Leading UK distance learning provider achieves degree-awarding powers

Taught degree-awarding powers (TDAP) are granted by the Privy Council, a formal body of advisors to Her Majesty the Queen, following rigorous scrutiny by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education.

RDI, which is based in Coventry, has a 24-year history of pioneering distance learning. It is now able to develop its own degree programmes to meet growing UK and international demand for its affordable, flexible learning model.

The organisation now plans to apply for university title and then launch a new UK online distance learning university – one of the first dedicated distance learning universities in the UK since the Open University launched in 1971. The new online university will build on RDI’s success in exporting UK university education overseas by offering increased provision for international students, as well as meeting growing demand from UK students.

Dr Philip Hallam, Chief Executive of RDI, said: “Today’s announcement is the culmination of 24 years of work to develop a Higher Education Institution (HEI) that complements the UK campus university sector by providing students with affordable and flexible study choices.

“Achieving degree-awarding powers is the result of rigorous scrutiny by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education and demonstrates that RDI has met the high standards it requires of the UK university sector.

“We are now entering an exciting phase in which we will apply for university title and develop our own new programmes to meet growing UK and international demand for our provision.

“This is good news for UK higher education and for UK plc. We will be helping to grow the UK’s share of the international education market and will be targeting new markets for distance learning across Africa, Asia and other emerging international regions.

“It is also extremely good news for students – both in the UK and overseas – more of whom will benefit from new and more accessible ways of affordable learning to equip them to succeed in their chosen careers.”

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “RDI offers the flexible learning opportunities that are vital to so many students. The Government is keen to encourage greater competition and diversity in higher education provision and it is right that institutions like RDI, that have met the rigorous standards required, should be granted the power to award their own degrees.”

Founded in 1990, RDI has supported more than 50,000 students – offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes accredited by UK universities with whom it has developed strong partnerships.

Courses can be undertaken flexibly, via sector-leading online resources. Subjects include: business, management, finance, law, marketing, human resource management, health, tourism, computing, information systems, telecommunications, graphic design, healthcare and psychology. Around two-thirds of RDI’s students are based overseas and 90% study while in employment.

With degree-awarding powers, the organisation will next apply for university title so that it can offer its own programmes under the brand of the new online university. These will be designed to improve employment prospects for students and to meet employers’ business needs.

As well as offering its own programmes, RDI will continue to offer distance learning programmes from its UK university partners. It is also exploring plans to expand this complementary provision. Students who are currently studying with RDI will not be affected by the changes and will continue with their programmes unaffected.

Dr Hallam added: “I would like to thank our UK university partners for their support during our 24-year journey and particularly through the TDAP application phase.

“We will continue to work with them and are actively exploring the possibility of helping them to extend their own distance learning provision whilst also developing our own academic programmes.”

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