The Open University
The Open University (OU) is a distance learning and research university. It is notable for having an open entry policy which means that students' previous academic achievements are not taken into account for entry to most undergraduate courses.
The majority of the OU's undergrdaute students are based in the UK and principally study off-campus, but many of its courses (both undergraduate and graduate) can be studied anywhere in the world. These are a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the campus where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1000 members of acdemic and research staff and over 2500 administrative, operational and support staff.
The Open University has its headquarters at Walton Hall in Milton Keynses, which is 80km north of Central London, midway between Oxford and Cambridge. Housed at Walton Hall are approximately 4,000 adminstrative, technical, secretarial and student service staff including the library, students' association and student servces. There are also 400 OU study locations across the UK.
One you've completed your studies and graduated you can attend one of their degree ceremonies that occur throughout the year in the UK, Ireland and Europe. In 2000, the OU was the first university to host an online "virtual" graduation ceremony in the UK together with an audience at the OU's campus in Milton Keynes and in 8 other countries. At this event Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Wed was made an honorary doctorate.
The Open University was founded by the Labour Government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Under the Minister of State of Education, a model for the OU was established in 1965 to widen access to the highest standards of scholarship in higher education, and set up a planning committee consisting of university vice-chancellors, educationalists and tv broadcasters. The BBC Assistant Director of Engineering, at the time James Redmond, had obtained most of his qualifcations at night school and was enthusiastic in the difficultis of university television to braodcast teaching programmes.
The OU accepted its first students in 1971, 25,000 people enrolled and 20,000 registered on a course - at a time when the total student population in the UK was only about 130,000.
With more than 250,000 students enrolled and more than 50,000 students overseas, it is the largest academic institution in the UK by student number and qualifies as one of the world's largest universities. It was rated top for student satisfaction in 2005, 2006 and 2012, and second in 2007.
Although it is regarded traditionally as an institution for mature studetns, with the increase in university tuition fees, an increasingly large proportion of new undergraduates are between 17 and 25 to the extent that the OU now has more students in this age range than any other UK university. In 2010 approximately 55% of the undergraduates under 25 were also in full-time employment.
In April 2012, they became the first university in Europe to reach over one million subscriptions on iTunesU.
The OU is researching the use of virtual worlds in teaching and learning, and has two main islands in Second Life. These are called Open University island and OUtopia village, and are separated by a third region called OU Ocean. In 2009 these regions formed the basis of a case study by Linden Lab who own Second Life.
You can apply through the OU website and there are a number of registration dates throughout the year so you can apply to the start date you want. There are a number of start dates across the year to help you out.
If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your OU qualification, reducing the number of modules you need to study to gain a degree. A wide range of professional qualifications also count in this regard.
Schools & Faculties
- Faculty of Arts
- The Open University Business School
- Faculty of Education & Language Studies
- Faculty of Health & Social Care
- The Open University Law School
- Faculty of Mathematics, Computing & Technology
- Faculty of Science
- Faculty of Social Sciences
The Open University is unique among UK universities in combining a mission to widen access to higher education with research excellence. Their research underpins the teaching they deliver to their students and informs the high-quality free open educational resources the provide to learners worldwide through the TV and radio programmes they make with the BBC and through their online learning platform, FutureLearn.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of Open University research was assessed as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014, and their research strengths include citizenship and governance, education, international development and space.
Courses at the OU are broken down into modules of either 30 or 60 credits with 360 equalling an Bachelor's degree. If you've started studying for a degree previously or have some professional qualifications under your belt these can count as credits towards your final mark. If you don't manage to complete you full honours degree, you'll gain a Certificate of Higher Education after 120 credits or a Diploma of Higher Education after 240 credits.
The OU also offer an Open Qualification which gives you the opportunity to build a qualification unique to you. You can study any subjects you like, in any combination. In this way, you can: design your own qualification to suit your personal and professional needs, interests and aspirations; and easily change direction if your study interests change; gain knowlegde and skills in a wide variety of disciplines.
The OU teache through its own unique method of distance learning, called 'supported open learning', which is: flexible, fitting into the work and family commitments of students; all-includive; supportive, with personal tutors providing academic expertise, guidance and feedback; and social with the ability to meet other students at tutorials, days schools and informal study groups, and through online conferencing, study networks and course forums.
‘Supported Open Learning’ combines more one-to-one contact than distance learning with more flexibility than campus-based learning. The OU blend the best of technology and tutoring to let you decide how you want to study.
The OU has a network of more than 5,000 tutors, the largest in the UK, and tutors mark assignments, provide detailed feedback, and offer support to students by telephone, email or computer conferencing. They also run group or online tutorials and day schools. Some are full-time members of staff, but most are associate lecturers: experts in their subject who combine their work as tutors with other academic or industry jobs.
Students are assessed through tutor-marked and computer-marked assignments, oral or practical assessments, projects, examinations, dissertations and portfolios.
When your module starts, you'll receive a box of core study mateirlas in the post, such as CDs and DVDs, course books and specially written texts for you to keep. You'll also have access to course materials on your smartphone or tablet and access to online resources such as podcasts, broadcasts, computer software and interactve teaching materials.
You get a study timetable to help you plan your reading, activities and assignments; details of when and where tutorials and study days will take place (which could be face-to-face or online); and the dates and venues of any exam.
Fees & Finance
The OU's degrees are broken down into modules, and you pay for each module separately. Modules cost £1,464 (30 credits) or £2,928 (60 credits) (2018/19) and most OU students study 60 credits a year over six years making a degree working out at £17,568. Your fees include OU course materials, tutor support, assessments and exams.
If you live in England you can pay for your study via the part-time tuition fee loan. Please see the Student Loans Company for more details.
The OU’s world-class online library contains thousands of online resources including academic books, journals, magazine articles, newspapers, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. You can tap into these quality-assured and trusted resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever you need them and wherever you are. Support on how to find and use information is available through the OU's online training sessions, and we they services to guide you in today’s increasingly digital world. For example, their Being digital activities are designed to provide advice and guidance on how to be more confident using the internet.
A large and lively student community is part and parcel of being the UK’s biggest provider of part-time higher education. Whenever you log on, their online forums are alive with people like you, and the opportunity to socialise doesn’t stop when you log off. Their students regularly get together, either to attend an OU tutorial or as part of a local study group. They also have an active Students Association, so whether you see yourself being able to influence how the University is run or you’d like to socialise or volunteer, there’s something for everyone.
Health & Wellbeing
The OU has the largest disabled student community of any UK university, with their unique, flexible supported learninng ideal if you have a disability, long term health condition, mental health difficulty or specific learning disability. Last year, the OU supported around 18,000 disabled students to achieve their study goals.
They offer a comprehensive range of services to support disabled students including: accessible study materials in a range of formats; specialist equipment such as software and hardware; arrangements and equipment to help you access and take part in the talking, listening, note-taking and group activities; tailored exam arrangements; and help obtaining DSA.
The OU Careers Advisory Service provides professional careers and education advisers to support your OU study choices and career planning including:
- planning, developing or changing your career
- deciding what type of work would best suit you
- completing application forms, CVs or covering letters
- preparing for an interview
- looking for employment
- getting involved in voluntary work
- considering further study or professional training
- changing your OU study plans