Global OPM and OPX Market to reach $13.3B by 2025

The US OPX market will double by 2025. International markets will see almost 4x growth.

Education Intelligence Unit

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March 3, 2021

We've upgraded our outlook for the Global OPX/OPM market, now estimated to reach $13.3B by 2025.

In 2019 HolonIQ launched the OPX category, strategically expanding the scope of the generally accepted ‘Online Program Manager’ or OPM moniker. We’ve been tracking the growth in OPM partnerships back nearly two decades and our open-source Higher Education Digital Capability framework maps the 4 dimensions, 16 domains, and 70+ capabilities that Universities and Colleges around the world use to inform their strategic ‘buy’, ‘build’ or ‘partner’ decisions. With all the challenges of capability, growth, funding, regulation and digital transformation that this decade presents, we’ve always considered the OPX model as a powerful public-private partner for governments and institutions to advance the future of higher education and service the changing needs of learners.

2020 and COVID turned out to be an inflection point for technology-led innovation in Higher Education. Institutions have responded rapidly to support their students through incredibly challenging circumstances. As such, it is not surprising that a digital-focused, public-private partnership model bringing upfront capital investment, global recruitment networks and online learning design teams at scale have been experiencing very strong demand from Presidents, Vice Chancellors and Deans at institutions around the world.

In markets that display faster changing dynamics, we revise our forecasts more frequently and thus for the shifting OPX market, this is our third revision to our 2025 estimate in as many years.

Early 2019, we estimated the global OPX market would reach $7.8B by 2025. Early 2020, we upgraded that figure to $9.9B as 2019 closed the year with 200 new academic public-private partnerships in total, OPM’s outperformed on expectations and a new wave of startups and scale-ups sought to compete for partnerships.

By the end of 2020 we had seen over 300 new academic public-private partnerships established and a broad-based digital transformation agenda in Higher Education globally. We rebased our 2020 estimates compared to prior years by including Grand Canyon and Kaplan/Purdue+ for the US market into our supply-side model. Recent public investor relations disclosures have, in our view, classified these players (or relevant divisions) into the OPX category. We’ve also identified many more new and existing international OPMs and OPXs as the category shows strong growth in Asia, Europe and Oceania. Finally, the market out-performed our forecast for 2019 and 2020 and delivered strong results and new partnerships we see generating further momentum over the forecast period.

Consequently, both our bottom-up supply-side and demand-side models were pointing well north of our previous $9.9B upgrade. After interviewing more than 50 OPMs, MOOCs, Universities, Governments and other expert stakeholders around the world over the last 3 months, we’ve landed on a ‘mid-COVID’ outlook for 2025 of $13.3B.

In terms of definitions, on the supply side the $13.3B OPX market size represents the total revenue of all OPX players. i.e. this is ‘post’ any revenue share and does not represent total tuition of OPX backed programs.

While the US market pioneered and led the growth of the OPM and OPXs models, international markets are now rapidly expanding. With a mix of US companies expanding offshore, local leaders dominating the local landscape and regional champions connecting disparate ecosystems, the international OPX market will nearly quadruple from $1B in 2020 to $3.7B in 2025. Australia, Africa, China, Europe, India, LATAM, the Middle East and Southeast Asia all have thriving OPX platforms, many supporting governments, multi-lateral institutions, Universities and Colleges on simultaneous ‘recovery’ and ‘leap-frog’ strategies.

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303 new University Partnerships were established in 2020 with OPMs, Bootcamps and International Pathway providers. Bootcamps doubled, global OPM growth surged and International Pathways are forging new digital trans-national plays anticipating a post-COVID surge of student mobility.

Education, unlike its public sector led peers in Healthcare and Infrastructure has generally been slow to embrace the concept of public-private partnerships in core academic areas.  A partnership signed in one year, often takes a year to mobilize, before the first year of delivery. While many programs are rapidly developed and deployed, most institutions approach OPX partnerships deliberately and methodically with a long term strategic mindset. As such we see much of the growth in our outlook fuelled by relationships already in place.

We've upgraded our outlook for Global Online Degrees and Micro-Credentials by $20B, now expected to reach $117B by 2025.

Over the next decade, an additional 280 million people will graduate with a post-secondary qualification, more learners will opt to study online, with better offerings from colleges and other providers, increasing acceptance by employers, advancements in technology and an acceleration driven by COVID-19.

Just under a year ago, we published pre-COVID global sizing estimates for Online Degrees, expecting a 14% growth rate from $36B in 2019 to $74B in 2025. The world was in lock-down and the fundamental impact of the pandemic on learners, learning and the education sector was becoming apparent. More recently, we expanded our coverage to include the Global Micro and Alternative Credential Market, estimating a $9.9B market in 2019 and growing rapidly.

We’ve now merged and updated this coverage to provide a complete picture of our ‘pre-COVID’ expectations compared to this ‘mid-COVID’ outlook. We will continue tracking this market and providing updates including a ‘post-COVID’ estimate in 2022 when we have seen how the academic year ahead and the ‘new normal’ for workforce unfolds. Here’s the big picture.


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