An increasingly globalised world with continually advancing communications systems means that distance learning courses needn’t be restricted by country – or even by continent.
If you are considering a PhD by distance learning you may be thinking of going overseas to find the right institution. Distance learning is growing in popularity around the world and stats show that it’s popular at postgraduate level. A recent survey carried out in Australia found that 90 per cent of courses taught exclusively online at Australian universities are at postgraduate level. And in the United States, of the 12 million students that enrolled on distance learning college-level courses in 2006-7, more than 2.3million of them were on graduate/first professional courses (National Center for Education Statistics).
There are challenges associated with any form of distance learning: you may not have direct access to facilities that the university has to offer its resident students, such as libraries. You won’t be able to meet with your supervisor ‘face-to-face’ as regularly as a resident student, although you may feel that phone calls, emails and ‘webinars’ will suffice. Studying at an overseas institution may present additional cultural and language challenges.
That said, there may be overseas universities that are better suited to your area of research than those in your own country. Or perhaps you are considering moving to another country in the future and feel your prospects are bettered if your higher degree was awarded by an institution in that country.
Whatever your reason for extending your search worldwide, it’s worth ensuring you ask the following questions about your chosen course of study:
- First things first: who is the course accredited by? It’s most important that your institution of choice is accredited by a body recognised by the country’s education department, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), an umbrella organisation for accreditation agencies in the USA.
- Are your qualifications sufficient for applying for the course in your chosen country? Thanks to initiatives like the European Union’s Bologna Process, higher education academic qualifications are becoming more standardised internationally, but you should still check directly with the institution that your qualifications and grades are recognised by them.
- Are you fluent in the language the course operates in? If it is not your first language you may be required to pass a test, such as IELTS or TEOFL for English.
- Do you have to attend the university at any point during an academic year? Many distance learning courses will require some attendance by the student themselves, and it’s likely to be up to the student to fund the trip.
- What is the cost of the course for overseas students? It may be higher than for home students.
- Lastly, how long will it take to complete? PhDs often range in length, depending on where you study and whether you’re part-time or full-time.
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