Coursera, the massive open online course (Mooc) platform, is partnering with a further 29 universities to deliver free higher education courses, almost doubling the number of institutions with which it collaborates.

The Californian start-up currently offers a catalogue of more than 200 courses to almost 2.8m registered global users without charge. Coursera has been at the vanguard of the Mooc movement since its launch in April 2012 and has grown faster than its peers, EdX and Udacity.

With these additional partner universities, which include the Chinese University of Hong Kong and IE Business School of Spain, Coursera will host courses from 62 universities based in 17 countries. Daniel Linzer, provost of Northwestern University, says that the Illinois institution’s primary motivation to join is to offer “faculty opportunities to experiment with new teaching tools, to reach a new and broader audience and to have an impact that extends beyond the campus.”

New courses will include a number taught in Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish. For Andrew Ng, Coursera co-founder, this represents the most important aspect of the expansion as courses to date have been almost exclusively taught in English. “Though most of our students today are fluent English speakers, most of the world is not.”

Mr Ng sees this expansion as progress towards the company’s mission to extend access to higher education learning as broadly as possible. “We have a very strong commitment to always keeping our content free,” he adds.

In January, Coursera introduced the ability for students to pay for a certificate of achievement, with individual progress verified by each user’s respective biometric profile. Students enrolled on five selected courses could choose this option for between $30 and $100, with need-based financial assistance available. Though details of how many students have opted for the fee-paying certificate have yet to be released, Mr Ng says that the take-up has been at the high end of his expectations.

Coursera, a for-profit company, shares revenues and profits generated by any given course with the university whose content is offered via the online platform. This collaborative model sees 15 per cent of revenues associated with a given class directed to the respective university, plus 20 per cent of its gross profits. Though respective partner universities decide whether to offer the paid-for certificate option, it is Mr Ng’s ambition for them to be available on the majority of courses in the near future.

List of Coursera’s new partner universities announced in February 2013:

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Case Western Reserve University

Curtis Institute of Music

École Polytechnique, France

IE Business School

Leiden University

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

National Taiwan University

National University of Singapore

Northwestern University

Penn State University

Rutgers University

Sapienza Università di Roma

Technische Universität München (TUM)

Technical University of Denmark

Tecnológico de Monterrey

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The University of Tokyo

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

University of California, San Diego

University of California, Santa Cruz

University of Colorado, Boulder

University of Copenhagen

University of Geneva

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

University of Rochester

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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