The Open University is here to share its wealth of knowledge and improve our understanding of SO MANY different subjects, but there are things worth learning about the OU itself, too.
Did you know…?
The OU Students Association has put forward a University Challenge team many times, and are one of the few teams to have been series champions twice, too! Last year their team, with an average age of 52, got through to round two; after beating Linacre College, Oxford, they were knocked out by Birkbeck, University of London. Would you like to be part of a future team? It’s a fun process and filming isn’t quite as tense as it looks if you get through to the series. Plus you get to meet Jeremy Paxman! This is last year’s announcement, so be ready for this year’s one…
SFE will fund a second degree level course at the OU for you if your second is in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject, or any other on this list. and will fund a PhD or Masters - IF you are under 60 when you start your first year. (Although there is an over 60s bursary available in Wales).
Studying 120 credits a year is STILL counted as part-time study when you study with the OU, because you can (very bravely) do it whilst working a full-time job. And homeschooling your children. And managing a whole variety of disabilities, and surviving all manner of slings, arrows and outrageous fortunes. People find amazing ways to achieve remarkable amounts of work against all sorts of odds here, but that also doesn’t detract from anyone battling through 30 credits for their first year. Everyone has their own mountain to climb. Every student is making new discoveries about themselves and should be proud of every step on their journey. This is about you, not anyone else. But most importantly, whatever pace you decide to study at, or end up studying at, each year is still part-time. Don’t let untrained Universal Credit advisors tell you otherwise.
The OU actually has a real, physical 48-hectare campus at Milton Keynes, which houses a centre for internationally acclaimed research. It’s here you will find the groundbreaking Children’s Research Centre, where research is not about children, but done by children on subjects they want to study, and where we are spearheading the drive towards Open Access research with the Open Research Online depository.
The Open University is the largest academic institution in the UK, with currently more than 175,000 enrolled students, and gained its Royal Charter in 1969. It was originally housed in the old Alexandra Palace TV studios, then recently vacated by the BBC.
Studying with the OU used to mean keeping very strange hours. Before we had the internet, the OU shared its coursework and lectures via the radio and television, after normal broadcasting was over for the day. Yes, children; once, television closed down for the night at 11 pm, and there were only three channels you could watch during the day. After licensing hours finished at 10.30 pm and you got home from the pub, (having spent your final quid on a last round of six pints of beer, then chips on your way back), all you had any chance of watching was whatever lecture happened to be broadcast by the Open University. Presented by academics with no real training in television or trend-setting, it could be a smorgasbord of delights if you had any strong feelings about brown corduroy or facial hair. There was no pausing or recording, either, so heaven help you if he (and it was almost guaranteed to be a man, although there were several female lecturers) cleaned his blackboard while you went for a wee. No one then could have dreamed of the facilities we have now, as we pull up transcripts of videos via the OU app, and book our virtual lectures, whilst citing references with one click from a global database of learning.
People go on to great things from the OU. There are more CEOs produced here than at any other UK university, (if you see that as a bonus!) and it produces more law graduates than anywhere else, too. Sir Lenny Henry gained his degree in English literature here, and Myleene Klass hers in Astrophysics. Recipients of honorary degrees from the OU include such luminaries as Mr Alan Cumming, Dr Ben Goldacre, Sir Anthony Gormley, Mr Armando Iannucci, Ms Eddie Izzard, Mr Roger McGough, Sir Terry Pratchett, Mr Michael Rosen and Dr Benjamin Zephaniah.
The Open University makes education accessible to more disabled students than any other place of higher education in the UK, and is proud to provide a safe and welcoming place to all students, no matter what their disability, faith, age, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity or socio-economic class. We are all part of the OU family and accepted for who we are - even when we can’t be at home. The OU does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind and is a true ‘safe space’ for students and staff, alike.
Want to show a bit of Open University pride, after reading all this? Let everyone know U’re an OU’er with some of the fantastic OU merchandise on offer at the Student Association shop! You can buy sweatshirts, scarves and ties - and even a Graduation Tapestry! There are mugs and coffee cups, soft toys (I love Mr Owl!) stationery, glassware and even graduation rings.
OU students are getting younger, and their average age is 27, with 34% under 25. Obviously, this varies from course to course, but more and more young people are seeing the OU as a first choice, rather than it being a midlife crisis or an escape route from a bad job. The lockdown has shown so many people the possibilities of working online; saving money, with genuinely flexible learning, suddenly has a huge appeal. It’s clear that a lot of students have felt let down and rejected by their brick universities, and this may end up being the Open University’s gain.
You can do this. You really can. And when you start to doubt yourself you have your tutor, your tutor group, your Student Support Team, Togetherall, the Student Association forums, that WhatsApp group you found randomly at a freshers event, two Facebook groups, your own blog and all that self-esteem you’ve grown without noticing. You CAN do this. This is who you are. Welcome to the OU family.