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How to Sign Up for FutureLearn for Free

Most FutureLearn courses are available for free basic access, or you can Upgrade single courses or subscribe to FutureLearn Unlimited.

Like other MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platforms, FutureLearn isn’t as free as it used to be.

Class Central has been documenting the evolution of FutureLearn over the years. Back in 2017, we reported that FutureLearn introduced a time-based Paywall (which was later adopted by edX). Then, we were the first to report on FutureLearn Unlimited, a site-wide subscription, and their move to the on-demand model.

Now, there are multiple ways/tiers to access a FutureLearn course, and in this guide, we will explain to you what each of the tiers means.

How to Enroll in FutureLearn Courses for Free

FutureLearn pricing

FutureLearn now gives 3 choices:

Here’s what each of these tiers mean.

Basic Access (Free, but with a time limit)

To learn for free, simply select Basic access. You can choose to upgrade later if you wish.

Basic access on FutureLearn is similar to audit access on Coursera. You can take the course without paying, but certificates and some graded items may be unavailable.

Most FutureLearn courses are available for free basic access for the length of the course. This means the course will be locked for you after a limited time unless you pay to upgrade.

Unlimited (Annual Subscription with Full Catalog Access)

FutureLearn Unlimited

FutureLearn Unlimited gives you access to almost the entire FutureLearn catalogue for 12 months, including digital certificates of achievement and extended access for any courses you pass.

It costs $279.99/year. This option is great for life-long learners.

Since late 2012, I have completed more than 150 online courses, mostly for free audit. It would be an expensive hobby to pay for all those certificates. So a subscription that gives access to unlimited certificates sounds interesting to me.

I signed up for FutureLearn Unlimited back in Oct 2019 when it was offered to me for $177. How did it go? Here is my review: FutureLearn Unlimited: Is it Worth it?

Upgrade This Course (Full Access to One Course)

Some of my FutureLearn certificates

This basically gives you access to the graded assignments and certificate for just one course.

You can pay for most courses at any time: before starting, during the course, or after finishing. If you are doing just one or two courses, this might be okay.

But depending on the course, 2–4 courses can easily cost the same as one year’s worth of FutureLearn Unlimited. The pricing is designed to push learners toward an Unlimited subscription.

You can request a refund within 14 days, as long as you have not attempted any tests or received a certificate in that time.

Can you get a FutureLearn Certificate for Free?

The short answer is Yes. FutureLearn occasionally offers a few courses with free digital upgrades.

My colleague @suparn keeps track of these here: 500+ FutureLearn Courses That Still Offer Free Certificates. These free certificate courses are divided into two categories:

  • Free Digital Upgrade for everyone
  • Free Digital Upgrade via Study UK

For the second category, these certificates are free for learners from certain countries. Study-UK free upgrade courses are valid till 25 February 2022, and each eligible learner is entitled to one free digital upgrade in total.

What is FutureLearn?

FutureLearn, the UK-based MOOC provider backed by Open University. But in 2019, with a £50M investment, SEEK Group became the joint owner of FutureLearn along with Open University.

More than 1300 FutureLearn courses were available in 2021. FutureLearn also offers 24 online degrees and more than 180 microcredentials.

FutureLearn By the Numbers
Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Courses 578 736 883 1,158 1,377
Microcredentials/Programs 13 22 35 68 67
Academic Certificates 7 14 17 18 16
Degrees 4 18 23 28 24
Learners 7.1M 8.7M 10.0M 14M 17M
ExpertTracks 0 0 0 0 96

To learn more about FutureLearn and its evolution read Class Central’s analyses over the years:

Is FutureLearn Still Free?

Though FutureLearn has completely paid courses, it still offers a number of courses which are Free to Audit or “Basic Access”. In these courses, you don’t get access to graded assignments and certificates.

Also, you can access the contents for a time that is equivalent to the length of the course.

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 100+ MOOCs completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:  www.onlinelearningsuccess.org

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