Want to work for Apple and Facebook? An online degree from this UK uni may be your ticket

online graduates
New survey shows that leading tech companies are also looking to hire online graduates. Source: Oliver Douilery/AFP

Where once its credibility was dubious, online degrees now appear to be the go-to choice for recruiters at some of the biggest tech companies in the world.

A recent survey by talent strategy company SHL has found that big tech companies heavily recruit from a UK university that is known as the nation’s pioneer in distance learning and online courses: Open University.

“Almost 2,500 employees had Open University degrees, making it the third-most popular university for these companies,” said SHL CEO Andrew Bradshaw in a statement.

Online graduates are sought after by global tech firms

For this survey, SHL looked into UK universities to find out which were producing the most talent for the world’s largest tech companies, banks and even newspapers.

They worked from a seed list that consisted of 60 companies split across tech, finance and media and a seed list of every university in the UK.

They then narrowed their search down to the educational backgrounds of over 800,000 UK university graduates on LinkedIn to find out how many from each institution were currently working at 17 of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, Google and IBM.

Rank University # of Graduates
1 University of Cambridge 3,027
2 University of Oxford 2,502
3 Open University 2,475
4 London School of Economics 2,245
5 University of Manchester 2,168
6 London Business School 2,005
7 University College London 1,816
8 Imperial College London 1,806
9 University of Edinburgh 1,641
10 University of Leeds 1,539

The most common UK university attended by the employees of tech companies is the University of Cambridge, with 3,027 graduates in total currently employed by the likes of Google and Facebook.

The University of Oxford is in second place with a total of 2,502 graduates. Oxbridge make up 5.9 percent of graduates surveyed.

Over one-third of these UK graduates who now work for the tech companies are from a Russell Group university.

online graduate

Tech giants like Amazon are open to online graduate resumes. Source: Noah Seelam/AFP

The findings suggest online degrees may no longer be the oddity and lower-value cousin to the traditional degree they once were — at least where they are granted for tech subjects.

And with the future of work increasingly digital, these online graduates could possibly have been favoured for possessing more virtual learning skills, such as tech proficiency and open communication capabilities.

They also appear to make the case that the perks of online learning — predominantly convenience and flexibility — could be translating to better career opportunities for online tech graduates.

Does this mean online learning will replace in-person education totally? Is SHL’s findings a barometer on the future of universities or merely an outlier specific to the tech industry?

Writing in the New York Times, director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School David Deming argues it is the latter

In his op-ed listing his doubts on online learning, he cites how massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, have largely failed to disrupt traditional education.

He also wrote, “A survey of nearly 200 educational experiments found that “high dosage” tutoring — defined as groups of no more than six students meeting at least four times per week — was one of the most effective ways to improve learning. High-frequency individual feedback also greatly improves student performance.”

“The personal services provided by educators include tutoring, individualised feedback and mentoring, and numerous studies” are essential for learning. Online learning “are good — up to a point,” Deming wrote, but the best education is in-person and can’t be replicated through a computer screen.

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