Distance learning has come a long way since the early days of the Open University. The internet has made course materials more accessible and contact with tutors easier, and the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCS) created the opportunity to study at a prestigious university for free.
The result is that most universities now offer courses online, and practically every subject imaginable, from archaeology to zoology, is available via distance learning.
But while a qualification from a British university may enhance your CV – or just provide a rewarding experience – prospective students still need to think carefully about their choice, to ensure they get not just value for money, but value for their time.
Despite the arrival into the market of almost all UK higher education institutions, the Open University (OU) remains the biggest provider of distance learning, as well as being one of the world's largest universities.
The OU has students in 130 countries, with 12,000 based outside the UK of whom just over 40 per cent are expatriates, according to Steve Hill, chief executive of OU Worldwide.
Its most popular courses among international students include the international MBA and bachelor's degrees in psychology, computing and IT, business studies and material sciences.
He says the university provides support specifically for international students, including an international website and a dedicated call centre.
"We try to give our international students a true international experience, rather than feeling they have just been bolted on to a UK university course," Hill says.
All course materials are available online and the majority of students need only an entry-level laptop, he adds. Some science courses may need more equipment. Each course also makes clear its assessment requirements. Students may have to travel to an assessment centre to take an exam, for example.