As Covid-10 pandemic makes on-campus life seem less attractive, British students are believed to be changing course –towards distance learning.

25 September 2020 By Paul Martin
Covid-19’s impact on business and trade has led to a surge in applications to do online courses around Britain. Britain’s largest institute for higher education, the Open University, has been enlisting a higher number of students for this academic year. The majority of the ‘extra’ students are thought to be part-timers who continue to have jobs.  In a recent survey conducted by the Open University, 39% of employees aged between 18 and 34 said that they would pay for learning and development opportunities if this would  protect or boost their employability.  This figure drops to 33% for employees aged between 35 and 54. “We’re not surprised to be getting a surge of new students. Young people are wondering why, if they cannot enjoy the usual stimulation of life at campuses – with plenty of fun, plenty to drink and plenty of sex – they may as well study online,” an Open University administrator told, requesting anonymity. The Open University’s website boasts that its fees are a third lower than campus universities. A full-time degree, over its three years, costs £9,174 less. Provisional figures for the new academic year show that applicants for Open University law degrees are up by 10 percent and business degrees by 25 percent, faculty members told This contrasts with slightly declining figures at many of Britain’s universities over the last few years, apparently related to a reduction in young people born in the UK around the turn of the 21st century. In contrast, students have told that they are very disappointed with the number of face-to-face contact hours being offered by campus universities. [NOTE: Several days after this article was written, the ‘plight’ of universities who have had to isolate students in their campus dormitory complexes, has made front-page news. Many are complaining about why they are paying large fees for the privilege of very litle face-to-face contact, national newspapers now report.] At one of Britain’s most famous universities, Kings College London, a student said told that the timetable sent to him showed he was only being allocated one face-to-face tuition hour per week. The rest were being substituted by online classes. The Open University is anxious to show it is not trying to sabotage campus universities. It has provided training to universities and institutions that are far less experienced in online provision. But the university is unable, because of the complications of the Covid-19 pandemic, to have face-to-face courses at its usual venues, sources told It will concentrate solely on distance learning, its original raison d’etre. The Open University prides itself on being a true reflection of British society.  “Twenty-five percent of directly-registered students are from the 25 percent most deprived areas [of Britain],” the Open University’s annual report states. The university’s OpenLearn programme has offered free training so far to 950 thousand people, mainly young, who are seeking to upgrade their skills in the wake of the uncertainties of the job market during the Covid 19 era. Those who complete any course are awarded a certificate or ‘badge’, which can help improve their chances of employment or impress their current employers sufficiently to keep them on rather than retrench them. “Though we normally insist our students can choose between full coursework learning face-to-face, or all online learning, or a mixture of the two, we are now having to gear up to cope with online learning only,” said a senior administrator, who declined to be named. Another Open University administrator told that he expected even the small number of post-graduate students who are on the Open University premises at the moment would have to go home. “As we have been specialists in distance learning for so long, since we were founded in 1969, we have proved the product works, with over 2 million people using our services,” one of the administrators said. “This pandemic only goes to show how valuable we are in terms of meeting students’ needs.” The Open University also enrolled 27,237 disabled students and over 7 thousand foreign students for the 2019-2020 academic year.