Find Cheap/Free University Courses
By Joshua Neil
For millions of people in the world, traditional university just isn’t an option. With families or jobs to work around, and without the money to spend thousands of pounds on a course, it can seem like an unobtainable dream for those who just don’t have the money to afford it.
But where ten years ago those without the cash to afford a degree-level education simply couldn’t have it, now, with the rise of the internet and the ever-increasing numbers of ‘MOOC’s- Massive Open Online Courses– there are possibilities and ways for those without the money or the time to get the education they deserve. These MOOCs aim to give free education to anyone who wants it, helping those in need to get the skills and knowledge to help them get ahead in life. Here are five of the best ways to get cheap or free university education, even if you are broke in London.
#1 Cheap Accredited Online Degree Programs
For those looking for the full university experience- with a real degree at the end of it- the bad news is that even online, it’s still going to cost you. The good news is that these courses, set up by real universities or volunteer-funded not-for-profit organisations, give full access to the sort of courses that students in traditional universities would have: years of lectures taught by leading professors, which result in a degree accepted by almost all employers in the world- all a lot cheaper online.
The Open University
For those who simply don’t have the time to go to a traditional university, The Open University is the first name they’ll find- while it can be expensive at £2632 a year over 6 years, this is a much reduced cost over most unis, without the need for a student room, textbooks or travel expenses. It can be worked around any job you might have, and offers a huge range of courses, all with full credit– a degree from the Open University matters. It has 600 different courses, and 6000 expert tutors to teach you professionally and to the highest standards.
For those already employed, your boss might just help pay the fees themselves- 1 in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer. For those earning less than £25,000 you can even get help from the OU with internet access, childcare, and travel, as well as a free introductory access module to ease you into the work.
University of the People
The Open University isn’t the only MOOC to give the full uni experience to students- others do the same, for a much reduced cost. The University of the People is one of the largest of these- a volunteer-funded online university without any tuition fees, this does require students to be qualified at least to high-school level: beyond that, all that’s needed is $4000 for a bachelor degree (roughly £2,400).
While this can be a lot of money for those hard-up, this is a tiny fraction of the normal university cost- believe me- and the course is done on a weekly basis, so you can fit your study around a regular job to make ends meet. Right now the university only has two full subjects, Business Administration or Computer Sciences, but these are set to expand in the coming months- and being accredited, a degree from the University of the People can count for a lot in the hunt for employment.
#2 Free University Courses
For those not willing to spend any cash, there are a lot of other courses out there which can give you free university courses, whenever you want to learn. One of the biggest sites out there for free content is Coursera: with over 400 courses, it has partnered with the top universities in the world to give free education to anyone, anywhere. From education to computer sciences, there’s something just right for you. While unverified certificates are available to everyone on course completion, verified certificates are available at a small fee. While these courses can be taken whenever you have the time, it is recommended that you put in the hours with the site- with under 10% of students finishing courses, it can be hard to commit fully to getting that certificate.
Another free online course site is edX– founded by Harvard and MIT, it offers professional science and technology courses for free. With some courses taking dozens of hours to complete, it has the same problems as Coursera- and verified certificates once again come at a price. Nevertheless, for those looking for free education online, they don’t come with better credentials than edX.
Finally, for a wider range of quick, easy-to-learn courses, Udemy.com has over 18,000 courses on everything from the works of T.S. Eliot to how to build a ‘flappy birds’ clone. While most of these courses are free, the more professional/useful courses can cost up to £300, which can be painful if it’s something you really want to study. However, all courses are strictly over an hour, so you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth, and there are hundreds of expert tutors and professors online teaching their own courses for almost no money at all. While you won’t be getting a formal degree or certificate from these courses, many of them are real university courses taught by experts in their field, and the skills you can learn from them are invaluable.
The Open Academy
The Open Academy is another professionally-done MOOC with over 300 different courses to choose from, all from some of the best universities in the world- MIT, Imperial College, Cardiff and Bath universities all lend work to the project. Registration is free, and there are enough courses that almost any topic can be found and learned about- so the education you want is never far away. Quality of course does vary dependent on professor, university and topic, but overall this is an excellent MOOC through which to get free education, and step ahead in the future.
#3 Free International Scholarships
For those who want to set their sights further than the U.K. and study abroad, there are a huge range of free opportunities available to you, which can provide fantastic experience of other cultures, as well as your particular areas of interest. The most useful source for these is the British Council– their Work, Study, Create scheme gathers up all their scholarships and opportunities into one place, so there’s something for almost anyone!
The IAESTE scheme allows second or third year science, applied arts and engineering students to travel abroad for 6-52 weeks, in any one of 80+ countries. The scheme allows you to travel to a different country to live, work and gain experience: while students must pay for their flight, visa, and vaccinations, they will earn a salary once there which can cover accommodation and living costs- all while working in a new environment and gaining great skills to help later in life.
Artists’ International Development Program
For all the aspiring artists out there, there’s a chance for you too- if you have received recognition for your work and have interest from an overseas partner or host, there is the opportunity to enrol on the Artists’ International Development Program and get help networking with other artists and organisations overseas. With the ability to receive a grant from £1000-£5000, this is the perfect way for artists to meet peers, receive encouragement and criticism, help in their careers and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Finally, if you’re already at a university with an Erasmus charter, you might have the chance to study with Erasmus+. Also available for those on a foundation degree course or part-time students, this allows students to spend 3-12 months in one of 32 countries, learning at another university, meeting new people, learning a new language, and gaining experience abroad. There are no fees to be paid, and grants are awarded from between 350 and 400 Euros, so for those looking to broaden their horizons while at university without paying a penny, this is a fantastic opportunity, not to be missed.
#4 Free Online Language Courses
For those looking for a more relaxed studying experience, the internet even offers ways to learn new languages for free: if you’re looking to gain vital skills without the university environment, there are some sites which teach languages in a structured way, without paying a single penny.
Duolingo is one of the best of these sites: as either a website or app, it teaches anyone a new language (out of 7) by making it into a game- and a highly addictive one, I might add- which can help you learn new words, phrases and abilities even while you’re on the commute! It has a structure to teach anyone, from beginners to experts, and has no time limit– meaning that you can learn at your own pace, though some willpower will be required to finish the course!
Memrise has over 200 languages to learn, and this too is completely free! Learning in a structured environment, users can create their own courses of rich, multimedia flashcards and compete with their friends.
#5 Free Career Advice
University isn’t for everyone: in fact, with the economy as it is it can easily be argued that not going is a better choice for many. If that’s the case for you, there are still free university careers advice resources available to you which can help you get the job you want.
University of Kent Careers and Employability Service
The University of Kent Careers and Employability Service can help you find the ideal job for you- with psychometric tests including ones on numeric reasoning, vocabulary, creative thinking and teamwork styles, as well as tips and comments letting you know how you did and what these tests mean, the site can be ideal in helping you to find the perfect job or you. Beyond this, the University of Kent Careers page has job interview tips, advice on how to write CVs and cover letters, and advice to help you identify your work skills.
For graduates, there is Prospects, the official graduate career website, which can help you in a huge range of ways, from CV, career and interview advice, to searching through jobs lists and looking for extra postgraduate experience to help you in the future. There are overviews on every job sector, and a huge range of tips and advice for anyone who wants to find a job, from any background.
University doesn’t have to be the burden it once was: now, with just an internet connection, anyone in the world has access to a massive range of cheap university degrees, free courses, free scholarships abroad, and university help and advice. There’s no reason why those who don’t have the money, time or opportunity to go to a traditional university can’t get the education they deserve, and go on to do just as well as anyone else- with this much at your fingertips, you can achieve anything.
For more information, check out each site’s Twitter account:
The Open University: @OpenUniversity
University of the People: @UoPeople
Open Academy: @OAOpenAcademy
You may also want to check our article on how to get a job in London.