The Higher Education Academy has found that employers favor distance learning as a method of delivering career-related study. Stephen Hoare, writing in the guardian, reports that distance learning degrees catering to mid-career professionals are a growth area for many universities.
Dan Hiskey is a corporate banking analyst for HSBC who has just graduated with a BSc in banking practice and management via distance learning at ifs School of Finance.
Sponsored by his employer, the banking degree is a key part of Hiskey’s professional development. “I joined the bank’s executive trainee graduate programme after graduating in economics from Royal Holloway College in 2008. The syllabus covers the basics of banking and as part of my online assignments I was encouraged to refer to tasks I carry out in the workplace. Theories are no longer theories: I can apply them to my everyday job,” says Hiskey.
Another reason distance learning is proving popular among professionals is that it provides unique networking opportunities. Hiskey’s degree gives him access to forums where he can ostensibly discuss assignments with students from other banks but has the side effect of providing him with a lifelong professional network.
The flexibility benefits of a distance learning programme are also essential for people trying to work and raise a family while studying. Without the flexible approach to learning, many of these people would be unable to complete the study and better their lives. Lucy Harbor is one such individual halfway through a MSc in green economy at the University of Bournemouth.
“When you have a job and a child you don’t have too much time to study. I need to keep earning but on the days when I’m not working I study from home,” says Harbor. On her course physical lectures and resources are replaced by PDFs and weblinks. She adds: “Distance learning suits me. I’m getting better grades than I did when I was studying first time around.”
Since 2010, when ifs School of Finance gained degree awarding powers they have launched three new undergraduate financial BScs. They offer a full time option but distance learning is becoming extremely popular as it allows students to pay by the module and carry on working at the same time. Studying four modules in a year at ifs would result in a tuition charge of £3,040.
“While Ucas has been reporting an 8% drop in applications, our applications have more than doubled,” says vice-principal for professional higher education, Martin Day.