Case studies Education

Building a digital edtech disrupter: Germany’s largest and fastest-growing university

Oakley Capital
5 min read

About IU Group

IU Group (formerly Career Partner Group) is Germany’s largest and fastest-growing private university group, with over 70,000 students enrolled across a mix of omni channel degree courses and studies with a strong focus on online learning.

Sven Schütt

Interview with Sven Schütt – CEO, IU Group

The Group is a pioneer in delivering high-quality education, leveraging technology and innovation to meet the changing needs of students. Today, IU’s unique vertically-integrated education platform offers the largest portfolio of degree programmes in Europe with more than 200 accredited courses.

The Group has ambitions to further develop its digital degree offering, expand vocational and corporate learning, and internationalise its business beyond Europe to become the world’s largest university.

Icons8 Gardener

70k+ students

Icons8 Friends

Almost doubled student enrolments in 2020

Icons8 Workspace

Fast-growing demand for online learning & digital upskilling

Why we invested in the business

Disrupting an industry that is central to individuals and corporates alike and has long been dominated by well-established institutions can be a daunting but exciting challenge.

Higher education is one such sector, where bricks-and-mortar universities have traditionally enjoyed a monopoly on students’ education. But shifting dynamics in how we learn, work and interact, coupled with technological advances, have changed how students can access and structure their education.

The market for online and dual studies degrees is growing rapidly, especially in the corporate sector, creating strong opportunities for a digitally-native business such as IU. Oakley Capital acquired a majority stake in the company in November 2017 through a carve-out from US business Apollo Education Group.

Oakley’s strong track record in the education and online consumer sectors means we were well-placed to support IU’s ambitious growth plans.

Recipe for digital success

Oakley immediately identified three core ingredients for the Group’s future success. The first of these is the growth mindset which pervades all parts of the organisation. Led by CEO Sven Schütt, IU’s team of entrepreneurs, technology experts and educators has consistently defined and delivered on ever-ambitious targets, including faster growth rates, new programs, strategic initiatives and scaling the Group’s offering into new opportunities.

The second crucial ingredient is innovation and creativity, enabling the Group to develop the right content and tailor appropriate formats that meet changing demands for new courses and skills, that deliver the best possible outcomes for students, and provide valuable accreditation that improves career prospects.

Thirdly, at its very core IU is an edtech business: the Group has successfully technologised and optimised every step in the value chain, from content creation to learning delivery. This means IU is able to anticipate and take advantage of changing market dynamics, launch new programs, and effectively scale up its offering to meet increasing demand and student enrolments. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated how significant IU’s competitive edge really is: unlike its traditional competitors, IU has placed online learning at the very core of its education offering for many years now.

Working together to create value

Oakley has supported IU Group by encouraging management to set ambitious goals for the business and helping the team to achieve them.

  • Supporting investment in technology: as a digitally-native business, IU has developed its technology platform to sustain growth in enrolments and surging demand for e-learning, supported by a team of over 500 data and digital specialists. The Group is leveraging Natural Language Processing as well as cutting-edge AI technology to revolutionise the personalised learning experience.
  • Supporting investment in IU’s core education offering: the Group’s technology platform and AI capabilities have also driven an expansion in its range of courses and degrees, adding over 50 new degree programs in 2020. The same technology allows IU to benefit from speed to market compared to slower, more traditional players in education. During this period, the Group has also invested in talent and facilities, hiring more education specialists and academics to bring the total to 1,800 professors and freelance tutors, and opening new study campuses to support blended teaching. The Group has also invested in student support and wellbeing programmes.
  • Supporting IU’s infrastructure: Oakley has helped IU professionalise its business. In addition to strengthening senior and mid-level management, this also includes significant investments in the backbone of the organisation: the roll-out of a best-in-class financial reporting system is just one of many examples. One of the benefits is that KPIs are now readily accessible to business leaders in order to drive performance, target resources and plan future investments.

All this investment is bearing fruit. Last year alone, total student enrolments almost doubled, and today IU boasts more than 200 accredited bachelor and master programs and dynamic library assets of more than 150,000 learning hours. The Group enjoys high customer satisfaction rates and a 97% recommendation rate.

Quote Sven Schütt

I am very confident that we will fulfil our vision of being the largest university globally with the fastest and easiest way to learn by leveraging technology. In this world, we have bridged the gaps between corporate, vocational and university education so that everybody can access education to grow.

Sven Schütt

CEO IU Group

The road ahead

The shift to online education is accelerating as students embrace flexible, modular learning that supports their career goals. At the same time, international demand for affordable, accessible education as well as vocational and corporate learning is growing exponentially.

Analysts estimate the global higher education market will grow to $2.3 trillion by 2027. With its strong market position, first-mover advantage, proven track record and tech expertise, IU is well-placed to drive digital progress and profit from this demand.

With Oakley’s support, the Group plans to continue expanding into new content and geographies, into developing partnerships with corporates and universities, and investing in its digital offering in order to deliver on its ambitious goal of becoming the world’s largest university.

Education businesses timeline graphic

IU Group is the fastest-growing university group in Germany with over 85,000 students.

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