The open online education platform’s founding institutions MIT and Harvard plan to sell edX to edtech developer 2U in a deal worth $800m.

EdX, the US-based open online education platform set up by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, is set to be acquired by edtech producer 2U as part of an $800m deal.

The platform currently operates as a non-profit but will be reorganised into a public benefit corporation – in other words, it will become a for-profit business but will be legally obligated to pursue a positive impact on society, employees and the environment.

The agreement is structured to ensure edX maintains its founding mission and several protections for students, partners and faculty have been negotiated.

2U will put $800m into an unnamed nonprofit organisation, overseen by MIT and Harvard, that will explore ways to overcome persistent inequities in online learning. It will look into technologies such as personalised learning driven by artificial intelligence.

In addition to MIT and Harvard, the nonprofit will also gather ideas from current edX partners and faculty. To date, edX has signed up 160 partner institutions and attracted more than 39 million students.

Open edX, the underlying open-source software that powers edX’s offering, is not part of the agreement. That software will instead be owned by the aforementioned nonprofit but will continue to be used by edX.

The deal has been approved by edX’s board and the governance bodies at MIT and Harvard. It remains subject to regulatory and government approval, and is expected to close in autumn.