Completing L7 Diploma - Part-time uni vs Distance Learning

Hi all

 I have recently completed the CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Diploma in HR Management and am keen to continue my learning with the Level 7 Advanced Diploma but am struggling to come to a decision on continuing to attend uni on a part time basis, or whether to start a distance learning course - does anyone have any opinions or experience they could share on whats worked best for them?  Or which providers are best/any to avoid?

Any advice greatly appreciated!

Many thanks


  • David

    | 20964 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2014 08:47

    Hi Catherine

    Personally, I find simply attending in order to sit and listen to lectures an utter waste of time and money, so distance learning is far preferable unless one's own learning style needs a well defined structure.

    Again, personally, I don't care for commercial learning providers, and would try to avoid them in favour of normal HE provision. That said, some of the latter can be a shambles - best to get other students' experiences.
  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2014 13:29

    I think it really depends on how you best learn, your individual situation with regards to work and also where you live. 

    I personally feel a master's degree option is better than the CIPD Level 7 diploma because any master's is a recognised qualification on its own, so if you fancied a career change or want to move abroad is probably considered more portable.

    I am in the process of completing my MSc at the University of Salford and I wholeheartedly recommend it. 

    There are options to do full-time or part-time in two different formats (block study or weekly lectures). 

    For block study, each module lasts 6-8 weeks and consists of 2.5 days of solid lectures followed by 2-3 weeks of self-study time where you work to complete an assignment, followed by another 2.5 days of lectures and another three weeks for the assignment. During each module study period it is pretty intense and fitting assignments in around work is tough, but it can be done.

    Part-time students on block study have to do exactly the same workload as full-time students during each module, but they do less modules in the year and have a longer break between modules. You can choose which modules you do when to fit best around work schedules. 

    I started as a part-time student and was working full-time alongside the course, taking holiday leave to attend lectures and completing assignments in evenings/weekends, which was tough but manageable in the short bursts required for each module. If your employer is supportive and gives you the time off for lectures this is a good option.

    I switched to full-time study part-way through as I wanted to complete the course in a year, rather than two. I could have continued to work full-time alongside if I wanted (and many students do), but I actually left work to start my own business whilst I'm still studying.

    The alternative part-time option is more traditional. You do each module over a longer period with weekly evening lectures and have longer to complete each assignment. This is good if you live close and can commit to being available every week, but it isn't as flexible. 

    Salford have multiple start points too, not just September. I started the course in the November intake, but you can also join in January, March, May/June..

  • Lesley

    | 393 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2014 13:35

    In reply to Lesley:

    I've just re-read your post too and noticed you did your Level 5 at a university. How did you find that experience? Did you find the lectures useful at all?  

    I initially wanted to go down the distance learning route, but it seemed like an expensive option to me and I was quite keen to study at a university rather than with a commercial provider I couldn't find any viable distance learning options at a university that suited and the course at Salford seemed to fit my needs better.

  • Hi Catherine

     I'm doing mine via distance learning at the moment (I completed my level 3 a few years ago through the same provider) and for me it works brilliantly. I like the fact that when life gets in the way it's not the end of the world as I just pause for a couple of weeks. Then when I feel all overcome with motivation I can power through it as quickly as I like!

     I use/ used ICS and find the course materials to be user friendly enough although their online system and constant automatic emails are a bit clunky. The tutors have always been helpful. Of course the proof of how effective the materials are and whether I put enough work in will be in the exam results due out next week! (Fingers crossed!)

  • Steve Bridger

    | 7585 Posts

    Community Manager

    15 Jul, 2014 09:07

    Welcome to the community, Catherine.

    Thnaks for sharing your current experience, Claire.

  • Lauren

    | 9 Posts


    17 Jul, 2014 19:37

    Hi Catherine,

    I studied my Level 7 Diploma at a local college one afternoon/evening per week. I found this to be the best method for me as i enjoyed the structured nature of attending the classes, the support the class gave each other and the discussions we had in class were valuable in growing my HR knowledge and knowledge of other sectors.

    I think it is a personal choice which method works best for you, whether you are self-motivated and whether you can commit to attending each week at a set day/time.

    Hope this helps!

  • I am starting my Msc in Human Resource Management at the University of Derby in 4 weeks time, this will be part time one day a week for 6 hours, I completed my diploma in human resource practice this year but this was only level 4 so the difference will be a challenge I think. 

    The course runs by Post Grad Certificate, Diploma then the thesis to get the Msc over 3 years then I would be eligible to get the Chartered status too for the CIPD.

    Watch this space on how I get on.  

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Hello Steve,
    I'm in Kuwait and I'm intending to go for CIPD 5; I have 2 options; online through CIPD website or to go for the very condensed course for 15 full days within 3 months.

    I'm really confused; is the online course totally online even the life session? or should I attend physical..

    Also, is the condensed course will be beneficial or it's better to go for the long process?

    On the other side; can you help me to decide whether my qualifications would allow me to go for CIPD 5 or 7?

    Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance.
  • Hannah P

    | 4 Posts

    Chartered Member

    3 Feb, 2016 08:48

    I am currently completing my level 7 via distance learning (with Cullen Scholefield) and i find it works best for me. I have 4 colleagues who are completing their at University and from their experience i am glad i have chosen this route. My course is a lot more flexible so that i can relate it all back to my own workplace/experience and i get to chose the modules that i am interested in completing.
    the support from the tutors is fantastic.
  • Kim

    | 231 Posts


    3 Feb, 2016 09:01


    I did part of my studies through MOL, which was supposed to be distance learning, however there was some workshops at which attendance was compulsory (roughly one per month). I found this really frustrating, as if you happened to be ill or on holiday for one you had to travel miles away to attend an alternative workshop...I ended up attending a workshop with pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks pregnant, otherwise I was told I was unable to complete the module!!!

    I am now finishing my level 7 through ICS which is completely distance learning, and suits me much better... as others have said if something happens and you can't study for a few weeks its no problem because you can just catch up later. So as long as you are self-motivated and disciplined enough to set yourself deadlines, I would definitely recommend this as an option...

    I don't want to drone on, feel free to private message me if you have any more questions.

    K :)
  • If going to uni suits you don't change what is already fixed. I enjoy self study but don't really have a choice - I spent school time caring for a sick parent so I don't have a degree and standard education and as a result cannot study the Level 7 at university as they always ask for degrees or GCSEs etc.
  • Hi Catherine,

    I started my MA part time at university going two evenings each week after work. The classes were interactive so it wasn't like being in a lecture and just being talked at. The group was small as well so there was good interraction and discussion with others on the course which I found really helpful

    I'm just about to recommence my study via distance learning with MOL where I will have to attend sessions twice a month but again I think the relationships you build with others on your module add to your learning experience rather than it just being via the e-learning tools.

    However, it is all down to personal preference and how you learn best.

    Hope you manage to make the right decision for you as I know it's not easy with all the different options out there.

    Kind regards,

  • Hi Cath,

    I've studied on both sides (Level 3 through a commercial provider and Level 7 through University).

    For me, doing the Level 3 through a commercial provider was brilliant as it provided flexibility in terms of only needing to be in a classroom once a month it also meant I knew exactly what I had to do between those times.

    I chose to complete my Level 7 through university as I thought it would help to provide more support in completing the course, I was still relatively new to HR at the time. The course was part-time and it was a struggle to fit it in alongside working full-time but I honestly wouldn't change the decision to have done it that way. It helped me so much to work with colleagues, on a weekly basis, who could talk about different points of view, research and experiences.

    It really does come down to how you feel you would learn best. If you would like to feel more supported I would recommend a university course, if not l would recommend distance learning
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 416 Posts

    3 Dec, 2016 15:24

    In reply to Kim:

    Hi Kim,
    I am with MOL and I am also finding it really hard. Not only for the compulsory attendance but for the overwhelming amount of course work that it requires!! I do feel that I have probably not chosen the best option...

    The CIPD exams are taking place in January and already discussing with some of the students to pay a personal tutor who would guide us through as we are completely lost!

    It might be a good idea to go to Uni where the support might be way better...
  • David

    | 20964 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 Dec, 2016 08:11

    In reply to Anonymous:

    Hi 'Anonymous'

    Sorry to learn of your negative experiences. These seem to run counter to generally very positive published inspection reports on this particular provider, so it's a bit of a mystery, perhaps.

    Although have to say that in the past I've quite often witnessed students getting very substandard treatment indeed from both FE and (some) HE provision. The FE provision I encountered especially in parts seemed to survive and prosper in spite of its sometimes totally shambolic pathetic and incompetent nature: had it been in the private sector, it would definitely never have survived, but it seemed to lead a charmed life of its own.
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