Arden University

Arden University is a private, for-profit teaching university in the United Kingdom. It offers a variety of undergraduate and post-graduate programmes with both blended and online distance learning delivery options. Its head office is in Coventry with study centres in Birmingham, Manchester, and London. Originally established as Resource Development International (RDI) in 1990, it was later bought by Capella Education and awarded university status by the British government in 2015. Since August 2016 it has been owned by Global University Systems.

Arden University
Former name
Resource Development International
TypePrivate, for-profit university
Established1990 (1990)
OwnerGlobal University Systems
Vice-Chancellor/CEOCarl Lygo


Resource Development International (RDI), the forerunner of Arden University, was established in 1990 by the Coventry-based entrepreneur John Holden. RDI originally provided distance learning programmes for commercial and industrial clients and established several subsidiary operations in the USA, Europe, Africa, and the Far East. By 2010, it had closed most of its foreign subsidiaries and had expanded to include distance learning degrees validated by several UK universities. Its motto was "Learning without Boundaries". In 2011, Holden sold RDI and its remaining subsidiaries to the US-based Capella Education and went on to develop an online business school based in Coventry.[1]

RDI was granted taught degree awarding powers in April 2014 and the following year was awarded university status. It relaunched as Arden University in August 2015 with Philip Hallam, formerly the CEO of RDI, as its founding Vice-Chancellor and CEO.[2] Arden was the first distance learning university to launch in the UK since the founding of the Open University in 1969 and the third of three for-profit universities created under the Conservative government's drive to increase competition in the UK university sector. The previous two were the University of Law in 2012 and BPP University in 2013.[3][4]

Capella Education had originally bought RDI as part of its strategy to accelerate the company's expansion into the international market. However, the strategy did not come to fruition, and Capella put Arden University and its remaining subsidiaries up for sale in February 2016.[5][6] Sunderland University, which validated some of RDI's degrees bought the Resource Development International Hong Kong subsidiary from Arden University in July 2016.[7] In August of that year Arden University itself was sold to the Netherlands-based company Global University Systems (GUS) for £15 million. GUS's other UK holdings include the University of Law, St Patrick's College, London and the London School of Business and Finance.[8][9]

From January 2016, the previous externally validated degree programmes under RDI were gradually phased out and replaced by Arden's own degree programmes. In November 2017 Arden University had an enrollment of 5,700 students, of whom 2,500 were enrolled in the university's own programmes. Approximately 44% of its students were based outside the UK. In 2019 Carl Lygo succeeded Philip Hallam as Vice-Chancellor and CEO of the university.[10][2]


The university offers both undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes up to Masters and MBA level in a variety of subjects. As of 2019, these include business and management, computing and IT, criminology, data analytics, finance, graphic design, health and social care, human resource management, law, marketing, psychology, and tourism. It also offers an Access to Higher Education Diploma accredited by One Awards, a division of the NOCN Group.[11][12]

Several of Arden's degree courses have additional accreditation by professional bodies, including the Chartered Institute of Marketing,[13] Chartered Management Institute,[14] British Psychological Society,[15] and Association for Project Management.[16] The university's LLB (Hons) is a Qualifying Law Degree.[17]

Arden University's courses can be studied both full-time and part-time and are delivered either as distance learning and entirely online or as blended learning which combines online and face-to-face class tuition at one of its study centres.[10] The university has UK study centres in Birmingham and Manchester and three in London at Ealing, Tower Hill, and Holborn. Arden also delivers and awards several undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at its Berlin study centre on the campus of University of Applied Sciences Europe.[18]


The University's website offers no indication that any research is conducted. RDI did not participate in the last 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework.[19] Vacancy descriptions as of 2019 do not provide any requirements to be research active, for lecturer positions.[20] However, research publications appear on Researchgate and written by individual Arden staff, led by psychology.[21]

QAA assessment

The judgements from the most recent assessment report by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education carried out in November 2017 and published in February 2018 were:[22]

  • The maintenance of the academic standards of awards offered on behalf of degree-awarding bodies and/or other awarding organisations meets UK expectations
  • The quality of student learning opportunities is commended
  • The quality of the information about learning opportunities meets UK expectations
  • The enhancement of student learning opportunities meets UK expectations

The judgements were reconfirmed following submission of the university's annual return in September 2018.[22]


  1. s.n. (3 October 2014). "West Mids entrepreneur revolutionising education with £4.5k “anytime anywhere” degrees and MBAs". Midlands Business News. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  2. Arden University. (April 2019) "Arden University appoints Professor Carl Lygo as new Vice Chancellor and CEO". Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  3. Morgan, John (5 August 2015). "For-profit RDI granted university status", Times Higher Education. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  4. Willetts, David (2017). A University Education, p. 285. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198767269
  5. Peters, Kai; Smith, Richard R.; Thomas, Howard (eds.) (2018). Rethinking the Business Models of Business Schools, p. 161. Emerald Group Publishing. ISBN 1787548740
  6. s.n. (11 February 2016). "Capella puts Arden University on the block". Education Investor. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  7. Allison, David (13 July 2016). "Sunderland University takes ownership of Hong Kong based learning operation". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  8. Morgan, John (19 August 2016). "Arden University sold to Global University Systems", Times Higher Education. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  9. Securities and Exchange Commission (18 August 2016). "Form 8-K: Capella Education Company". Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  10. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (November 2017). "Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) of Arden University Ltd., pp. 3–4. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  11. Arden University. Courses Available. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  12. Offord, Paul (9 Mar 2018). "NOCN Group taking over One Awards". FE Week. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  13. Chartered Institute of Marketing. Graduate Gateway Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  14. Chartered Management Institute. Higher Education Partners. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  15. British Psychological Society. Accredited Courses: MSc Psychology and Accredited Courses: BSc Psychology. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  16. Association for Project Management. Accredited Academic organisations. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  17. Solicitors Regulation Authority. Qualifying Law Degree Providers. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  18. Arden University. UK Study Centres and GISMA–Berlin campus. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  19. "Results & submissions : REF 2014 : View results and submissions by institution".
  20. Swift, Nick. "Blended and Online Distance Learning Courses | Arden University".
  22. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Quality assurance reports: Arden University Limited. Retrieved 16 January 2019

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