Last Updated: February 10, 2021

Online degrees from the UK

What are Online degrees?

Online education is on the rise and they may not be as prestigious as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but they sure come in handy in this digital age. Often, students are looking for online degrees to gain expertise in a skill or field that acts as a supplement to their 'traditional' education at a college. To put it simply, an online degree, which is also known as distance learning is taking the course of your choice and doing it from the comfort of your home. Usually, people who want to continue working but cannot spare time to go to a university for a specific course would take up the online degree option.

There are definite pros and cons with online degrees, but they are proving to be more and more popular. Younger people are looking for online education options, mostly because: The cons of distance learning would be that the supposed student would miss out on the opportunity of socializing with other students and live a proper college life. But in this case, it is important that one considers the condition and situation of the student taking online degrees. As mentioned above, the people who opt for distance learning either want to learn much more or want to take up academics as a way to amp up their resume.

Distance learning should be considered as per the needs and circumstances of an individual. If the circumstances do not allow for them to go on-campus, then there is nothing as good as distance learning.

It must be noted here that even though distance learning is interchangeably called online learning, universities providing such services always keep their gates open for the students who would want to transition onto classroom studying. Universities also invite the students of distance learning to participate and be a part of events and seminars being held in the university. This is a way for those students to mix around with students on-campus and expand their network as much as possible.

How did it start in the UK?

One of the world's largest independent providers of UK university's distance learning is RDI (Resource Development International). They have partnerships with Anglia Ruskin University, Bradford University School of Management, Birmingham City University, Royal Agricultural University, and the University of Sunderland, to name a few. The RDI has figures that illustrate how the average age of students has dropped from 30 to just 24 since 2011.

The universities mentioned above are some of the first and foremost universities to begin distance learning. In the beginning, it wasn't very popular but as time went by and the world became fast-paced, more and more universities started introducing online learning as a serious degree option.

Is a degree from distance learning legit?

The main issue people have with online education is whether they are respected. In a general sense, distance learning is viewed as a poor substitute for a traditional brick-and-mortar degree. But there are plenty of reputed universities that offer distance learning options and so attitudes are now changing.

As mentioned before, online learning is relatively new and still something that people are considering as a viable option. As the popularity of online degrees picks up the pace, you will come across institutions established to provide only online degrees. Such degrees are something to be careful about since the weightage of such degrees isn't backed up or determined by any well-established name of a renowned university.

If you are worried about the online degree not being viable or accepted further ahead, it is better to steer clear of distance learning institutions and look for your desired degree at a renowned institution, which would not only give you a good name to put on your resume but even help you expand your knowledge beyond class by getting resources that will not be available otherwise.

Whatever said and done, the reality is that there are still some countries that do not consider a degree achieved through distance learning a considerable option. In such cases, it is important that you do thorough research about the place you would want to work at and get the details about the qualifications accepted by them before you begin to apply at different universities for a degree.

Things to keep in mind before choosing an online degree

Online degrees are often confused with online certifications or online learning. These online learning programs are usually free of cost and are called MOOS. There is no degree awarded at the end of such courses.

Almost every university has MOOS, some also have proper online degrees which will be known as distance learning. These are the courses that provide you with a degree and will be on a payment basis. They will also allow you to access university resources, so be sure to read the university page on online degrees very carefully.

It may be possible that some universities do not have online degree courses and only provide MOOS. In that case, you will not be allowed to access university resources, but only be able to gain knowledge of whichever course you choose. But on the other hand, you will not be accredited with any degree from the university, in some cases, they might provide a certificate of completion.

Top Universities with good online degrees

On that note, below are listed the top 5 universities that provide viable distance learning programs.

1. University College London

UCL has really focused on distance learning, right when the trend started out. They understand that people might not want to compromise their work, but would like to learn more, and coming to the campus is not possible for them. Hence, at UCL you would find every kind of degree under any department as a choice for distance learning.

The university provides all the material needed online, which is specifically designed for active learning. It is possible that students would want to interact with their classmates and for that, University College London provides the opportunity to connect through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Moreover, you would get access to the Student Portal, just like other on-campus students as well as an Online Library, the Student Guide, and of course, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will be included for the duration of your course.

2. The University of Edinburgh

On the second position, the University of Edinburgh does something quite extraordinary. They provide the option of online studying, which is available for almost every course they offer, just like any other university. Although, the amount of coursework you do and the number of hours you would spend learning is the same as it would be if you were learning on campus. Furthermore, they provide you with online degrees that are academically at-par with on-campus teachings, hence not mentioning if the degree awarded to you was obtained online or offline.

The non-mention of the medium of study is a big win for the people who would be apprehensive of getting a degree online in regards to recruiters of their desired place of work, but at the same time will not be able to afford to go on-campus for the course.

3. University of Warwick

At Warwick, the options of distance learning are unmistakably limited to business degrees. But that does not put a hindrance of any kind in the quality of teaching and course material provided by Warwick. In fact, the students who opted for distance learning are mostly MBA graduates and landed jobs in the highest paying jobs. Hence showing that the degree provided by Warwick is accepted and appreciated by many around the globe.

But students who are not interested in doing MBA need not worry. The University of Warwick is committed to making every field of education accessible to anyone and everyone around the globe. Therefore, it is possible that they would introduce more courses as an option under distance learning.

4. King’s College London

King's College London is most popularly known for its astounding research in several fields and being the best in the same. On top of that, they have been maintaining a high position in every kind of university rankings. So it comes off as any surprise that they would be one of the best in providing online degrees as well. At King's you would get six chances to apply for a course during a year, letting you start at your own ease.

Unlike Warwick, King's provides a wide variety of courses under distance learning. Students can choose between Food Science, History, Law, Philosophy, Business Management, and much more. Health and Medicine is an up-and-coming degree that would be available as an option for distance learning.

5. The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester has been one of the best universities for studying, research, and student satisfaction. They have been progressive about education for more than 180 years and counting. Such progressiveness has also filtered down to making education accessible to people around the globe, hence introducing great courses for distance learning.

Distance learning at Manchester is available for almost every course they offer on-campus. Exceptions may lie for some courses that need laboratory work.

Other ways to secure your online degree

The British Council proposes to look for the award you will receive on completion and ensure it is obtained from a recognized UK university or college of higher education. There is a comprehensive list of recognized bodies for awarding UK degrees on the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website.

Another thing to look for is the presence of the Quality Assurance Agency's approval on an online course. This is an agency that safeguards the quality of higher education and publishes reports about provisions of distance learning.


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