Brexit: An online education perspective

What would a Brexit mean for online learning? Anthony Rayworth, Director of Studies The National Design Academy, explains all

The Sunday Times recently carried an open letter, signed by 103 University Vice-Chancellors highlighting the positive role played by the EU in Higher Education. Research funding, the exchange of expertise and teaching talent, the hard won and established networks within European Research and Knowledge Transfer opportunities are all testament to the benefits of staying within the EU.

There are others who believe equally strongly that leaving the EU would allow greater opportunities for the development of UK research and development forming partnerships with countries outside the EU such as the USA. Brexit enthusiasts also firmly believe that UK Research Councils are sufficiently robust to withstand withdrawal from the EU without any loss in quality, reputation or funding capability. 

The real foundation for debate over whether the UK should stay in the EU or ‘go Global’ is to do with the creation of conditions for learning and the students’ learning experience. This is where the issues become more complex … enter, online learning. 

The above arguments for and against Brexit mainly concern the campus-based Universities. These comprise an essential core of knowledge and expertise which is recognised as world-class in the field of research and creativity. They also validate course programmes developed by their Partner institutions, of which The National Design Academy (NDA) is one example. 

To what extent has the excellent reputation of the UK universities, either providing degrees directly or validating through partnerships, been enhanced by the ease of transfer, movement, funding and employment of some of the best teaching and research minds in Europe?

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As a Director of Studies at NDA, I have particular responsibility for a suite of Interior Design related Degree courses, validated by Staffordshire University, including Foundation and BA (Hons) Degrees in Interior, Retail and Heritage Design, BA (Hons) Outdoor Living and an MA in Interior Design. These courses are being successfully delivered online to over 1700 students in 76 countries. The reason I mention this is that there is a large – and increasing – body of non-traditional learners who are unable to attend a ‘traditional’ University programme of study for a variety of reasons. They are generally a slightly older group of learners, mainly aged between 25 – 45, have a particularly entrepreneurial approach and are very comfortable with learning via our bespoke Virtual Learning Studio at times and for durations which suit their lifestyle for example; after work, when the children have gone to bed or at weekends. 

Whether the UK remains inside, or leaves the EU is not such a burning issue for many of these students as they are already located in countries outside Europe. What is important however, is their achievement of a British Degree from a British University. This, at first glance, would seem to imply that a Brexit would be a good thing as it would only strengthen the ‘Britishness’ of such a qualification. 

What has to be remembered however – and this is a very important consideration – is to what extent has the excellent reputation of the UK Universities, either providing degrees directly or validating through Partnerships, been enhanced by the ease of transfer, movement, funding and employment of some of the best teaching and research minds in Europe. Remaining within the EU would allow the UK to have an important role in changing or enhancing policy as well as contributing to the strengthening of the essential attribute of openness, knowledge sharing, standardisation, quality assurance and teaching and research excellence. Attributes which are surely enhanced through our involvement with the wider context of European Higher Education.

The National Design Academy is the only institution to offer truly flexible, online, fully accredited interior design courses. From Diploma to Master’s Degree level, our interior design, soft furnishings, curtain making & garden design courses are designed to let you study from the comfort of your own home.

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