The University of London stands out as unique due to its unparalleled commitment to innovation and widening access, and it continues to develop and build on its 160-year track-record of providing quality, up-to-date academic programmes for students around the world.
Any global organisation catering to the needs of different demographics in different locations must constantly search for new ways to reach and excite people, and the University of London is no exception. Indeed, the University’s distance and flexible learning delivery are known to many as ‘The World’s Largest Classroom’, with 50,000 students studying in more than 190 counties across the world, and over 1.5 million enrolled on its short Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Constant innovation is necessary to both maintain the internationally recognised quality of the education provided to these students, and to reach new markets. The needs of a distance learning student in the United Kingdom may differ widely from those of a student in Bangladesh, or Singapore, or Nigeria, and the University of London has proven itself adept at identifying and providing for such students across all regions.
One important way the University of London has recently looked to innovate its distance and flexible learning delivery is through online education. In 2012, the University of London showed foresight in becoming the first English university to join the online education platform Coursera. Back then, Coursera had around 300,000 learners, with four universities offering courses on the platform. Today, this has grown to 35 million learners and over 150 university partners.
But the University of London did not just join Coursera as a rank-and-file member, it looked to contribute to Coursera’s cutting-edge innovations in online learning. This has resulted in the launch of a suite of BSc Computer Science degrees – the first undergraduate degrees offered through Coursera. The first cohort of students for these programmes begin in April, and applications for this intake are open now.
This new suite of BSc degree programmes have been delivered with academic direction from Goldsmiths, University of London, to meet the needs of career changers in industry, as well as those taking their first steps into computer science. In keeping with the University’s open approach to education, differential pricing for different parts of the world ensures that these new degrees are accessible for a wide range of potential applicants.
In the modern workplace, demand for staff with computer science knowledge currently far exceeds supply. It is estimated that the shortage of graduates with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degrees cost the UK’s economy around £1.5 billion per year. By providing Coursera’s first fully-online BSc Computer Science programmes, the University of London is filling this gap, and Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda said:
“Computer science, a lucrative and fast-growing career field, represents a huge opportunity for global learners, especially those based in developing countries… We’re thrilled to offer our first-ever undergraduate degree on Coursera and, with University of London’s innovative cost-adjustment model, the program opens up access to research and cutting-edge computer science skills to a greater diversity of learners around the world.”
The University of London is able to deliver such contemporary programmes through a unique delivery structure, involving some of the world’s most respected higher education institutions. The University of London itself is a federation of 18 independent member institutions, including Goldsmiths, the LSE, UCL and King’s College London, each recognised for their excellence in research and teaching. The University is able to draw on the cutting-edge research of these universities, as well as the teaching talents of their academics, to deliver distance learning programmes for students all over the world.
In this regard, the new BSc Computer Science programmes benefit from the creative approach of the academics at Goldsmiths. These academics have designed a unique learning experience for students, in order to make the complexities of computer science engaging and fun to learn. For example, one module involves teaching students through a puzzle-solving detective game called “Sleuth.” By completing this game, students can learn coding skills in a practical and interactive manner, and work towards passing their module and their final grade at the same time.
The new BSc Computer Science programmes form part of a suite of over 100+ distance learning academic programmes available for students, in topical subjects ranging from a Global MBA to Professional Accountancy, to Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies. Everyone who successfully completes one of these programmes leaves with an internationally recognised University of London award.
Another unique feature of the University of London’s distance learning delivery is its focus on providing flexibility. Students on the University’s distance and flexible learning programmes can complete their programmes through self-study, or with the assistance of one of the University’s many Recognised Teaching Centres. At all stages of a student’s journey with the University of London, flexibility is built-in to enable them to complete their award alongside professional and personal commitments. It is not uncommon for a student to begin their studies in one region and, if work takes them elsewhere, to finish their studies thousands of miles away. For further flexibility, students are allowed to complete their degrees outside the standard three years period. The University of London recognises that providing this flexibility is key to supporting its students, and to ensuring they achieve to the best of their abilities.
The University of London’s Recognised Teaching Centres represent a further innovation in the delivery of distance and flexible learning. These Centres provide students with opportunities for face-to-face learning, while remaining in their country of residence. All of the University’s Teaching Centres are stringently vetted to ensure that they meet high academic standards, and the result is a delivery network allowing students the benefits of an on-campus education, while studying for a prestigious University of London award almost anywhere in the world.
But these developments and activities represent only the latest innovations in education delivered by the University of London. Indeed, the University’s whole history, stretching back to the early 1800s, has been focused on experimentation, breaking with tradition, and opening access to quality higher education for all who could benefit.
In 1836, the University of London became the third oldest university in England, and the first to exclude religious qualification as an entry requirement. Some years later, the University of London’s 1858 Royal Charter broke the link between place and study, and pre-empted distance learning by over 100 years, by opening up its degrees to all those who could satisfy its entry requirements and pay its fees. In 1865, the University of London’s first overseas students took their first examinations in Mauritius.
The University of London’s 1858 Charter was a forward-thinking document, and exemplified the University’s open outlook to education. However, more innovations were to come. As Dr Mary Stiasny OBE (Pro Vice-Chancellor) International, and Chief Executive of the University’s distance and flexible learning delivery explains:
“In 1868, the University of London made history by providing its ‘Special Examinations for Women’ – the first university-level examinations offered to women in the UK. Ten years later, the University of London became the first in the UK to offer full degrees for women, on the same basis as men. These actions had far-reaching consequences for women all over the country. Last year I was especially proud to head the University’s Leading Women campaign, celebrating the anniversaries of these exceptional moments in the University’s history.”
By drawing on this rich history of innovation and open access, the University of London is confidently exploring future possibilities for the delivery of distance and flexible learning. The University knows that people all over the world are looking for excellent higher education, in order to access better opportunities and increase their quality of life. With a contemporary outlook built on solid foundations, the University of London is strategically placed to meet the growing demand for global education.
For more information about the University of London, please visit: https://london.ac.uk
For more information about the range of distance and flexible learning degrees offered by the University of London, please visit: https://london.ac.uk/courses
For more information on the new fully online BSc Computer Science degrees, please visit: https://london.ac.uk/courses/computer-science
Listen to Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda explain how these BSc Computer Science degrees open access to a generation that’s been “shut out”: https://london.ac.uk/opening-up-computer-science