“Where did you graduate from?” This powerful question follows most people for their lifetime.
When it comes to education, the tools and resources available today are among the best that it has ever been. But despite abundant resources and access to information at the press of a button, students still find it daunting to decide the right course and university for their post-graduation. If you feel the same way then there is a Dutch startup that wants to put you at ease.
Meet Studyportals, the global study choice platform that is empowering the world to choose education.
International Dimension of Things
Curiosity is the foundation stone for Studyportals. Edwin van Rest, CEO and co-founder of Studyportals, describes this curiosity as his “fascination for the international dimension of things”. An industrial engineer from the Netherlands, Edwin describes his childhood as one where he loved to travel with his parents.
When he was president of the International Student Association, his childhood travelling experiences and a thirst for more came calling. And this resulted in Edwin seeking to study abroad for part of his university career.
While us lesser mortals would revel in stories of people going to the USA or the UK or even Australia for their university career, Edwin says he wants to understand intercultural competence and thus decided to go to the “full other end of the culture spectrum”.
He went to Japan and this experience, which Edwin van Rest describes as a ‘transformational experience’, became the bedrock of Studyportals.
In Japan, Edwin experienced firsthand how education without boundaries can not only enrich lives but also be a great boost for personal development and intercultural understanding. This experience, which he describes as central to connecting the world, led to this mission of helping friends do the same.
As he succinctly puts it, the mission here is to help people discover a transformational experience in education and thus widen their horizons. In a nutshell, Studyportals helps people “realise the demand for a good information source and more awareness around learning options globally.”
Amazon of Learning
On the internet, the information today is aplenty but often this information is scattered. Edwin presses this point that really makes a lot of sense in hindsight. If you can book a hotel in Tokyo with ease then why not be able to join an educational institution with similar ease? This drive led Edwin and his two co-founders to start Studyportals, which is also envisioned as the Amazon of learning.
With universities still spending billions of dollars to print brochures and get them across the world to students and organising student fairs and workshops, Edwin argues that there is a better way to do this. Simply put, this old fashioned way of reaching out to students is no longer the most effective or efficient way to do things. Studyportals bridges all of this gap as a platform where students can “find, compare all the learning options from across the world and [importantly] make an informed choice”.
Welcome Hybrid Education
Studyportals is redefining the way students can find educational programs and helps them compare those programs with universities offering them around the world. In fact, it helped “45 million students around the world to explore study programmes and make an informed choice, throughout over 200,000 courses at 3,750+ educational institutes across 110 countries.” However, this is not where the buck stops for Edwin and his team.
He sees trends that most people would miss out on. As we were talking, he quickly points out how hybrid education has emerged as a strong alternative for in-school programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Don’t mistake this for pandemic enforced change”, he says. This change was happening, according to Edwin, but the pandemic accelerated the pace at which hybrid education was adopted by both major universities and students from around the world.
He says, “there is a lot of development in the market towards new [education] destinations like Canada, continental Europe and also Asia.” To further explain this point, Edwin says that Studyportals had set a big, hairy and audacious goal of “sending more students abroad than there are soldiers abroad” and they realised this dream in December last year. The impact becomes even more remarkable when you realise it is a team of 160 people upending the education sector.
For this team, this achievement is still equivalent to scratching the surface. While there are 230 million students enrolled at the universities of the world today, Edwin says there are still a billion people out there who have a desire for higher education but don’t have the means or access to realize this dream. While the reason often tends to be a financial obstacle, the infrastructure obstacle can be removed with the help of online learning or hybrid learning programs.
RISE is a learning ground for Scaleup
As part of batch #4 of Techleap’s Rise program, Edwin van Rest says that it has been a “great program for us to be part of.” He says that the real appreciation for him would be that they get to spend a day or half a day or a week with other founders who are focused on “rapid growth and solving similar problems”. If Studyportals is making education accessible then Rise makes startup learning (or problem-solving) accessible for founders.
The team of 160 people at Studyportals are trying to solve a problem that is not local. It is an international problem. Students around the world find it either impossible to find the right source for planning their studies or get overwhelmed by the information presented to them. While solving problems of such magnitude, you will run into problems. Edwin is not shy about discussing those problems, but he immediately highlights how problems are often similar for different startups.
So, there are times when a problem has been solved by another team or startup and Edwin says that “Rise has helped him learn from those founders”. He also says that “the coaches and the real experts on various critical topics for fast-growing businesses that we’ve been able to get access to” has benefitted him.
Vision for the future: A ZERO
Studyportals co-founder Edwin van Rest can be described as a visionary founder who can also display his fun side topped with brevity. While his life experiences led him to cofound Studyportals, there is an elusive number that he is chasing right now. ZERO. Yes, it might sound like the lowest number but the vision is really high. He wants to make sure that “there is a future where no student will miss out on education due to a lack of information”.
He says that there are many obstacles to education access: financial or infrastructure or time/place. Studyportals believes that talent is distributed equally across the world.
Opportunities are rising fast and lack of information and confidence is the obstacle Studyportals wants to erase. While it may not be immediately possible in the next five years, Edwin sees a future where every student gets the education they want to pursue. And the future outlined here is one that looks promising by just imagining it.
“Equal opportunities will create a better chance of world peace and more equality,” Edwin concludes.