NEW College is one of the first colleges in the UK to offer a pioneering new method of studying for a university degree.

Thanks to a new partnership between the college and distance-learning provider RDI, from October students can sign up to take part in OnlinePlus – a new study model based on online learning and supplemented with campus access and weekend seminars.

One of the first students to sign up for OnlinePlus was 21-year-old Megan Farr, who will be studying for her degree in computing from October.

She said: “I’ve been at New College for the past four years, in which time I’ve completed an IT Practitioners BTEC and an HND in computer science. I knew I wanted to progress to a degree but to do that, I was going to have to leave New College as until now this wasn’t an option.

“I couldn’t afford to go away to university and I also wanted to be able to get workplace experience while learning. That’s why I started researching distance learning degrees.

“It’s perfect for me. I can continue working to save money and then also look for relevant work placements to improve my employability, all while learning online but still getting that familiar ‘in-person’ interaction that I like. And I love the New College campus. I’m also still eligible for a student loan, which is great.”

New College is now taking applications, and courses available include business, computing and psychology.

Learners will be able to study from their own homes while also benefiting from social and academic life on campus, including facilities like the sports centre, gym, chaplaincy, open learning centre, counselling service and full IT support.

College principal Graham Taylor said: “This is an exciting development which opens up new opportunities and important new subject areas for our students, and for the wider local community.

“We are especially proud to be one of the first further education colleges in the country to offer this new way to study a degree which fits around busy people’s lives.”

The aim of the partnership is to make university degrees more accessible and affordable to local people, with fees equivalent to £3,995 per level, compared to up to £9,000 per level for full-time on-campus university study.

Phil Hallam, CEO at RDI, said: “These degree courses now offer the best of both worlds – the flexibility of distance learning with the reassurance of regular face-to-face contact with tutors, in a familiar local environment.

“This will particularly appeal to working people and those with family responsibilities – putting a university education within their reach and within the community.”

The news was also welcomed by Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, who said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to combine increasingly popular online learning, with the full support of the local New College facilities.

“This will be of great benefit to both busy, hardworking people and local businesses seeking to invest in their staff – a real boost for our town and local economy.”

For more information about the courses available and to find out how to apply visit HEOnline.