Subscription textbook service launched to create “fair access” to materials

Universities can subscribe on behalf of their students, potentially reducing the number of textbooks students are required to purchase.

The program, which was launched last week and is now available to institutions in the UK, Middle East and North Africa, also includes a skills building and careers service, which the company says will help students to cope at university and develop their employability skills.

Cengage Unlimited was piloted at three universities in Ireland, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

Eoin Langan, dean of the faculty of business at Technological University Dublin, one of the pilot institutions, said that the program has provided an “affordable alternative to the purchase of textbooks” and that automatic grading, part of the online learning platforms, “helps our lecturers monitor student progress and understanding”.

“Accessible course materials can make the difference between a student dropping out or completing their degree”

Andrew Robinson, vice-president of international higher education at Cengage, told The PIE that the new service was in part inspired by the difficulties some students faced accessing university libraries during the pandemic.

“Affordable and accessible course materials can make the difference between a student dropping out or completing their degree, and there is a growing need to provide fair and equitable access to educational content for all,” Robinson said.

“The high cost of education over a number of years has put universities under increasing pressure when it comes to the student experience,” he added.

International students are increasingly feeling the effects of the rising cost of living and global inflation.

Earlier this month, a survey by higher education think tank HEPI found that 38% of international students in the UK thought their courses were poor value for money, and among these students, cost of living was the biggest issue.

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