Congratulations to my big little sister (five years younger and about five foot taller!) who a few days ago received an unconditional offer from the University of the Highlands and Islands. After receiving her HND in Music at college, she will now be able to continue to BA level. Not only that, but she has opted for distance learning, so I may ask her to contribute a little to this blog once her course is underway.
It is only one example of how students are increasingly searching for an alternative to the traditional progression from school to college or university. Particularly in Scotland, where my sister found it almost impossible to gain a place at Uni, despite her HND. Increased competition is undoubtedly a factor; as universities in England and Wales up their fees, many are looking to Scotland’s Universities for a generally cheaper education and no ‘up-front’ fees. If it weren’t for my sponsorship it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to study for a degree while living in England. Surely this is unfair? If social mobility and equal opportunities are to become a reality, there needs to be more opportunity and more options available for those who want to study.
Distance learning is one of these options and should be expanded upon by institutions and the benefits explained to those who are leaving school. It brings freedom to students who cannot afford to live near campus, those who have family or work commitments and those who do not want to study full time. The Open University is an obvious success story, and with traditionally ‘brick’ Universities such as Leicester and UHI (among many others) also offering more flexible learning, it seems that the trend for distance learning will only continue to flourish.