Open Universities: Learning in a Global Community


The increasing use of the Internet for distance learning has given rise to a new kind of college – the open university. Offered in numerous countries around the world, open universities make education available to everyone, regardless of age, previous education or circumstances. These “universities without walls” bring together educators and students from all walks of life, for personal learning, career preparation and formal courses of study.

Because open universities have a global reach, their online university courses can be accessed from anywhere. Many countries around the world, ranging from England to Malaysia, host some form of open learning institution. Some offer free instruction for a few or all courses, while others provide structured courses of study leading to full degrees.

Many students enroll in online university classes to pursue learning on their own terms, and for personal enrichment. For this reason, many open universities list numerous courses in subjects such as art or creative writing alongside more formal academic subjects. Others prefer to pursue a course of study in a flexible, non-restrictive environment that allows opportunities for directing their own learning. The open university system allows for that, too.

In many fields, getting a university degree online is regarded as equivalent to completing a traditional degree. Open universities that offer full degree programs draw faculty from a variety of respected institutions around the world, ensuring a quality education that is competitive with other degree programs. Although online university classes at these institutions may be learner-centered and highly flexible, instructors hold students to the same standards found in traditional classrooms.

Larger open universities grant degrees ranging from the bachelor’s to the PhD in a variety of subjects. An online bachelors degree or other degree from an online institution is increasingly accepted in the workplace and graduate schools as a legitimate qualification, equivalent to that offered by traditional programs.

Although open universities offer an innovative alternative to education for motivated and self-directed students, it’s advisable to consider educational goals and financial circumstances before enrolling. Many open universities are not accredited, which can compromise the credibility of the degrees they grant. Others offer no financial aid and require full payment up front for classes.

For students looking for flexibility and the chance to design their own education, open universities open new doors for learning and sharing in a global community that brings together teachers and students from all backgrounds and cultures for learning, sharing and making a difference in the world.