What Are Open Universities? And Should I Study Online at One in 2020?

If you want to advance your knowledge and skills but you don’t have the formal academic qualifications to apply to a traditional university, why not consider studying an online degree at an open university?

Below we’ll give you an overview of some key aspects you need to know about open universities, which can help you decide if they are the right choice for your development:

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What are open universities?

Open universities are institutions offering degrees with low or no entry requirements. They are the ideal study options for students who have graduated their previous studies with low grades but want to continue their higher education. Another aspect that makes them stand out is the fact that they are distance learning studies, meaning you don't have to travel to a physical location to study.  So, courses are taught fully online or with materials sent to your home.

The goal of open universities is to offer everyone equal opportunities to develop their abilities, to improve their level of education and to retrain for a new career. They are also the ideal way to become eligible for pursuing a typical university degree afterwards.

You can find open universities all around the world

The first European university to give students the option of open and online education was the Open University UK which was created in 1970.  Since then, countries have gradually embraced this trend, realising that students who don’t fulfil all usual admission criteria should also get a chance to improve their education. Today popular open universities, from where millions of students have graduated successfully, include:

Apart from these open universities, don’t forget about online learning universities, institutions that have more admission requirements compared to open universities, but which are still quite flexible about the student’s background. Some examples of universities that offer degree diplomas are:

Open universities have very few entry requirements

The term open university usually refers to a university with an open-door academic policy, i.e. no entry requirements. That is why open universities are usually ”open” to all students. The initial thought behind open universities was to make higher education accessible for everyone. For example, this means that you might be accepted even when you do not have a certificate from secondary school.

In Australia, open universities have the following entry policy:

  • If you want to attend classes on campus you will need to fulfil at least one academic entry requirement.
  • If you want to attend online courses, you won’t need to provide any documents from your previous studies.

In other cases, you might go through a screening process, but there are no high standard entry requirements. On top of that, open universities have specific services for disabled persons and for people studying at a home/workplace at their own time and pace. 

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Open and distance learning universities are not the same thing

Open and distance learning universities both offer online degrees, but they have different degrees of openness to candidates.

Basically, open universities tend to accept any student, with no age limits and no prior education requirement. In some open universities, students cannot complete a degree, but the credits they earn can then be transferred towards an academic degree.

By contrast, distance learning universities have entry requirements similar to those of traditional universities and they guarantee that you will earn an academic degree provided you fulfil the course requirements.

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There is a wide variety of distance learning providers

To further complicate the issue, not all open universities focus on distance education only, whereas more and more traditional universities introduced distance education programmes. So, aside from open universities and online universities, on-campus universities are also competing for distance learning students. 

That is why in order not to get confused or consider a distance degree as an open course or vice versa, check and read carefully all the details of the programmes. If the description is not clear, the best advice is to contact the university staff and require more information. But to give you an idea, here are a few traditional universities that have expanded their offer to include online degrees:

Choose the distance-learning provider that is good for you

Searching for online degree programmes, you will find plenty of relevant results, names of universities worldwide, each presenting their interesting offer with courses. Ultimately the choice is yours, but you should always consider which option would enrich your knowledge and provide a great learning experience.

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