By Laura T
Despite the fact that we rely on the internet daily for all manner of things – from news and banking to holiday bookings and video calling – there is still some hesitation when it comes to using the internet to gain a degree. This trepidation is largely disappearing for the current generation, however, thanks to the broadening number of world-leading universities offering their own online degree programs, with the same curriculum and teaching models as taught on their reputed on-campus programs.
For business and FAME (finance, accounting, management and economics) students in particular, distance learning and blended learning (online and on-campus combination) programs are fast gaining popularity. This is due to the fact that those who study online have more flexibility to work at their own pace, making it easier to gain professional experience alongside studies, or to apply their new learning to other entrepreneurial and business ventures. For mature students, business professionals, graduate students and anyone with greater time commitments than the average school-leaver, the flexibility provided by online degree programs is invaluable.
Read on for the names of some top online universities in the fields of business and FAME, based on the results of the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15 as well as the latest subject rankings for business & management, accounting & finance and economics & econometrics.
Distance learning programs in business
As well as offering opportunities to study online at bachelor and master degree level, many distance learning providers also run non-degree programs, professional certificates, short courses and more, to help students achieve educational goals, whether academic, corporate or personal.
Bear in mind that during your search you’re likely to come across many unaccredited online universities offering low-quality online degree programs at cut prices, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these unknown schools offer the same quality as that provided by world-leading universities. Be sure to check out each institution’s reputation and track record, both by consulting third-party accreditations and rankings, and by finding out what current and past students have to say.
Top US universities offering online business degrees
One of New York City’s leading institutions, New York University (NYU) is currently featured within the 20 top universities worldwide for accounting & finance, business & management and economics & econometrics. In the overall QS World University Rankings, NYU is ranked 41st in the world. While the majority of its FAME programs are still only offered for on-campus students, NYU’s School of Continuing Studies offers various graduate certificates and courses, as well as online master’s degree programs in Human Resources Management and Development (MS), Management and Systems (MS) and Professional Writing (MS).
Placed 23rd in the overall world rankings, the University of Michigan is often labelled the “best of the mid-west”, located in Michigan, US. The Ann Arbor campus remains the main (and most recognized) campus in the University of Michigan system, ranked in the top 30 for all FAME disciplines in our subject rankings. For online degrees, however, it’s worth checking out the University of Michigan-Flint, where options include an online bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA) and an online master’s degree in accounting (MSA).
The Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education (BRCOE) is the online education branch of the University of California, Berkeley. It offers online master’s degrees as well as blended learning programs, professional certificates, summer courses, extensions and MOOCs. Although full online degrees are so far only offered in the fields of public health and circuit engineering, there are various professional certificate programs in business-related areas such as corporate financial management, marketing and macroeconomics. As well as ranking 27th in the overall world rankings, Berkeley also ranks 7th for economics, 11th for accounting and 12th for business worldwide.
The University of North Carolina, ranked 62nd in the world and within the top 100 for accounting & finance, is also in this list of top online universities thanks to UNC Online. The site features a number of online business degree programs offered by various universities in North Carolina, including North Carolina State University, which is ranked 388th in the world rankings. As well as the UNC Chapel Hill’s reputed online MBA, UNC online also offers online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and certificate programs in a number of specialized areas such as agriculture management.
Just one place behind UNC (63rd) in the world rankings is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which ranks 47th for accounting & finance and within the top 100 worldwide for both business and economics. The school’s Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) combines teaching from other reputed schools in the University of Illinois system, including the Chicago campus (ranked 186th in the world rankings), and offers various online degrees including an online MBA and an online master’s degree in taxation.
Carnegie Mellon University is placed 65th in the overall world rankings, 50th in the economics ranking, and within the top 100 worldwide for both accounting and business. One of the top online universities, Carnegie gives students the option to study online in a number of formats, including full-time, part-time, online or as a dual degree, across a range of departments, including specialized fields such as the MS in Computational Finance from Carnegie’s Tepper School of Business. See the full list of distance and blended learning programs here.
BU Online is Boston University’s innovative new distance and blended learning platform, offering various online master’s degree programs across areas such as computing and management, including the MS in Banking & Financial Services Management. Professional certificates, doctoral programs and an undergraduate completion course are also offered. Ranked 78th in the overall world rankings, BU also features among the world’s top 100 for accounting and business, and places 32nd for economics.
8. Pennsylvania State University
Often labeled a ‘public Ivy’, Pennsylvania State University is ranked 112th in the overall world rankings and within the world’s top 100 for both business and economics. The Penn State World Campus makes PSU one of the top online universities, offering a comprehensive choice of online bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs, as well as associate’s degrees and professional certificates. For prospective FAME students, there are online business degree programs in finance, human resources, public administration, supply chain management and more.
9. University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota system has launched its Digital Campus, which offers a number of online degree programs across study areas such as public health, computer science and engineering. The school also offers online bachelor’s degrees in areas such as accounting, international business and marketing, as well as professional certificates in applied business. Ranked 119th worldwide, the University of Minnesota is also among the 100 top universities for both accounting and business, and 41st for economics.
10. University of Southern California
Ranked 131st in the world rankings and within the top 100 for accounting, business and economics, the University of Southern California claims a place among the top online universities in the US thanks to its USC Online platform. As well as programs across education, computer science and engineering, the school also offers online business degree programs such as the MS in Global Supply Chain Management, taught by USC Marshall School of Business.
Other leading US universities offering online education:
- University of California, Irvine (153rd in the world rankings, UCI Online)
- University of Florida (192nd in the world rankings, UFOnline)
- Indiana Bloomington University (272nd in the world rankings, IU Online)
- University of Massachusetts, Amherst (282nd in the world rankings, UMass Online)
- Arizona State University (294th in the world rankings, ASU Online)
Top UK universities offering online business degrees
1. The University of Manchester
As well as offering a range of MOOCs, the University of Manchester (ranked 30th in the overall world rankings) also offers various postgraduate distance learning programs, including the MSc in Human Resource Management and Development, the MSc in Management and Information Systems and the Manchester Global MBA. Thanks in large part to its well-reputed Manchester Business School, the university as a whole ranks 18th in the world for accounting, 30th for business and in the top 100 for economics.
2. University of Birmingham
The leading university in the UK’s second-largest city, the University of Birmingham is 64th in the overall world rankings and also features among the top 150 worldwide for accounting, business and economics. Although still growing its online education department, the school currently offers an online MBA, an MSc in international business and a master’s degree in public administration. Find the distance learning platform here.
3. Lancaster University
Ranked 160th in the world rankings and within the top 100 for both accounting and business, Lancaster University’s distance learning platform offers a large number of online degrees and postgraduate certificates across all degree levels, including many courses in leadership and management, such as the MSc in Leadership Practice and Responsibility taught by the management school.
4. City University London
Featured in the overall world rankings at 341st, City University London is within the global top 150 for accounting, business and economics. It offers a range of international programs taught across the prestigious University of London system which also includes SOAS, Royal Holloway, LSE, Birkbeck and more. With flexible options to study online across business and management areas at all degree levels, City University also offers a distance learning LLM (Masters of Law) degree in International Business Law and an MSc in international business administration.
5. University of Liverpool
Though it doesn’t currently appear within our FAME subject rankings, the University of Liverpool comes 123rd in the overall world rankings, and offers as many as 36 industry-focused online degrees across its academic departments. These include a master’s and PhD in business administration (MBA and DBA) and a master’s degree in management.
Other top universities offering online degrees, around the world:
- Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt Bonn (Germany; 177th in the world rankings)
- RMIT University (Australia; 304th in the world rankings; Open.edu.au)
- The University of Newcastle (Australia; 257th in the world rankings; Gradschool.edu.au)
If you’re considering taking an online master’s in business administration (MBA), take a look at the dedicated QS Distance Online MBA Rankings, over on our sister site TopMBA.com.
This article was originally published in May 2015 . It was last updated in March 2021
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