NORTH-EAST students who want to study for their degree online are able to get tuition fee loans for the first time, thanks to government changes to student funding.

Leading distance learning provider RDI has hailed the move as a ‘watershed’ for UK education – opening up new opportunities for thousands of students who can’t afford, or do not want, to pursue a traditional campus-based university education.

The changes could herald an upturn in qualifications for the region. Figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey* suggest more than one in eight adults of working age in the North-East have no educational qualifications - finance being a major barrier to learning.

Loading article content

Dr Philip Hallam, chief executive of RDI, said: “For the first time, distance learners are on a level playing field with campus-based students - able to fund their studies upfront. It’s fantastic news, especially in such a tough economic climate, and removes a major barrier to study.”

This autumn’s intake of distance learners are the first to benefit from the changes. They will be able to secure upfront tuition fee loans to cover the entire cost of their degree course, only repaying the cost of their learning when they have completed their studies and are earning more than £21,000 a year.

Amy Tillotson, a thirty-year-old-working mum, is one of the first distance learners to benefit from the changes. She said: “I’ve wanted to do a psychology degree for ages and knew it would help in my job. I actually registered with RDI two years ago but with two young children and a mortgage to pay, even the lower cost of a distance learning degree was too much of a financial stretch. That’s why I was so excited to hear about the funding changes. I applied straight away!”

RDI believe Amy is a prime example of the individuals likely to benefit most from the changes. Dr Philip Hallam said: “There will be so many people, like Amy, that have been forced to put their learning ambitions on hold purely because of finances. That’s why it is so important that word gets out about these funding changes and why RDI is working to raise awareness of the opportunities now open to distance learners.”

This year RDI reported that applications for online UK university accredited degrees were up 38 per cent on 2011 – a stark contrast to the UCAS applications which were down 8.9 oer cent.

University degrees studied by distance learning, such as those offered by RDI, cost just £8,995 – a third of the £27,000 tuition fee price tag attached to traditional campus based university degree courses. This saving, combined with the tuition loan changes, means that increased demand for distance learning is a trend that looks set to continue.

To find out more about distance learning visit