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OU announces £3 million of support to help disadvantaged groups study during the cost-of-living crisis

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The UK’s largest university, The Open University (the OU), has today announced £3 million of support through a series of scholarships to support individuals most in need and disadvantaged in accessing higher education. The scholarships package is the largest ever announced by The Open University and comes at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is impacting people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds from taking up higher education.

In its latest initiative, the OU will be providing life-changing scholarships, bursaries, and support to disabled veterans, refugees or those seeking asylum, Black students, carers, and care-experienced students to realise their ambitions and study.

The Open Futures Fund sits at the heart of the OU’s mission to make higher education accessible to all, championing equity and inclusion and will offer 136 fully funded degree places for the next academic year 2023/2024.

Since 2014, the OU has awarded over 434 scholarships and hundreds of bursaries, worth over £ 10 million, thanks to the generosity of OU alumni, supporters, and friends.

Jhumar Johnson, Chief of Staff to the Vice-Chancellor at The Open University, said:

“The cost-of-living crisis following hot on the heels of a pandemic has made it tough for many people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Considering study at this time is therefore even more difficult than before. At The Open University, our mission is to make higher education accessible so pursuing ambitions for a better life and giving back to their communities can become a reality for many. I am delighted to announce this record level of scholarship support, thanks to our donors and alumni.

“Our students tell us what a difference quality education makes to their lives but far too many people are excluded from that life-changing experience. Our scholarships will change more lives and communities, just the way our scholars from prior years already are.”

Hollie, a recipient of the Carers Scholarship, said:

“I genuinely believe that The Open University has given me an opportunity which otherwise I would never have achieved. What the scholarship offers is as truly life changing and truly invaluable chance to better myself. The scholarship fund takes away the worry of student debt, as well as improving self-esteem and gives the chance to meet some outstanding people, it has given me the opportunity to learn in a quality and recognised way and gain qualifications which will give me access to much greater and wider opportunities in the future.” 

Patrick Hutchinson, Ambassador for the Black Students Support Fund, said:

These scholarships announced today by The Open University offer a chance for people to fulfil their dreams of furthering their education. For many this will be a life-changing opportunity, which will help unlock their talents, boost their skills and enhance their working lives. As we face head-on, into a cost-of-living crisis it is so often that people from underrepresented groups that decide not to pursue their education because of needing to secure second or even third jobs.

“I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Black Students Support Fund scholarships and championing the opportunities that they bring. The Open University, with its flexible distance-learning is an ideal learning environment, with the opportunity to study at your own pace and earn while you learn.”

The scholarships include:

The Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund which offers veterans, disabled in or due to military service, access to free Open University education and specialist disability and careers support. In 2023/24 we are offering 50 scholarships.

The Open Futures Scholarships for Black Students offers the opportunity for students, from disadvantaged backgrounds and who identify as Black to study to undergraduate level for free. In 2023/24 we are offering 50 scholarships.

Carers’ Scholarships are for unpaid carers who face disadvantages that may prevent them from pursuing the education that they need. In 2023/24 we are offering up to 20 scholarships to carers, including a minimum of 6 reserved for young carers aged under 25.

The Open Futures Sanctuary Scholarships Programme: An opportunity to apply for one of 12 Sanctuary Scholarships available to study over the next three years, amounting to £240,000 per year, complete with study starter pack and access to careers and employability services. Open to those who are seeking asylum and/or are refugees in the UK helping them to rebuild their lives by gaining study and skills to find work.

The Care Experienced Scholarship, in collaboration with the John Lewis Partnership, is launching for the first time in 2023/24, offering four full undergraduate scholarships to young people aged 25 and under, who have spent time in care and have faced significant barriers to entering and succeeding in higher education. The programme is closely linked to the John Lewis Partnership’s existing ‘Building Happier Futures’ programme, which looks to support, harness the talent, and improve the lives of young people who have grown up in care.

Further details of the schemes can be found here:

Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships | How to Pay | Open University

Scholarship for Black Students | Open University

Carers’ Scholarships Fund | How to Pay | Open University

Sanctuary Scholarship | Open University

Care Experienced Scholarship | Open University

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