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Prestige of UK Universities Drives Demand for Online Degrees in Markets Worldwide

07/18/17   |  
Chris Williams

​Research published today from Aston University and Keypath Education, the global specialists in online education, has revealed the diverse international spread of students studying online degrees at UK universities.  

A rise in the number of UK universities offering online degrees over the past five years has also seen a change in the landscape as numbers from North America, Asia and Africa surge.

Analysis of the latest data from the Higher Education Statistical Authority (HESA)[1] reveals the extent of these increases. Since 2011 the numbers of American students studying at UK universities entirely via online degrees has increased by 26%, Canadian numbers have risen 41% and Australian and South African numbers have soared a staggering 125% and 135% respectively.

Rajay Naik, Europe CEO at Keypath Education, comments: “It’s clear we are experiencing a global boom in the number of students studying online degrees, and it is fantastic that so many are choosing UK institutions for distance learning. But it is also clear that we are in a very competitive race to attract the world’s best and brightest students to study with British Universities. With Brexit on the horizon, it is more important than ever that British institutions are taking the lead on innovation in order that more learners can work, earn and learn.”

Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, comments: “We want to see more innovative and flexible courses offered, catering to the differing work and life demands of the widest range of people. That is why partnerships such as the one between Aston University and Keypath Education to deliver online degrees are so important. Aston University was recently awarded a gold rating in our Teaching Excellence Framework, and it is great news that they are extending their excellent offer to more people through this venture.

“Reforms we are bringing in through the Higher Education and Research Act will help more providers offer high quality degrees and introduce more flexible ways of working so that more students can benefit from excellent teaching and go on to secure a fulfilling graduate career.”

Tech Revolution in Online Learning in Emerging Markets

The growth in online degrees is being powered by greater digital connectivity in emerging markets such as Nigeria and Malaysia, as well as a demand for flexible working and learning in developed economies like the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. New digital offerings increasingly available via UK universities combine engaging study with the UK higher education sector’s world-class reputation for quality teaching and research.  

Top 5 locations for study at UK institutions where its residents undertook online degrees in 2015/16 are:

  • Singapore -  12,271
  • Hong Kong - 6,583
  • Nigeria - 5,252
  • Malaysia - 4,576
  • United States – 4,454

Whilst Singapore and Hong Kong have continuously occupied the top two spots in the rankings, Nigeria has experienced a steady 17% increase in the number of enrolled with UK universities and now finds itself in third position.

Aston announces new partnership with Keypath Education to capitalise on global growth in online degrees

With a continued global demand for online degrees, Aston University has become the latest higher education institution to expand its online degree offering[2], and is targeting growth markets including Nigeria. They have also joined the trend of partnering with the online education specialists, Keypath Education, who design, market and deliver the degrees on behalf of the University.

Aston’s MBA programmes and MSc courses in Business and Management, Accounting and Finance, and International Accounting and Finance have just had their first student intake with fees starting at £11,050 for UK students and £16,050 for international students. The courses apply best practices such as six intakes per year to cater to flexible learners who are seeking to begin study immediately.

Aston University was recently ranked the 33rd Most International University in the world in THE’s 2016 Most International Universities table, as well as 11th in the UK for Student Experience according to the Sunday Times Good University Guide. Aston was awarded a highly-coveted Gold ranking in the recently announced Teaching Excellence Framework and its triple accredited business school is ranked in the top 1% of business schools worldwide.[3] Keypath also recently announced a similar ten-year strategic partnership with The University of Exeter, a Russell Group University in the top 10 of the UK rankings and are expected to announce another leading University partner in the coming months.

Case study: Adedolapo Ojeleye

Adedolapo Ojeleye, based in Lagos, Nigeria, is studying the online MSc in Business and Management at Aston Online. Having previously studied in the UK at a campus university, the 26 year old was attracted to the prestige of the UK’s Universities. However, he also wanted to continue to work and develop his career as a Strategy Analyst at Bank of Industry Nigeria while studying, making an Aston Online postgraduate degree a natural choice. 

Adedolapo comments, “I chose to undertake a masters via Aston because I know it will help to further my career, and will be attractive to employers both in Nigeria and internationally. I have the flexibility to work and study at the same time, while also getting great teaching - I'm properly guided by my course tutor and student support who are always available to answer any questions about the issues I'm facing.

“Out of all the universities I received offers from, Aston was a favourite for me because I had received lots of positive reviews about the university from close friends and family. The quality and prestige of UK degrees are second to none. I had to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, comments, “We live in an increasingly global and technology-driven world, where online degrees are quickly becoming a natural option for students and universities alike. Our partnership with Keypath has been hugely important in ensuring that we deliver high-quality course materials and an exceptional student experience to our online students. We have also been able to attract a diverse and impressive student body to our online programmes; students who would otherwise not have been able to benefit from Aston’s world-class teaching and learning which received a Gold ranking in the recent Teaching Excellence Framework.

“Over the years to come we are looking forward to attracting an expanding and diverse population of students onto these programmes and enabling students in every corner of the globe to have access to the very best of UK higher education without having to travel to the UK.”

About Aston University -

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston held a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.


[1]HESA, Aggregate Overseas Student Data, 2015/16.

[3] Aston Business School is triple accredited by the AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS – the world’s foremost accrediting bodies.