It’s September, and the start of a new academic journey for thousands of students across the country. Unfortunately, many young people will find themselves embarking on their journey into higher education without necessarily having thoroughly researched the options available to them. Having completed their further education qualifications, many students see a traditional campus university education as their only viable option.
According to the National Union of Students, affordability remains the number one reason why people don’t consider entering higher education at all. With fees rising each year, it’s more crucial than ever that students consider the multitude of pathways available to them.
Many students who would benefit from accessing a learning environment that is more affordable, flexible and suitable to their learning needs, are missing out.
Different doesn’t mean better or worse
There are important differences in the opportunities each and every type of learning brings to a student experience. Different types of study suit different types of student needs and expectations. It’s not about being better or worse. It’s about there being more than one way to access higher education.
Students embarking on a traditional university experience can expect a fixed schedule of lectures, seminars and tutorials. This perfectly suits the needs of many young people. Those attending an online university will find the same level of provision but in a flexible format, with students building their timetable around their lives – for example, attending an online seminar after work, or Skyping with a tutor over breakfast. It’s a model that particularly suits those looking to work whilst learning – in fact over 90 per cent of Arden University students have a job whilst studying for their qualification.
For others, a mixture between the campus experience and distance learning tends to work best. This new way of learning and studying provides the best of both face-to-face and online learning. Students attend regular classroom sessions at study centres with other students, and the rest of the time they access materials and resources such as tutorials, lessons and exercises online, working at their own pace. This combines the flexibility of online learning with the interactivity and structure of a regular classroom environment.
Time to change
Tuition fee increases have been the cause of much unrest and dissatisfaction among the student community. Yet when presented with the option of studying online for a like-for-like degree at up to a third of the cost, suspicion – based on the famous ‘reassuringly expensive’ argument – creeps in. However, this thought process is no longer justified.
Studying online for a degree or master’s does cost significantly less than ‘going away to university’, but that is a reflection of differences in model and physical overheads, not quality. The option to schedule your studying around your professional commitments, instead of the other way round, means students aren’t shackled by a rigid timetable.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to learning; different formats suit different people. For some, going away to university is what’s right; for others the vocational appeal of an apprenticeship or the flexibility of online study will ultimately yield better results. But without fully knowing about each option, it’s impossible to take informed first steps down any particular route.
One thing that is for certain, the route chosen will have a life-long impact. It therefore cannot be taken lightly.
To all students currently considering their options and future, don’t rush. Research all the options, without prejudice or preconception, and you will undoubtedly succeed in finding a path that suits your specific needs, expectations and long-term goals.
Arden University has undergone significant change and achieved sustainable international business growth under Dr Hallam’s leadership and this growth and improvement continues. Before joining Arden, Dr Hallam spent more than 15 years as a senior manager and academic within the UK university sector.