A tradition of serving overseas students
AN EDUCATION at a traditional university in Britain was once an exclusive privilege. Entry was determined in part by religion and gender, while inherent bias and the limited number of places kept others well outside the gates.
That was before the University of London made a point of welcoming women, non-Anglicans and overseas students in the early 19th century.
'The university had an open access policy right from the start,' said James Busutill, director of the postgraduate laws programme for external students. 'We have traditionally reached out to a vast student body.'
As early as 1858, external programmes were on offer, initially designed for British students living overseas. 'It was the peak of the British Empire,' Dr Busutill said.
Today, international students from places as far afield as Peru and Dubai can take advantage of the university's 50 undergraduate and 50 postgraduate programmes for external study.
Teaching methods and assessment were previously examination-based, but the courses now make full use of the latest materials and learning techniques.
Programmes in dentistry, business administration and law make the most use of such technology, but it is not essential for every degree.
'We aim for materials to be self-standing, so they don't require computers,' Dr Busutill said.
The university's history and reputation, quality curriculum and high testing standards mean that external degrees carry genuine weight.
'In most universities, the internal and external programmes are not equivalent,' said John Cribbin, school secretary and registrar for HKU Space, which acts as a partner to support the programme in Hong Kong.
'In fact, many do not recognise their own external degrees, if someone wants to enter an internal programme.'
Dr Busutill has a word of advice for those considering an external degree: 'You must have a consistent homework schedule, set goals along the way and be realistic about timelines and workloads.'