ICS Learn (International Correspondence Schools)

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ICS Learn
FoundedUSA 1889
ProductsOnline Learning Courses
WebsiteICS Learn (United Kingdom)

ICS Learn, also known as International Correspondence Schools Ltd, is a provider of online learning courses and apprenticeships in the UK.[1] It was founded in 1889 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[2] The UK branch was set up in 1904, and it now serves around 17,000 current students across 98 countries, predominantly in the UK but also across the Middle East, Asia, and Ireland.[1]

It has a large share of the market in CIPD Human Resources and Learning & Development courses and online GCSEs and A Levels.[1] It also provides professional qualifications and apprenticeships in accountancy, marketing, procurement, leadership, and project management.[1]


ICS Learn courses are accredited by a number of awarding bodies, including:


ICS Learn was founded in 1889 in Scranton, Pennsylvania by journalist and editor of the Mining Herald*, Thomas J. Foster.[3] Alarmed by frequent mine accidents, Foster advocated better working conditions and stricter safety regulations, which led to Pennsylvania’s adoption of the Mine Safety Act of 1885 and the requirement for miners to pass a safety exam.[3] In order to help workers pass the new test, Foster began an advice column in the Mining Herald answering mine safety questions.[3]

Unsatisfied with this solution, in 1889 he founded the Colliery Engineer School of Mines, the first distance learning institution in the United States.[3] The organisation changed names several times, finally settling on International Correspondence Schools of Scranton.[3]

The mission of the school was to ‘provide practical men with a technical education, and technical men with a practical education.’[2] To achieve its goal, ICS did not instruct its students by standard textbooks, which it believed often contained extraneous amounts of material and "demand[ed] too great a knowledge of mathematics and other subjects." Instead, ICS created its own specially prepared "Instruction and Question Papers," which provided exactly the information the student needed and questioned him only on that material.[2]

It enrolled 3000 new students in 1894 and with the creation of a sales force matriculated approximately 100,000 new students annually in the early 1900s.[4] By 1900, one in 27 Americans had taken a correspondence course with ICS.[3] The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography states that it is ‘by far the largest single educational institution in America’s history’.[2]

Foster remained the president of ICS until his death in 1936 at age 93.[3]

The organisation expanded to the UK in 1904 and is known as ICS Learn. The US branch is known as Penn Foster Career School and is not connected to ICS Learn.

· *This publication was also named The Colliery Engineer and Colliery Engineer and Metal Miner.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "ICS Learn keeping an eye open for deals". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  2. ^ a b c d e ""Education for Success": The International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. CXX (4 (October 1996)).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g SINGLETON, BY DAVID. "150 People Who Made Scranton Great - Thomas J. Foster". Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  4. ^ Kett, Joseph F. (1996). Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties: From Self-Improvement to Adult Education in America. pp. 236–8.

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