Online learning provider RDI has reported a 59% increase in applications for undergraduate degrees.
The figures are based on RDI’s January intake and represent a year on year comparison. Total applications for all online courses – including degrees, diplomas, masters and MBAs – were up over 40%.
It is the surge in undergraduate degree applications that is most notable – particularly when compared to UCAS figures which showed applications for traditional university places were up only 3.5% (based on the January 15 th deadline for 2013 cycle), on the back of a decline in 2012.
Dr Philip Hallam, Chief Executive of RDI, believes the figures reflect a new era in education.
He said: “The increased interest we’ve had in our UK university accredited degrees is unprecedented, and I think reflects a combination of factors spanning finance, lifestyle and consumer trends.”
A key financial factor is changes to the student funding structure in favour of distance learners which, since September 2012, gives them the same entitlement to tuition fee loans as campus based learners.
Dr Hallam continued: “Although distance learning degrees are significantly more affordable than campus-based degrees – around a third of the cost with RDI – the fact that distance learners had to raise cash themselves to pay for courses upfront was a hurdle too far for many. With that obstacle now removed, online learning has become even more accessible.”
Jonathan Smith (20) joined RDI in January 2013 to study for a BA (Hons) Business degree. He said: “I left college in 2010 with A Levels in History, Politics and Economics. Going to university wasn’t even a consideration for me. My friends were at home, I didn’t want to be burdened with debt and I wanted to get straight into a career. I’m now doing a degree on my terms, in a way that suits me.”
2012 saw RDI introduce its free taster module to allow people to find out if online learning will suit them. RDI has also been working to make its course materials multiplatform compatible – extending resources to iPad and Kindle users.
Dr Hallam believes this too has had a significant impact on interest in online learning. He concluded: “Consumer trends do impact on learning – people want services that fit around their life, not the other way around, and that is why distance learning continues to go from strength to strength.”