Middlesex University Case Study

The challenge

Middlesex University’s vision is to become a leading university of choice, recognised the world over for its outstanding contribution to teaching, learning and research.

A core strategic priority is to enhance student achievement and satisfaction and in 2015/16 the University partnered with JS Group and Kortext to roll out an Aspire scheme to further that priority.

Following a successful pilot in 2014/15, Middlesex University now provides all students with their core textbooks as e-books on the Kortext platform.

Becoming the first university in the UK to offer a free e-book for each module of study underlines our dedication to innovation and providing our students with the latest study tools

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University.

The solution

The Aspire scheme at Middlesex University supports the aims of the University to:

  • Attract students with the ability and determination to excel
  • Provide modern and innovative student support

As Matthew Lawson, Head of Library and Learner Development, commented:

The scheme has a simple aim: to provide a free e-book to every student for each module they study. This is a clear message for the Student Recruitment team to communicate to prospective students, and also demonstrates the support for the student learning experience in the provision of essential resources.

How it works

  • All undergraduates receive the core textbook for each module taken as an e-book delivered on the Kortext platform.
  • The e-books can be read and used online and offline with students being able to download their books onto 5 devices.
  • The e-books are fully integrated into the University’s VLE and all students can access their e-books via the VLE.
  • Lecturers receive detailed analytics on how the titles they have recommended are being used.

The better outcome

Student Responses

It gives me maximum flexibility to fit study with my work and travel patterns.

The free e-textbooks made a huge difference to me, both financially and academically. Each of my textbooks would have cost between £30-70 and I have saved around £250 over the last year alone. It made studying easier. With the e-textbooks I had less to carry around and could study on the move, and annotating was easier because I could do it electronically rather than use fiddly post-it notes or scribbling in margins

Having e-textbooks on a portable device makes it so much easier to catch up on reading and I can take it wherever I need to.

The results - students:

Over 90% of students have activated their accounts and have benefited from their eTextbooks used. The University surveyed students and found:

  • 95% of students rated the scheme excellent or good
  • 97% rated the scheme as making a positive contribution to the cost of study
  • 95% rated the scheme positively in providing relevant course material

The results – university:

Since the scheme has been introduced, the University has seen improved student recruitment and retention. As Peter Vermeulen, Director of Finance, comments:

The eTextbook project is the largest single student experience project we are currently funding at Middlesex. Whilst the investment cost may be high, the return on investment is phenomenal. The project enhances our digital proposition, engages students more actively, helps us drive up our achievement targets, and positively impacts on how we envisage using our estate. It also puts quite some money back into students’ pockets, delivering demonstrable value to them from the fees they pay.

Teaching Excellence Framework

The scheme was an element of the University’s TEF submission

During this period LSS has carefully examined the NSS return, including the free text comments, and explored ways of addressing both general concerns and specific issues for groups of students studying a particular programme. Much of this work has explored the opportunities afforded by technology, including dedicated e-books for all students, as well as a student-focused review of reading lists, including a move to including multi-media, and the availability of free printing for academic purposes. This eTextbook Scheme allows students to access core learning materials where and when they choose by providing a free e-book for life for each module studied. The scheme is supported by a programme developing students' digital skills and also feeds into the wider student engagement data used by the Progression and Support team (see above). A longitudinal study is underway to compare entry tariff points and final degree outcomes based on engagement with eTextbooks. The scheme was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award in 2016.

The scheme was, in turn, also recognised by the TEF panel in discussing Middlesex’s TEF Silver Award:

The provision by the University of an excellent range of physical and digital resources including an e-textbook scheme, which has resulted in substantially increased student satisfaction.

To find out more about Aspire Connect please contact, David Fox, HE Partnerships Director on

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