Press release: Is Private Sector Higher Education the Answer to UK University Overcrowding?

Private sector educators who offer UK university qualifications using off-campus learning methods may take up the shortfall in higher education places this September. These organisations provide identical degrees to UK universities but through online learning models that attract the ‘Facebook generation’.

With the government capping the number of extra university places available for the coming academic year despite heightened demand, an increasing number of students will turn to private sector specialists who offer viable study pathways, as fierce competition for places on traditional degree courses forces them away from traditional, campus-based universities.

Recent ‘snapshot’ statistics from the Universities Central Admissions System (UCAS) show that applications for UK university places are surging, with an 8.8% rise on 2008. Many of the applicants are young people who cannot find a job in the recession, and the numbers are also bolstered by a rise in older applicants aged 25 and over.

However, at least 28,000 would-be university students could be denied a path into further education this September because available places for the next academic year have been capped by Universities Secretary, John Denham, and university chancellors will be fined if they admit more than 10,000 extra students in total to their campuses. Many of the fresh applicants will be well qualified to win places in state universities but could be ‘left out in the cold’ by the traditional clearing system.

A growing number of students, including those in the 25-plus demographic, are discovering that private sector education can provide a viable alternative to traditional universities – and it is significantly cheaper than its public sector equivalent. Many are opting for the distance learning model, where study is carried out online using sophisticated learning software that enables students to access tutors and share ideas round the clock.

While the average public sector student taking a BA(Hons) in Business will graduate with debts of at least £15,000 for three years’ tuition fees alone (and these fees may be set to rise), a student awarded a University of Wales BA(Hons) Business degree through distance learning specialist, Resource Development International ( RDI – ), might spend just £4,500 in total on fees over three years, showing that the current ‘cloud’ of education choices can have a silver lining when a different academic ‘route’ is taken.

A simple maths lesson from RDI shows that 20-35 year olds are now choosing distance learning over a ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar education. RDI is seeing enrolments rise in the recession and, significantly, attracted 30% more people on to its distance learning courses between October and December 2008 compared to the same period in 2007. While RDI provides identical degrees to those taken on-campus at universities, the ‘different’ model of distance learning has its advantages. For example, students can take advantage of flexible study, so their course can be spread over more than three years, if required, and studies can be undertaken anywhere with an internet connection, 24/7. Furthermore, the student can operate on an “earn as you learn” basis – i.e. they can continue to work as they study and pay those every day bills.

Dr Philip Hallam, CEO of RDI, comments: “With fierce competition set to occur for UK university places this September, we predict that private sector educators, such as RDI, will continue to see a rise in applications for their courses. The cost benefits combined with flexible study are compelling reasons for many students to choose a distance learning pathway this academic year.

He adds: “We believe the online learning model is enticing for young people. No more ‘boring old guys in a classroom waffling for an hour’. This model is built for the Facebook generation and it’s the way learning is heading these days. We believe the argument that campuses cannot house any more students is not a valid one for denying young people degree courses this September, as private sector specialists such as ourselves can keep the cost of education down while accepting more students.”

Young people who sign up to study with RDI can take advantage of a ‘pay as you go’ system, where the fee to study a degree is just £99 a month for the first year of study, followed by £125 a month afterwards. This is easy on students’ wallets during the downturn.

Notes for editors

About RDI
Resource Development International (RDI) was launched in 1990 and is based in Coventry, UK. It is the world’s largest independent provider of UK university distance learning qualifications from respected institutions including: University of Wales, University of Bradford, University of Birmingham, University of Sunderland, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Teesside, University of Derby, University of East London, Birmingham City University and also Edexcel, CIPS and IAB. RDI currently has around 7,000 students enrolled in its academic body and distance learning courses are available at MBA, MSc, BA (Hons), Diploma and Advanced Certificate level. Students can study and share ideas from any location with an internet connection using RDI’s educational answer to Facebook, called ‘iLearn’, which rolls an online university, online campus and classroom into one.

RDI works with corporate clients to offer a range of vocational pathways to improve organisational performance by increasing the skills and attitudes of employees.
For further information, please contact:

Dr Philip Hallam

Tel: 024 765 15700

Press office:

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