Lots of very capable students can feel nervous about attending university. It isn’t the rigour of the course that they’re worried about but things like access, facilities or transport. However, distance learning is a different way to study and gain accredited qualifications.

Distance learning is a method of taking a course remotely, where course materials are usually accessed online. The student completes work and sends it back for assessment. Once they have gone through the syllabus and attained the required standards or grades, they graduate.


Distance learning is not the same as teaching yourself. While it’ll be down to you to commit to engaging with the materials provided, it isn’t a solo effort. You’ll be assigned a tutor who will support you throughout the course. Tutorials (discussions/feedback with your tutor) are valuable in setting you on the right path and are usually done over the phone or by email or Skype etc. (There may be occasional face-to-face meetings scheduled with tutors or summer schools and the like that are campus based on some courses but again you may be able to take part via an online connection.)

Access and facilities

One of the principal benefits of distance learning for disabled people is that they will not be faced with challenges concerning access and facilities on campus. It is advisable to organise a suitable space where you can study, usually at home, where you’ll have peace and quiet when you need it.


Campus-based lectures are likely to start at around 9.15am. This means that a commute from student digs is likely to clash with rush hour. It isn’t impossible to gain access to public transport in the morning but there are better times in the day to travel. Again, studying from home mitigates transport issues and gives you back the time you otherwise waste in travelling. Another benefit is that you won’t have to pay for any travel, let alone at peak times and that because you’re at home, you’ll save on living costs too.


Distance learning is highly flexible. You can work around employment or family commitments and you won’t miss vital lectures should you experience an exacerbation of symptoms or take an afternoon to visit the doctor, etc.

There is likely to be a schedule based on completing the course over a given timeframe, based on a recommended number of hours of study every week but it isn’t a fulltime schedule, as would be the case with most campus-based courses. Keeping in touch with your tutor means that you’ll probably be given any necessary extensions on deadlines for projects etc, as per the needs of your situation.

Entry requirements

Distance learning is most associated with undergraduate degrees but there are courses at all levels and including vocational subjects. Most courses will have some entry requirements, perhaps regarding English language or numeracy competencies/qualifications but there are also courses available to study with no entry requirements at all.


You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funding to help with study costs. The funding is not age or income related.

Some course providers will let you pay tuition fees in instalments. In any case, the fees required for a distance learning course are likely to be far less than for a tradition campus-based course.

Visit: www.gov.uk/disabled-studentsallowances-dsas

Find out more at: