Much publicly-funded education imposes entry requirements; most private sector distance learning providers do not. This is not carelessness, nor a desire to maximise income whatever the educational cost. It is a natural consequence of a philosophy which encourages learners to take control of the process.
So it is normally assumed, in the private sector, that the learner is responsible for assessing his or her suitability for a course. The provider should help the learner make this assessment; but should not seek to make it for them.
Often learners do not recognise this fact, leading to problems and complaints later in the course. Therefore the good provider will:
• give the learner adequate information, advice and guidance to enable him or her to assess the course, its suitability, and his or her ability to take and complete the course successfully. This is vital. Many potential learners find it difficult to make such assessments reliably so there is a duty on providers to offer as much help as possible to overcome such difficulties.
• ensure that the enrolee understands that it is his or her responsibility to make these assessments.
Suppose, for example, the course leads to exams set by an external awarding body, and that body also requires entrants to have other qualifications to be able to take those exams. The provider must ensure that the potential enrolee fully understands this. But the decision whether or not to enrol still rests with the learner.
If the provider offers pre-enrolment tests, these must be of sufficient depth and rigor to enable the learner to make an informed judgement as to their ability to take and complete the course successfully.
There may also be circumstances, however, when the provider will refuse to enrol an applicant. These should be advertised in advance, in a prospectus or whatever.
Specifics will vary between providers and between courses, but might exclude individuals:
• who have committed certain criminal offences;
• who do not, in the judgement of the provider, have adequate skills, such as grasp of English or numerical ability;
• who require more support than the provider can offer. Note that the provider has a legal duty to modify their courses as far as is reasonable for people with disabilities, and that the research must be done in advance to decide what adaptations are possible within the available resources. Separate guidance is offered on this area.
If a course is likely to be unreasonably difficult or impossible to undertake without particular practical experience or academic attainment, the provider should warn the potential enrolee of this fact, and ideally recommend appropriate qualifications or work experience.
© ODLQC 1st March 2018