There's no free accredited course that I know off. You get what you pay for, but I would't worry too much about a qualification anyway, nobody in the industry really cares about them, they just want to see you and your work. After all, a qualification in graphic design doesn't necessarily guarantee you can actually design.
Some courses from certain universities such as Central St Martins have a good reputation within the industry though, so if you're set on getting a 'good qualification' in design I'd consider working on getting onto one of those courses.
I wouldn't keep deterring people from getting a university degree qualification. It's not as meaningless as you are loosely making it out to be. I have told this story before but the last job I was employed at would not of even looked at my portfolio if I didn't have a decent degree to back it up. You could argue a good qualification says more about a person than a good portfolio and further proves the standard you are at which should be seen in tandem with your portfolio. A degree will also show you have learnt and understood the subject matter to a certain degree dependant on overall grade. It also helps you learn your strengths and weaknesses, as so much is covered on a course, not just graphics, but illustration, photography, animation etc etc. Most importantly, you don't pick up the several bad habits most 'self-taught graphic designers' have. There are so many benefits to gaining a degree, I could go on.
A degree stays with you for life. A portfolio keeps changing over time, or at least it should. A degree is based on understanding, skill level, punctuation, hard 'workingness' etc and shows your willingness and determination to to stick at something over a period of time. A portfolio is based on opinion at the end of the day. Both are as important as the other.
I'm not trying to put people off, obviously there's a lot of value to doing a degree (I'm glad I did mine), but what I'm stressing is actual the qualification you get at the end of it isn't worth as much as it would be from another, perhaps more academic course. If someone's seeking a degree as a way of being accredited or certified as a designer, then they're looking at it wrong.
Yeah totally. I only bought it up because I saw you left an almost identical post last week on someone asking about doing a degree in the subject. I just don't want people getting the wrong message on the matter. The people I see asking/wondering whether they should do a degree tend to want to do it to gain the necessary knowledge, brush up on their skills and lets not forget, to get the piece of paper at the end as proof of their qualification(s). Let's face it, there is only so much you can teach yourself. Fully qualified graphic designers do tend to be if not better then more professional than unqualified designers. I'm not saying that is always the case, but more often than not. And so they should be, as gaining the degree simply means you have had the kind of professional training an unqualified designer has not.
I don't want people going away thinking, "I don't need to go to uni, I will just look on youtube etc and teach myself to be a graphic designer." The only thing that should get in the way of an aspiring graphic designer to not go after a degree is simply not being able to afford the course at the particular moment in time. It should certainly be on their to-do list and they should aspire and look forward to getting that degree. The experience alone is worth it.