In Brief

Starbucks to pay UK employees’ tuition fees at US university

Dozens of baristas will be offered the chance to earn a free online degree in pilot scheme

Starbucks staff in the UK are to be offered free tuition for online courses at a US university.

Around 100 baristas at UK branches will take part in a trial scheme, and the programme will expand further if there is sufficient demand, the company said. 

The programme’s classes will start in October 2019 with a choice of 40 subjects cross Arizona State University’s Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. Full-time tuition from Arizona State University’s online programme would usually cost UK students $12,918 (£9,900) a year.

The new study programme is open to all staff who have worked at the company for at least three months. Prospective students must not have an undergraduate degree or be pursuing another form of higher education, and must continue to work at the company throughout their studies. The deadline for applications is 30 June. 

Those enrolled on the Starbucks Degree Achievement Plan will study part-time, outside working hours. All courses will be taught via an online portal, and each student will be assigned an academic advisor.

The programme has been open to US employees since 2014, and has so far seen 2,400 employees graduate with a degree paid for by Starbucks. 

Arizona State University president, Michael Crow, said the move was a step towards providing “education to all who desire to learn”.

Martin Brok, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the company wanted to show that it put its people first, adding: “If we can remove the financial burden of the cost of a university degree while helping our partners gain skills that will set them up for future success – we can’t think of a better investment,” according to The Independent.

However, the BBC points out that the company’s motivation for the move may be attracting and retaining staff amid potential recruitment concerns after Brexit. Café chain Pret A Manger has said that only one in 50 of its job applicants is British. Starbucks is likely to face similar fears over the reduced availability of EU staff in the future.

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