Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, Open University

Alternative for #ALevel students on #ResultsDay 

#ALevelResults Day (13 August) is challenging even in normal circumstances, but with the uncertainty around this year’s grading and the anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19, it’s important now more than ever that students take a step back and consider their next move.

The pandemic has changed the landscape of education, with many universities turning to online learning for their next academic year. The OU has been a world-leader in distance studying for over 50 years, using its expertise and experience to help over two million students achieve their ambitions.

With more than 200 qualifications across 17 subjects, our courses are highly valued by employers with 78 of the FTSE 100 companies using us to train their staff and more of our alumni working as CEOs and Managing Directors for UK companies than any other UK university.

Could online be the choice for you?

Online learning allows you to progress academically, whilst giving you the flexibility to fit your studies around your life. Whether you work or have caring responsibilities, you can study with the OU at a part-time or full-time capacity. Being able to work whilst studying gives our students an advantage professionally, but also teaches invaluable transferable skills, such as time management and independence.

Although online learning has traditionally been seen as a route for mature students, a greater number of school-leavers are realising the benefits of studying remotely, with 31% of our new UK students aged between 18 and 24; a proportion which has been gradually increasing year on year.

OU modules are developed by multi-disciplinary teams of academics, education and media specialists and external examiners. Expect to learn using a variety of different mediums, from podcasts and forums to interactives. The OU is one of the first universities to have made all its undergraduate course materials accessible by smartphone and tablet, so that you can study wherever and whenever you’d like.

We’re also a more affordable option, with our fees a third lower than the typical full-time fees in other higher education institutes. The full-time equivalent tuition fees at the OU in England is £6,192, compared to the typical £9,250 and we have scholarships and bursaries to support disadvantaged students achieve success.

Even though our students study remotely, they’re never alone with a network of over 5,000 tutors running online tutorials and day schools and a lively community of fellow students.

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor said:

“We are the leader in delivering high quality online learning at scale, with rigorous academic standards and universally recognised qualifications. The OU provides a path of flexibility to suit everybody, helping support people to fit study around their daily lives and all whilst being more affordable.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we learn and teach, being able to study a degree online, from home and within a supportive student framework, means that the OU can help people in a time of unprecedented change.

Congratulations to all who are collecting their results. We wish you every success for the future.”

The OU suited my lifestyle

Halima has been studying towards a BA (Hons) International Studies with the OU since she completed her A Levels. At first, Halima didn’t consider distance learning, but after researching her options, she decided the OU suited her lifestyle better than a brick university. She’s not looked back since.

“The OU suited my lifestyle. I wanted to establish myself financially – and study. Once my friend introduced me to the OU, it was life changing. It felt so natural. I’m glad I didn’t follow what others thought would be best for me, as now I’ll get a degree and no debt. The OU fit my lifestyle without me having to sacrifice anything. I’m able to control the pace of my learning. I’ve also learnt a lot of life skills that others my age won’t experience until they’re in the workplace.

“What drove me to study was my passion for learning. I’ve always loved geography, especially human geography. I love travelling, exploring different cultures and meeting people from different backgrounds. With my degree, not only do I learn about different people, there’s history and a range of modules that I can choose from. The quality of the teaching material is great. Text books are informative and link well with the online material.

“You have access to a dedicated tutor. It helps knowing they’re always there, even when I’m travelling. They’re just a phone call or email away. I had tutorials in local centres. So, not only did I get to meet my tutors, I got to meet other students. At home in front of a computer screen, you might seem quite alone but at tutorials you feel really welcomed. 

"I’ve become a lot more confident. I have more self-belief, motivation, independence and self-esteem. I’ve learnt you can do anything, no matter what standards society sets for you. All doors are open to me, I just need to choose one!”

There is an alternative path

Emma has just graduated with a 2:1 in Law from the OU. The 23 year-old had a place to study at a traditional university, but rejected it in favour of the OU. She studied the three-year degree full-time, fitting her studies around a part-time job as a receptionist.

“It’s a lot to ask of an 18 or 19 year-old to move away to study and not everyone wants to leave home, but many do want to get a degree. That’s where the OU can pick them up.

“Not all universities offered what the OU does, it’s exceptional. I went on visits to Wandsworth Prison and met with inmates who had legal questions – it was incredible to be able to put what I was learning into practice to help others. It changed my perspective in a big way. One of the questions I had before I started my degree was how do employers view an OU law degree? One barrister told me it looked on favourably because of the level of teaching and the self-discipline to study at a distance.

“I loved creating my own study schedule. I’d have online tutorials and lectures, but could also work at my own pace not having to be in a lecture hall at a specific time. Tutors were always very responsive on email if I didn’t think I had a grasp of something. My criminal law tutor was a criminal barrister in London, I really don’t think I could have had a better teacher than that!

“The balance between support from tutors and freedom to study alone, has been an incredible self-worth boost. To say my degree has changed my life is an understatement. If the OU hadn’t been an option I probably would have gone to a brick university and dropped out. I’d be one of those young people for whom the pressure got too much living away and feeling very alone.

“So many students feel overwhelmed away from home. Then they think they aren’t up to it academically when they are. They just need to know there is an alternative path, as I discovered. I still have a great social life. I still go clubbing, the difference is I don’t miss a lecture. I have my own study plan and I stick to it.

“I miss the OU a lot already, so I’m considering going back to do my Masters. I loved every minute of it. I’ve made friends I’m still in touch with, it was the best decision of my life.”

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