learndirect is a privately owned company sold by the Ufi Charitable Trust in 2011, a not-for-profit organisation to private equity house LDC, part of the Lloyds TSB Banking Group. Created in 1998 to take forward HM Government's stated vision of a University for Industry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. learndirect Scotland was the public-facing brand of the Scottish University for Industry (SUfI), but has since became part of Skills Development Scotland as "My World of Work".
Learndirect has a network of learning centres in England and Wales, and also run some courses online. Since the establishment of Learndirect in 2000, more than 3.5 million learners have enrolled in courses. In 2004, only an average of 65% of students completed their courses.
The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts undertook a review of the programme in 2005-2006; it found that the programme had received a total of £930 million in public funding, and was critical of the poor involvement of businesses, the high cost of marketing, and the low number of learners recorded as meeting their training objectives.
In recent years, the number of learndirect centres has been in decline, though there have been significant improvements in the numbers of learners meeting their learning aims, and learner feedback to Ufi Ltd currently stands at over 90% nationally. Ufi announced in late 2009 that it would be unable to sustain the network of centres due to proposed budget cuts. An agreement was subsequently reached with the newly established Skills Funding Agency, allowing for a smaller network of centres, with the closure of some between July and August 2010.
Ufi Ltd were contracted by the Skills Funding Agency to deliver agreed targets in respect of qualifications achieved by learners, as well as a raft of quality, equality, and other indirect targets. However, following the May 2010 general election result in which the Labour government was replaced by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the future of Learndirect became unclear. Funding for English as a foreign or second language ceased in July 2010 through learndirect centres.
According to The Independent, Ufi Ltd was included within a list compiled by the new government of quangos which it sought to abolish. The company and the Learndirect brand were bought by LDC, part of Lloyds Banking Group, on 4 October 2011. Learndirect became an independent training provider competing in the open market and Ufi Ltd became a charitable trust. Learndirect Scotland became part of Skills Development Scotland and was renamed "My World of Work".
- "News - LDC Acquires UK’s Leading Online Learning Provider Learndirect". LDC. 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
- "Success stories". Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Donald MacLeod (10 December 2004). "'University for Industry' failed to attract private cash". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- Extending access to learning through technology: Ufi and the learndirect service. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts. 2006.
- "One by one, the quangos are abolished. But at what cost?". The Independent. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
- "LDC Acquires UK’s Leading Online Learning Provider Learndirect". LDC. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2012.