The Market for Online Degree Programs

The market for online degree programs offered by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) globally has dramatically changed over the past decade. While education research organizations are still working hand in hand to measure the size of this market, there is a significant amount of data from various reports on global tertiary education that articulate the past, current and future state of this education market.

According to the 2009 report from UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), global tertiary enrolments reached 170 million in 2009 wherein China, India, US and Russia have already a combined share of 45%. Other emerging economies with significant numbers of tertiary enrolments include: Brazil (6.2 million), Indonesia (4.9 million), Iran (3.4 million), South Korea (3.3 million) and Turkey (3.0 million).

More interestingly, according to British Council, the total global tertiary enrolment is forecasted to grow by 21 million between 2011 and 2020.

Another foreseen contributing factor to the rise in global tertiary enrolments is the growing population of internet users. With 2.4 billion internet users as of 2012, it is expected that online degree programs offered by HEIs worldwide will continue to become the learning method of choice by millions of global students.

According to IBIS Capital, in 2012, the global education expenditure reached $4.4 trillion. This figure is supported by 1.4 billion students and 62.5 million educators. Thirty four percent (equivalent to $1.5 trillion) of the total expenses came from post-secondary education. It is projected that this expenditure will climb up to $5.4 trillion by 2015 and to $6.3 trillion by 2017.

Clearly, these growths in the education market are indications that the global market for online degree programs is expanding.

It is also apparent from reports and surveys that online programs are widely adopted by many colleges and universities around the world.

Hanover Research, on its 2011 report highlights the following trends in global distance learning:

UK’s major online degree programs are more focused on continuing professional development with greater emphasis on business-oriented programs. Student enrolments on Level 4 programs accounts for 25% while those on Level 7 accounts for 60%. Among UK online courses, business, law, medicine, science, education, social studies, and technology are the most frequently offered subject areas by various institutions.

In the US, 41% of full online programs offered at various tertiary level institutions are undergraduate degrees and 25% are graduate professional degrees. Of the 4,200 degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the country, 66% offers undergraduate online courses while 60% offers graduate professional online courses. Online degree programs that are highly in-demand from 2009 to 2010 are health professional and related sciences, psychology, business, education, computer and information sciences, and engineering disciplines.

The survey is based on the 2 million visits they received on their online study portal in the entire fiscal year. Of this number, 69% of visitors have prospect on Bachelors degree, 19% on Masters degree, and 2% on doctoral degree. The survey also indicates that the online programs with the highest demand globally are Business & Economics, Engineering & Technology, Social Sciences, Applied Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Law. The top countries with the highest demand for online education are UK, US, India, Germany, Greece, Canada, Nigeria, Italy, Pakistan, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, France and Australia.

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