Philanthropist founder of university comparison website bestCourse4me recognised for services to education in Queen’s Birthday Honours List
Steven Edwards, Chief Executive and co-founder of the free university and earnings comparison website bestCourse4me, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. The website - which brings together detailed earnings and destination data in an easy-to-use form - is the latest in a series of education initiatives developed and funded by Mr Edwards and his wife, Dr Ros Smith.
Since selling IT company Geneva Technology for $700m in 2001 Steve has devoted much of his time to philanthropy within education with a particular interest in ensuring that all students, irrespective of background, are equipped with the information and experience to make the best choices about their future.
bestCourse4me uniquely allows students to see the link between what they choose to study, what they are likely to earn and the jobs they can expect to get. It does this by utilising Labour Force Survey data, and A Level, and HE course, institution and destination data for the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Whilst some young people can access this information and inspiration from their families, Steve is determined that those who can't do not miss out on developing their talents.
Supported by an awareness-raising programme aimed at schools in economically-deprived areas, the site currently reaches over 100,000 students, teachers and careers advisers every year.
Says Steve: 'I've been fortunate in having made a fair amount of money that has allowed me to do some good. I couldn't have done that without a great education, which I know changed the course of my life. In my view educating people is the single most significant way of improving the world. It's a great honour to be recognised and rewarded for doing something that our team passionately believes in.'
Explaining the unique role of bestCourse4me Steve says: 'All the data we use for bestCourse4me was out there but it took a lot of investment and complex decision-making on our part to get it to a point where a young person in, say, Deptford can go online and think 'ok I'd like to work in publishing, what A Levels do I need to take, what universities offer the course and have the best employment rates and what can I expect to earn once I'm qualified?
'Equally that same young person could look at something like Forensic Science, a course that has gained massive popularity from TV exposure, and see that actually the number of graduates getting jobs in the field is very low. They could then decide whether it's the best use of their three years and their £27,000 in tuition fees if they're not truly passionate about it.'
With a free bestCourse4me app just launched, young people now have an even more accessible way to gather the information that they need.
Steve explains: 'With the launch of our app young people can now compare jobs, courses and earnings in any setting, perhaps comparing results with friends and using information to support their social conversations.
'Our investment in giving young people the tools to bring study and career planning into their everyday lives is a vital part of ensuring that all the great talent we have in the UK is allowed to develop.'
In addition to developing bestCourse4me Steve, and his wife Ros have also made a substantial donation to Murray Edwards College in Cambridge. A portion of the couple's £30m donation is put towards funding the College's Gateway project which helps students from non-traditional backgrounds to get the life experience they need to help them to succeed at Cambridge. This has included funding gap years and providing living costs during unpaid internships.