Value of award…


There has been much discussion between students on the VLE forums and through blog comments in regards to the status of External students and the value of award. First of all, I am pleased that students are using these features regularly to interact with each other and discuss important topics.

 The purpose of this blog is to respond to a number of student concerns and we thought that the following information would be useful:

  • External students are students of the University of London and as such on completion of their studies receive a degree or diploma from the University of London. Since 2007 there is no indication on the degree certificate of place or mode of study. This information is now reserved for the transcript. The University of London certificate also states that the examinations an EMFSS graduate has taken are ‘under the direction of LSE’. The certificate indicates to employers, universities and other bodies the class of degree that a student has been rewarded and informs them that the standards are maintained and controlled by the University of London.  

There are a number of External students who have been academically successful, and accepted into one of the top universities world wide, since universities trust the name of the University of London and in most cases appreciate the academic challenge that a student has undertaken.

  • The mission of the External programme is to enable students to study for a University of London degree irrespective of place or mode of study. This allows greater flexibility and enables students to combine their studies with work.   Students study on their own, in small groups or in teaching institutions.   Employers are often interested in where a student has studied and whether he or she has developed the set of skills that they require. External students will develop a number of skills that employers consider valuable, such as written communication, attention to detail, planning and most importantly great motivation and determination, particularly if students have studied and worked at the same time.

Historically, there may have been a bias against students who have studied externally, however over time this bias has diminished and External students are competing with others on an equal footing and getting into top universities and companies. Online testing for initial application amongst other things have helped enormously as students compete with others on an equal footing.   

Some External students do not do well at interviews and fail to understand the motivation behind some of the questions asked. Often questions are asked about how students study and in some cases these questions may seem antagonistic. Employers want to know how students deal with such questions rather than indicating their displeasure at the mode of study. This is the perfect opportunity for students to impress the prospective employer by describing the skills that they have developed studying Externally and describing the added motivation and determination required to study Externally.

What is most important is that students do as well as possible on the External programme and gain the best possible marks that they can achieve. To do this students must work hard and follow the guidelines for study presented by the University, particularly in Strategies for Success which stresses that the way you study is as important as what you study.   

We have also been working on raising the profile of our programmes and our students:

The University of London Alumni group provides a forum where graduates can network and share information about opportunities.

Information can be found here: 

The promotion materials including the web sites provided by the University indicate the nature of the programmes and we are enhancing these each year, they are useful to show to potential employers.  Success stories also indicate how our students have fared and this is a great encouragement to students and to employers.  We would welcome any suggestions as to how we can promote our graduates.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at the Study Weekend!

Best wishes

Rosie Gosling


22 Responses to Value of award…

  1. Jeffrey Victor Hili says:

    Dear Director,

    but I still did not understand the exact value.
    A degree through the external system is recognized at exactly the same level as a degree obtained on campus (i.e. from a student attending the UOL) by the University of London?

    So is this issue with the Blog referring to some situation created by some suspicous employers or Universities?

    Thanks for your time and concern

    Jeffrey Victor Hili

  2. Robert Ojah-Maharaj says:

    Am in the middle of completing studies elsewhere this June 2010) and intend to resume studies on my external degree in 2010.

    Without repeating what Dr Rosie G has said (which I feel readers need to pay very close attention to), just thought I would add some spice to the stew.
    With the launch of the IPad by Steve Jobs last week,
    (allowing us new tools to learn “on the fly”) the new and innovative ways that universities the world over have to find “new” sources of revenues, (global credit crunch, limited Govt. resources etc) look around you and see what is happening. MBA programmes have already “set the scene” for the future of (global) education by forming close partnerships with other universities in different continents
    (look at the LSE MBA programme for starters). I am not trying to detract from the message by talking about class taught MBAs but only highlighting the fact that now the best universities in the world are “reaching out” to students across the globe. Having said that UOL external has been “ahead of the game” on that front, therefore in essence what I am trying to say is that over time (and very soon) this negative “perception” of distance learning is going to disappear and the reverse is going to happen, respect in the end would be back where it should be, acknowledging the efforts and hard work of those who go it alone as “trail blazers” – best wishes to all, Cheers, Robert, London, UK

  3. Nadia says:

    The question that bugs me is:

    Why is there such incredible stress on the idea that we are not students of our lead college(Case in point: L.S.E)but of the University Of London?

    Secondly, there is a bit of prejudice towards externals as ‘having it easy’ since:

    1) We don’t have to fill the same requirements as the universities to get into the program.

    2)We study privately or at institutes that are not thought of as at par with the internal programs.

    Yes, these points are refutable with the arguments:

    A)External students perform better than internal students at times: Academically and at work.

    B)Many external students are exemplar with 2 to 6 A’ Level As and are only pursuing the program for financial reasons.

    which brings me back to original query: Why can’t we call ourselves ‘external’ L.S.E(London School Of Economics And Political Science) students?

  4. Yiheng says:

    For me, I can identify 2 perspectives to this issue.
    The first is that internal students gain entry into LSE based on meritocracy.As it is based on a quota system, gaining entry is highly competitive. It is no small feat to gain entry into a prestigious institution like LSE. External students on the other hand comprise a group of varied backgrounds and achievements. No quota system is applied except a minimum academic level requirement. Therefore, it is easier to gain entry. Prestige is socially constructed. It is bestowed on things that society prizes and desires but only few acheive.So while prestige is an entitlement for internal students cause they have earned it, it is not the case for external students as a whole( though a small portion of students may be equally qualified as internal students ). Therefore it is not reasonable to expect equal regard for internal and external students.It necessitates some form of distinction however slight.
    The second perspective stems from the notion that regardless of the place or mode of study, we are all students of LSE and should be treated equally.External students do not want to feel like the slighted step-child that can’t even call LSE Mama or Dada…
    This is not an easy issue to resolve. Internal students would want the distinction to be continued to be made for their own interests. While external students would want the distinction to be eradicated for their own interests.
    Personally, I think it is reasonable to call myself an external LSE student… I clearly distinguish myself from the internal students while at the same time gained the rightful status as a student of LSE.

  5. Boon Pin says:

    I wish to highlight some facts that I understood so far.

    Firstly, our academic direction is by LSE just as GCE ‘O’ levels academic direction is by Cambridge University. Just because academic direction is by that institution does not make us as their students. We are registered with University of London but we are not registered with LSE. Therefore, we are not really students of LSE but students of UOL taking a degree with academic direction by LSE.

    Secondly, I wish to make a distinction between value and standard. The standard of the external study is the same as internal study where our exam papers are marked based on same standard. That however does not mean it is of same value. Value is subjective and socially constructed as Yiheng has explained. Value changes over time as well and as Robert says such discrimination against distance learning may diminish in time to come. The value of our degree is also shaped by existing students as well as our seniors, the graduates in workplace. If they behave well and perform well, the value of our degree increases as well. Even if everyone is taking the same degree, the value differs because of marks received and job interviews do not just look at your certificate but many other areas as well.

    Lastly, my concern is the same of how to reduce such prejudice against distance learning students but we must be reasonable and understand prejudice always exist and they developed out of stereotypes as one of the main factors and stereotypes developed out of past experiences. If students of distance learning of other universities perform badly, some people without knowledge about UOL much can simply generalize that all distance learning students are not good as compared to those internal students. Thus more awareness should be made to allow people to understand such stereotyping is untrue and such awareness is not only the role of UOL but us students and graduates of UOL as well. UOL is recognized nevertheless just that the treatment between internal and external students are different slightly perhaps. This will be changed in time to come.

  6. Alex Diaz says:

    What I would really like to understand is why does LSE advertises the degree on it’s website, but then everyone goes to lengths to make sure people go the extra yard to understand that they are unrelated. I have read forums where they say that the exams taken by external students are much easier than the ones taken by internal students. To me it does not matter much. I really enjoy the depth of the subjects I am studying and feel quite comfortable with the fact that I am getting a high quality degree based on academic baggage. However, I would be lying if I would tell you that it does not matter that a visible and outright difference is always there between the internal and external degree. I know I made a great choice by undertaking studies as an external student or UoL student but wouldn’t it be great if LSE and UoL would decide to confer the LSE degree at least to those external students that get high marks. Just a thought. Cheers.

  7. Joe Towar says:

    I remember a college teacher saying ‘when distance education students perform both academically and professionally the same as internal students do, that day, distance education will be widely recognized’ -of course this comment is biased but I can hardly agree with it. We external students are required to demonstrate, whereas internal students are not. If a student holds a degree with in-campus experience, they are granted a place in a company. Meanwhile, external students are required to show they’ve really learned and also to be able to apply that knowledge into everyday practice. to sum up, I am happy I am part of this incredible External System family. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

  8. Joe Towar says:

    by the way, isn’t this more like choosing between a ‘certificate of naturalization’ issued by the United States and one issued by Texas? just a thought, but to me, a University of London degree holds a higher value. Yes, I know all the high standards at LSE but UoL would be the Federal Government in the USA-Texas metaphor. I can’t wait to behold my UoL, academic direction by LSE Degree. 🙂

  9. DBP says:

    There are a number of credible perspectives on both sides of the issue. Bottom line, full time LSE on campus students deserve their own distinction just as external students deserve credit for dealing with challenging life circumstances that prevent them from attending a program full time on campus. If you can dedicate the time and income is not such an issue then it is better to go full time to LSE in London. Most of us that have selected the external option cannot afford this luxury or do not wish to give up our careers. If LSE were not responsible for “the direction” and content then the programs/degrees would be less valuable. I believe LSE sees the value in participating and will continue to support such external programs.

  10. Alex Diaz says:

    I believe we shouldn’t keep worrying about this issue. I am very happy with the quality and depth of the material we are supposed to cover to complete the program. I will be very proud to complete my University of London degree.

  11. Colleagues, we all have views and opinions on this and can “debate until the cows come home” on this. Forget about what other people think about the value of this award and be wise enough to appreciate that this programme is being administered by one of the top universities in the UK. The incentives from LSE itself are all there for you to see, perform well in this degree and you may have an opportunity to study with them for free. In the prospectuses, you also learn about people who have gone on to study at Cambridge and Oxford. Stop wasting you valuable time on this and use that same energy and time to focus on your studies instead. Blaze your own trail as best you can and you WILL reap the rewards. Best of luck with your studies (Alex Diaz in the post before this one sums it up just right)

  12. Despaired says:

    Dear fellow external students, it is not suprising on hearing about prejudice toward our “external degree”. In my country(singapore), it is sad to say although some employers do view our degree same as the local universities but it is too few. Just count the number of requests for interview as compare with your friends. Luckily for me, i am able to secure a job in my current company using Uol external degree.

    Recently, i went for an interview regarding admission for a course in a polytechnic. During the conversation, the head of department(Director) mentioned that my degree(Uol, Second Upper class)is not that “fantastic” to get sponsorship for my course. I did not rebutted and just smiled away. If an academic professional has such thought of uol degree, what future lies ahead?

  13. Alex Diaz says:

    Well, one thing we could all do if there is such an issue with concerns from fellow students with regard to the value of the award we could all organize to sign a petition. This petition would be for the UoL and LSE to consider granting a LSE degree alongside the UoL degree to those students who attain a certain mark or above (Second Upper Class or above, for example) as well as pending on the payment of a to-be-determined additional fee for such a possibility. If they say no, we leave the issue to rest and if they agree to do it I would believe that this could spur an interest from external students to give 110% on their programs while giving the internal students the sense that the UoL and LSE are monitoring the quality of the external degree as well as requesting a financial commitment from external students to avoid the internal degree from risking any level of perceived additional quality.

  14. Boon Pin says:

    Dear Despaired,

    I am myself a Singaporean and aware of the prejudice given to UOL students. However, if you are given interview or conversation, it means that you have certain value for someone to even listen to you!

    Second Upper Class regardless of which universities are not really fantastic enough for sponsorship but it is fantastic for knowledge gained. It is not a problem of UOL. Surely, you know about supply & demand theory in economics and that money in sponsorship is limited, a constraint. When there are limited supply, discrimination will occur. If there is only 1 sponsorship, 10 applied and 1 1st class, 2 2nd upper and 7 passes, who do you think will get it? Obviously the 1st class. Thus all other than the 1st class had grades that aren’t fantastic enough to be considered for the sponsorship.

    What does this ‘not fantastic’ means? Words are mere symbols in which we humans put meanings into. If it says it isn’t good enough for sponsorship, I would have agreed even if it is 2nd upper from National University of Singapore. If he means UOL degree is not fantastic, it could be argued.

    Many Singaporeans had the mentality that because it is easy to get in, it is of lower standard even UOL students in Singapore which they assumed 34% passing mark means easy to pass and ended failed. People simply over-generalize things and stereotype and get themselves into false judgement that may even harm themselves in the long-run although can harm others in the short-run as well.

    If you are given a chance to comment on this in an interview, you can actually show your wonderful knowledge that NUS is harder to get in because demand is high while supply is low. UOL has almost unlimited supply since it can be done in self-study module and will not result in an excess demand situation. Due to excess demand prices rise and in University entry situation, it means entry is made more difficult. Such difficulty has nothing to do with quality. If employer argued “if lower quality, why people demand it?”, you can argue “because it is a social norm that people enter local university first and it is cheaper, more support and many benefits but still it doesn’t necessary mean UOL when compared is of lower quality. It just means NUS brings more perceived value to those who applied and value is subjective”. If you can argued such, I believe your employer will have good impression of you and change the mentality towards UOL students.

    If anyone want to argue that entry is harder because quality is better, I’ll laugh and give a counter-argument that the air on high altitude is of higher quality even if I fart there because it is harder to breathe.

  15. Yiheng says:

    Boon Pin,
    Haha! Sad to say people will still think the air up there is better( albeit scented by your wonderful… ahem… gases )just because it is HARDER to breathe… I agree with you totally that just because it is easier to gain entry into UOL external does not mean it is of a lower quality. Likewise , just because it is harder to enter does not necessitate that it is better…Well… we can never change how others think… We can probably take comfort that we are one of the few enlightened ones who see things as they really are… this is partly due to our innately fabulous intelligence(*wink* ) and more importantly the great education that we are getting at UOL-LSE… that teaches us to think independently and critically of all things that we encounter…Heck… regardless what others think… I love UOL external!!! Woo Hoo!!! Sorry … Guess I feeling too wasted from having studied too much macro… 🙂

  16. Reviews says:

    Hi really enjoyed reading your post.
    Home study external candidate looking for an exam centre around birmingham or west midlands to sit A levels?

  17. V says:

    The problem is that students studying under the external UOL programmes claim that they are being awarded a degree from LSE. And as a real LSE student who worked extremely hard to get 6 A-Level As just to get accepted into the real LSE in London, it just feels like all of this diminishes the value of my hard work and turns my degree into a sham.

  18. Boon Pin says:

    Hi V,

    LSE does not award degree for the International Programmes student (previously external system). It is a misconception by some of the external students (or some LSE wannabe). However, it does not mean that the quality of the International Programmes is inferior to the Internal Programmes at LSE itself. In the degree awarded by UOL (not LSE) to the external students, it stated clearly that there is no difference in standard between the external one and the internal one where the exams are set and marked according to the same standard.

    As there is a differentiation in the degree awarded, there is no sham involved. The general perception of the LSE degree is in some way of higher prestige but not that of the International Programmes degree despite same standard (doesn’t mean no prestige for International Programmes). This is very much like a Ferrari being bought (LSE students) and the same Ferrari stolen (us, the external students). Is the perceived prestige the same? Not at all. The degree awarded is also different so how is that a sham? Employers can differentiate you and us so it is not a sham.

    However, to use ‘A’ levels as an argument is not proper. Someone who did very well for ‘O’ levels may not do well for ‘A’ levels. Someone who did well in ‘A’ levels may not do well for his degree. Someone who did well in degree may still fail to do well in career. Value cannot be judged based on ‘A’ levels. Its a process.

    The reason why its very hard to get into LSE, Cambridge or other top-notch universities is due to Supply and Demand. When supply of slots is low while demand is high, there is excess demand and thus discrimination takes place and only those with higher grades get in. There’s no such problem for the International Programmes where supply is high since its not classroom based.

    Also, degree is just one of the many things employers look for in an interview. If one is from LSE but has poor EQ where he cannot work in teams, employers will not because he is from LSE recruit him in when he will disrupt the cohesiveness of the team and disrupt the flow of work in the whole organisation where the cost is far greater than benefits.

    We external students also worked very hard to get our degree. Try our exam and you will know its not inferior. If you should be rewarded for hardwork for ‘A’ levels, why shouldn’t external students be rewarded for their hardwork in current degree? Everyone deserves a 2nd chance for success.

    Boon Pin
    BSc Business Year 3 of EMFSS Programmes

  19. Boon Pin says:

    Not forgetting, you are already rewarded by being in LSE itself getting academic support that we external students do not have that much. Shouldn’t you appreciate that support by the Professors? It gives you a far greater advantage in scoring better grades and have greater understanding than many of us doing our studies independently with some even struggling.

  20. Joel Cabourne-Jones says:

    The real world is not structured that as soon as you get your degree, everything is plain sailing from then on, even if your degree was gained internally from the LSE as opposed to externally. Both degrees are brilliant and speaking as a London student, I see University of London students from all the colleges succeeding at finding good employment after their graduation. At the same time, however, there are a lot of UoL graduates, even if they’re from UCL or the LSE, so it’s worth every student to look at themselves and see what they can add to their repertoire that’s attractive to employers other than the degree. I want to be an accountant, so I am planning to get an MCAS and Sage 50 certificate before I graduate. It shows an additional level of practical skill in addition to academic achievement

  21. Jovana says:

    Hello Everybody,

    So I am thinking to apply for distant learning program this year.
    From what I understand the degree is issued by University of London. Does it say anywhere on a degree that it is online and that the program is academically directed by LSE?
    Also how hard is it to study without classroom support?

    I am having tough time with people telling me online degrees do not offer enough support, proper knowledge and that I won’t be given enough job opportunities. Some even state that I wouldn’t br able to transfer credits to regular USA college if situation arises…

    I live between USA and Serbia and flexibility of this program sounds ideal for somebody in my situation.

    Any comment about online education in the near future would be highly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  22. Hi Jovana,

    On the degree certificate itself, it will not state that it is a distance learning degree but the diploma supplement do indicate that. LSE’s involvement is mentioned in both the certificate and diploma supplement.

    The academic standard is the same as those studying at LSE itself. It is very tough if you do not have classroom support. However, if you are well disciplined, it is not impossible.

    Yes, don’t expect too much support. This system requires discipline. Knowledge gained is proper and job opportunities depends on your country. In Singapore, there are plenty opportunities for UOLIP graduates. UOLIP graduates do enter prestigious postgraduate programmes in Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, just to name a few.

    Transfer to US system is tough as I was told unless you have already graduated and apply for postgraduate. Mid-way is too tough. You need to check with the US institutions on that.

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