“Currently, all Udacity Nanodegrees have stopped accepting applications. We remain committed to learners in China.” (Translated from Mandarin Chinese)
The post didn’t explain the reason for the change. According to Udacity Support, learners already enrolled in a Nanodegree will still be able to access the material, submit assignments, and get reviews. Currently, the platform’s individual courses remain accessible for free.
The announcement came as a surprise since, just last year, Udacity published a sponsored post touting how they had turned around their China business by adapting to the local market.
A learner asked on Zhihu (Chinese Q&A site similar to Quora) about Udacity China’s status. An anonymous user claiming to be a Udacity employee replied that Udacity’s Chinese team “had been disbanded,” later adding in a message to Class Central that they had “basically been laid off.”
Since then, we have been able confirm that Udacity China has been cutting staff and slowing down operations in preparation for a complete shutdown in late 2020.
Brief History of Udacity China
Udacity China was a major undertaking for the company. It was first announced in April 2016, a few months after Udacity hired Robert Hsiung to become its first Managing Director in China.
According to Hsiung’s LinkedIn profile, he managed “over 100 full-time staff in enterprise sales, marketing, engineering, content and student services and over 300 contract mentors and tutors.” He further states that Udacity China had “acquired over 20,000 paying students.” Hsiung left the company in September 2019.
This is not the first time Udacity has exited an international market. In late 2018, they closed their Brazilian office in Sao Paulo, laying off 70 local employees. By the end of the year, they had stopped offering Nanodegrees in Portuguese despite having over 10k paying learners in Brazil.
In a recent New York Times article, we learned that at the time, Udacity was a few months away from running out of cash. This is when Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun returned to the company as interim CEO and launched a restructuring plan to turn the company around.
Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.