Industry Players Announce High-Profile Mergers and Acquisitions

2U and Trilogy, McGraw-Hill and Cengage, and Wiley and Knewton all announce plans to form new companies with broader reach.

IN APRIL, SEVERAL prominent players in higher education announced their plans to acquire or merge with other companies as a bid to expand their reach and add new capabilities:

Online program manager 2U announced its acquisition of Trilogy Education, which delivers boot-camp-style training programs to more than 45 universities and 2,000 companies. Offered in-person and online, its boot camps teach coding, analytics, user experience and interface, and cybersecurity. 2U will pay US$750 million—$400 million in cash and $350 million in newly issued shares of 2U common stock.

With this acquisition, 2U will obtain Trilogy’s boot camps, which come with a network of 1,200 instructors. Trilogy’s programs will allow 2U to strengthen its presence in Mexico and Europe, and enter the Australian and Canadian markets.

“Universities are attempting to add practical, technical skills to their degrees,” says Christopher “Chip” Paucek, 2U’s co-founder and CEO. “We simply future-proof the degree by adding this type of technical competency.”

McGraw-Hill and Cengage have announced their plans to merge as a way to expand their services to educators and students in K-12, higher education, and English language teaching, as well as to the professional, medical, and library reference markets. The two companies, which will combine an all-stock merger on equal terms, plan to expand access to learning materials and technology platforms while investing in digital transformation and advanced learning science.

Cengage offers a subscription service that gives students access to e-books, online homework and study guides, and services such as tutoring. McGraw-Hill seeks to lower costs for college students through digital materials and partnerships with educators and authors.

Michael E. Hansen, CEO of Cengage, says the new company will offer students the “learning materials needed to succeed— regardless of their socioeconomic status or the institution they attend.”

Finally, global publishing company John Wiley & Sons has signed an agreement to acquire Knewton, a New York City-based supplier of courseware and adaptive learning technology. With the purchase, Wiley extends its reach into the affordable courseware market through Knewton’s Alta courseware platform, which delivers open educational resources to more than 300 colleges and universities in subjects such as math, chemistry, and economics. Wiley also enhances its ability to deliver custom learning experiences through Knewton’s adaptive learning algorithms.

According to Brian Napack, Wiley’s president and CEO, “The demand has never been greater for courseware that addresses two critical needs in education— outcomes and affordability.”