes access to higher education” by enabling online learning.

Growth in the addressable market size for online higher education

The online marketplace has broadly been a leveling factor across the Indian economy, particularly since the advent of cheap smartphones and highly affordable data plans made the Internet accessible to a growing share of the population. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that India will have 850 million online users by 2025.

Coupled with the new legal backing for online learning, this boosts the addressable market for higher education alone by six times its current size, according to RedSeer. Underlying all these trends is a more permanent shift to online channels brought about by Covid-19, as uncertainty looms around the risk of infection and many expect the changes in consumer behaviour under lockdown to persist in the post Covid-19 world.

Education is not the only sector being transformed under the circumstances. RedSeer revealed in a report from April that India’s eHealth sector had been put on the fast track to reach a value of $16 billion by 2025, notably accelerated by the rise of telemedicine and remote healthcare during the pandemic.