What is The Open University in the UK?

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Deciding which university to go to is often a tough choice to make. With so many options to consider and so many factors to keep track of, it can be overwhelming. In your search, you may have seen the Open University pop up a few times and dismissed it. It is also often not brought up in colleges or sixth forms despite being the largest university in the United Kingdom by number of students. The Open University is an option that anyone should consider at least a little bit if they’re looking for a degree.

The Open University is an educational institution like any other university. However, what makes them stand out is the flexibility they offer by way of primarily online teaching. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Open University had been offering part-time university courses completely online.

Students are provided with learning resources and materials that are delivered to them physically or online. Collaborative work is done online in forums made specifically for students and tutorials are delivered via video calls. Rather than a student building their schedule around university, the Open University aims to allow students to incorporate study into their lives.

As you continue to read this article, you will learn more about the Open University and what makes it a viable option for students looking to gain a degree.

What is the Open University?

The Open University is an institution that offers people a variety of degree-level qualifications, primarily delivered online. It operates the same way as many other universities with modules that are worth credits and forms of assessment like examinations.

For most people, studying at the Open University means being able to gain a degree without completely reconfiguring their regular schedule. Whether it’s taking care of a sick family member or having a full-time job, the Open University makes getting a degree more attainable for them.

Open University has given many people the chance to gain a qualification at their own pace. Due to the flexibility of the structure, people who would otherwise not be able to get a degree as a result of their lifestyle can now do so. Not just any degree, but a degree that will be highly respected by employers as you can read about in this Think Student article.

Is an Open University degree recognised worldwide?

The Open University has a bit of a reputation amongst students of being on the lower end in terms of quality university degrees. It doesn’t help that the university is often not recommended as an option by teachers or even mentioned as a possibility in colleges.

However, perhaps the most relevant perception of a degree is that of employers and, in this case, overseas employers.

The Open University has a whole page here for information about the global recognition of their degrees. The answer boils down to, it depends.

For many overseas employers, distance learning degrees are held to the same regard as any other degree. They recognise the hard-work and dedication that goes into earning a degree online. Especially as it indicates that the learner was also juggling other things in life that made the traditional route unattainable.

However, in some cases, you might find that some employers might be wary about hiring someone with a degree that they gained online. This will be particularly true for employers who have not yet recognised the potential and benefits of learning online.

Some overseas employers will even just reject applicants with degrees from universities they do not immediately recognise. Fortunately, this type of thinking is on the decline, and it leaves plenty of opportunity for Open University graduates to work abroad.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated people’s realisation that learning can be done very effectively online. Obviously, this style is not for everyone, and some people prefer the structure of physically going to lectures and face-to-face tutorials. However, for some, traditional university is not viable or not as convenient as the Open University.

Your best bet is to be transparent with your employer and see if your degree qualifies for the role. This way, neither parties time is wasted. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the stress of planning to move countries only to find out your degree isn’t suitable.

How much is an Open University degree?

One of the many advantages of studying a degree from Open University is the cost compared to campus-based universities. As of 2022, the maximum tuition fee for university is £9,250 per year for home students. This limit is set by government and most universities, if they are able to, tend to ask for that amount.

To learn more about the price cap on tuition fees in the UK, check out this article by The Guardian.

However, the Open University goes about this in a slightly different way. Each module of a course has a cost associated with it. The tuition fee for your course is the sum of the prices for each module.

A full-time degree taking 3 years to complete typically has 6 modules, costing £19,368 in total. Considering that a degree at most other universities will cost you at least £27,000, you can see how much of an advantage the cost is. For more about this, check out this guide by the Open University.

Like at any other university, you can also apply for student finance to cover the cost of the tuition fees. If you need more details on the process for applying for student finance and student loans in general, check out this Think Student article.

There are also additional costs to consider if you’d like to start a course at the Open University (and most other universities). For example, you will need to have means of travel to and from exams or you may choose to purchase extra books for study. One definite necessity for your study is a personal computer and internet access due to the nature of the course delivery.

What is the Open University like?

Everyone’s university experience will be different. Some people will thrive doing a course that is primarily online while others will find their degree an uphill battle. The type of learner and person you are in general will greatly impact your experience.

Studying at Open University mostly consists of reading online and printed materials. You won’t be expected to attend in-person lectures like at a traditional university and many courses do their tutorials through video calls and chats. Some courses do have field trips, however, like visits to locations for geography for instance.

Each module you study has its own unique resources that will be accessible on the module’s website. Before each one starts, you will also be posted any physical materials you might need.

The flexibility the university offers in terms of schedule extends to the course’s accessibility. This means that they also offer alternative materials for students with disabilities as well.

In terms of examinations, courses that do make use of exams have them at the end of each module. You might find that all your assessments occur at home and are open book. If your course has no exams at all, you will be assessed using assignments which make up the entirety of your grade for the module.

These assignments will be marked by your tutor who will also be offering you guidance throughout your course. If you have any questions about modules or are struggling to understand a concept, they will be the person you turn to. Their contact information will be given to you once you start.

Ultimately, the best people to ask about what an Open University experience is like will be the students. If you’d like to read the thoughts of a variety of students who’ve studied at the university, check out this page on Open University’s website.

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