The Open University (OU) has been around for 50 years and has helped millions of students achieve their academic goals in a flexible style best suited to them. Whether you are planning on being a part-time student after college/sixth form or you are a mature student looking to go back and pick up a new qualification, The Open University has a range of courses and support systems which offer any new learner the opportunity to gain a globally recognised degree. However, due its flexibility, many believe that The Open University is not a “real” university, and your degree will not be respected by employers.
The short answer to the question is yes. At the end of the day, a degree is a degree no matter what university it comes from and all employers recognise the work that goes into such a qualification. OU degrees have a similar reputation to BTECs in that people think they are somehow easier. This is a false assumption, stemming from misinformation. They simply offer a different style of teaching and learning which many students benefit greatly from. An OU degree takes just as much effort as any other degree, only those students are given more control on the structure of their learning. The idea is to let students fit a degree around other commitments they may have, whether it’s a full-time job or an ill family member they have to look after.
This article will inform you on how OU degrees are generally perceived, both by employers and students, while helping you decide if they are truly respected.
Do Employers Respect Open University Degrees?
Although this article cannot possibly represent the opinions of every single employer out there, it can give you a general idea about how some of the biggest companies deal with applicants from OU.
One of the biggest issues people seem to have with OU is that their degrees consist of distance learning. This tends to make people think that OU students just sit around, trawling through their modules in the comfort of their own homes. Though most of the teaching occurs online, this does not impact the way employers perceive OU degrees. According to this article written by UCAS on distance learning, employers hold these types of degrees to the same standard as ones taught on campus.
A draw for employers to OU degrees is that they make students stand out. It can be a talking point of sorts to employers as the choice to go to OU is not an extremely common one. They show a commitment and dedication to learning that a lot of other students may not have the opportunity to display. Due to them being conducted online, it can lead some students to become complacent and not take it as seriously so, if you manage to succeed in a situation like that, it shows your ability to be self-motivated and independent.
Can Open University Students Gain More Experience?
Due to the technology aspect, it allows students to take on formal job roles that other students might not have the time to commit to. This means OU students are likely to have relevant work experience, something which is greatly valued by employers. This website has a statistic stating 72% of their students work full or part-time in the during their study. Being an OU student demonstrates determination to push yourself despite your circumstances, a skill that is useful even outside of the employment world.
To take one example, one employer from the UCAS article said that OU students who worked full-time during study show an immense skill for organisation and time-management. Juggling a 9-to-5 job and a part-time degree requires a high level of competence which employers tend to look out for. By itself, going to an on-campus university does not tell an employer what kind of worker you are and how well you can multi-task. However, coming out with a good grade at OU coupled with work experience will certainly show your aptitude for learning and focus. Those, amongst other skills developed at OU, will make you a more desirable candidate versus someone who went to a university and came out with the same grade but has none of the work experience.
Employers benefit greatly from hiring people who learn in different ways because it means they think differently. Getting people who have varied learning styles on their workforce encourages innovation and discovery which leads to progression. An OU student has already proven their independence, initiative, and “go-getter” attitude simply by attending the course. Those kinds of thinkers are in high demand for employers as they perceive things in a unique way which makes them a valuable asset to any team.
What Do Students Think About Open University Degrees?
Student satisfaction should play at least some part in your choice of university. Even if employers love the university and think it’s great, if the atmosphere of it is poor, not inclusive, and all-round a bad place to be, then you have to consider if the potential job is worth it. The students are the ones who truly know what the university is like which is why it is so important to feature their opinions somewhere on the site. OU has done just that, and they also offer the option to ask current students any questions you may have.
Students have nothing but positives to say about the OU with the main appeal being able to learn around your schedule rather than changing your schedule to learn. It is extremely useful to students with children, students who are carers, or students who have a disability. Where other universities fail to meet the needs of students in certain circumstances, OU offers an equivalent alternative.
If you do not trust the opinions of the students featured on the website, you can find an article written here by an OU student. He talks about his experience of the sometimes-hidden difficulties of being an OU student and also expresses his disagreement with the preconceived ideas the general public has about the path he took to achieve higher education. He feels the negative connotations are undeserved and knows first-hand how much work it takes to succeed at OU.
Do Open University Students Have to be More Self-Motivated?
Average university students are surrounded by learning. They go to a campus, meet other students, and have face-to-face lectures. This makes it easier to get into that “learning mindset” and requires less self-motivation than being at home. A student in distance learning has to condition themselves to ignore distractions and get their head down. Some people cannot deal with that kind of pressure while others thrive under it. It all just depends on your learning style.
Learning in this type of way demonstrates maturity. OU prides itself on their innovative teaching style which is well liked by students and draws out abilities they might not have used in a long time. They use a mixture of tutor-led online courses and traditional studying materials such as textbooks to convey information to their students. Before the start of a course, OU will send a package containing textbooks, memory sticks and other extra equipment which are all included in the tuition fee. They offer high quality materials to make the learning experience as smooth as possible and relieve the pressure of worrying about if you’re missing specific resources.
Will I Get a Job After Getting a Degree from An Open University?
There is no way to guarantee whether not you will be employed after any degree from any university. It is well known that having a degree does not guarantee a job, however it could be argued that an OU degree is “worth” more due to the imposed independence and teaching structure. In the years 2018/19, 76% of OU graduates were employed or volunteers after graduating. This is slightly lower than the average 88% of graduates hired in that same year.
OU also offers many resources to aid in the job search process, one of the most helpful being their Online Talent Connect. This is their platform for facilitating connections between thousands of students and over 80 top employers, including IBM, Deloitte, and E.ON. They also have a partnership with BBC Ideas to produce informative content. Like all their courses, this platform is based on flexibility as it is solely online. This means you can discuss and network no matter where you are. Some of the activities on offer include videos directly from employers, live webinars, and presentations.
All these things add up to inform students on what employers look for and how to make themselves desirable in a competitive environment. Of course, there is no 100% guarantee that participating in these events will get you a job, but it will certainly give you a good starting point to make more informed decisions on where you want to work. Furthermore, if this resource doesn’t suit you, they have more on offer such as Opportunity Hub.
Opportunity Hub gives students access to the latest job and placement vacancies from OU’s partner employers. You can scroll through and search for jobs near you or jobs that best suit your course of study. In order to access it, though, you have to register which you can do here.
They also offer CV help, career planning services as well as stories from ex-students who went on to become high achievers in the work force. You can find all these resources here, ranging from career events to what to do if you are a military veteran who needs career support.
What Can You Study at Open University?
You can study a wide range of subjects just like at any other university (e.g., Chemistry, English, Geography) as they offer around 120 undergraduate qualifications alone. They also have a selection of more unconventional subjects including Counselling, Creative Writing, and Environment. They offer degrees, diplomas, and certificates, depending on what qualification you wish to gain. OU also gives students the opportunity to do a PhD with them.
The courses are commonly split up into levels (1, 2 and 3) like the years at your average university. Level 1 courses are the equivalent of a foundation year, while level 2 builds on that and same with level 3. You can also specialise within your degree by taking certain modules. For example, if you take BSc Natural Sciences, you can specialise in Biology, Maths or even Astronomy. This option works best for those who know for certain what they enjoy and what they want to pursue in the future. It can show to employers your commitment and enthusiasm for a topic as opposed to another candidate who perhaps chose not to specialise. It does come with disadvantages, however. An employer may see that and think your knowledge is narrow or you may discover that you specialised too early.
Undergraduate courses at OU are typically studied around a full-time job which means your degree will take longer to achieve. On their website they say it takes most students 6 years to study part-time for a degree if they put aside 18 hours a week. If you want to finish your qualification at the same rate as a traditional student, you’ll need to set aside a minimum of 32 hours per week to earn 120 credits per year. Click here to find an article written by another Student Writer on how the university credit system works and what it all means.
If you are unsure on how many credits you could feasibly study around your schedule, OU features a useful time planning tool on their site to help you. Just answer the few questions and it tells you an estimate of what you could achieve. Of course, you can always adjust, but the point is that you shouldn’t have to choose between your prior commitments (e.g., a job, a child to care for) and a degree.
How Much Does It Cost to Study at Open University?
Since OU degrees are primarily targeted to those who maybe can’t afford a course at a campus-based university, the tuition fees are generally lower. The fees are able to be relatively low compared to other universities because of the online aspect. That is not to say their facilities are of lower quality. A cheaper price comes with the connotations of poorer quality and, as a result, is less respected. The reason for the price is that they do not have to worry about certain expenses as, for the most part, the students are at home. This tuition aspect ties into the “bad reputation” OU has amongst people who don’t know much about it. People may see the price and jump to conclusions that don’t fully represent the university and its students.
For a part-time Honours degree of 6 years, it costs £1,056 per year with a total of £6,336 (as of 2021). Bear in mind, you’ll be studying one module per year worth 60 credits. However, just like any university, these prices are subject to change as the years go by. You can find out more details about tuition fees on their website. If those prices seem intimidating, they also offer a part-time fee grant. Essentially, if you earn less than £25,000 per year, you can apply for some money to help with the payment of tuition. You can find out more about if you are eligible through this link.
How Do You Apply to an Open University?
The application process for OU is not as rigorous as a top-level Russel Group university, for example. There are no formal entry requirements for the majority of their courses and no interview or test beforehand. It is simply a matter of deciding what you want to study, how you want to pay for it and how you plan on preparing. There are, however, some learning skills that you will need to succeed, including basic competence with a computer and a good command of the English language.
For people who perhaps have not studied in several years or only have minimal qualifications, OU offers an Access course in which you improve skills that would be helpful on the real course. It lasts for 30 weeks and you get to choose the module to ensure it is relevant to the course you want to study. All you need is a phone, a computer and good internet to get started. You can find out if you require an Access course using the Am I Ready tool on their site.
The process is relatively easy and the bar for entry is low. However, this does not at all reflect on the difficulty of the course. This is a common misconception which often leads to OU degrees being perceived as less-than by the public. A high acceptance rate is often associated with the idea that a course is “easy”. While there may be some students who don’t find their course particularly difficult, every student is different. So just because one person finds it easy to handle a full-time job on top of a degree does not mean it is easy for everyone. Employers, on the other hand, recognise and praise the level of self-motivation and diligence required to push yourself through a course like this, even if the application process is quite lax. You can find a simple, step-by-step list here on how to apply for an OU degree or any of their courses.