Pearson will switch from selling to schools to selling to students

Educational publisher Pearson is to change from selling mainly to schools and colleges towards selling directly to consumers, including students.

Pearson’s CEO Andy Bird (pictured) has announced that the educational-publishing company will overhaul its business to draw a line under a “tumultuous decade”, says Bethan Staton in the Financial Times: it “issued seven profit warnings in as many years”. 

The plan is to shift from selling mainly to schools and colleges towards selling directly to consumers, including students. The company is also looking to take advantage of what it sees as the growing demand for “lifelong learning” as workers start to spend more time continuously upgrading their skills throughout their careers. These changes may cause Pearson some short-term pain, says Simon Duke in The Times. Bird says restructuring the company into five divisions, including a new consumer division, will cost “between £40m and £70m this year”. At the same time the decision to slash office space, to take advantage of a move towards remote working, will “reduce reported profits by about £130m this year”, although it will also cut long-term overheads.

Bird will have to “move quickly to keep investors on side”, especially when patience has already been “tested” over his pay packet, says Ben Woods in The Daily Telegraph. Another concern is whether Pearson’s success in selling to the college market can extend to the “super competitive” lifelong-learning market, especially since the company has “stoked up expectations” of a “Netflix of Education”-style revolution before, only to leave investors “wanting”. Still, it’s a necessary gamble: lifelong learning “is clearly where the growth is”. 

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