A further blow to the Open University

Now OU students studying since 2011 who want a loan are being told to take a year completely away from OU study and come back as ‘new’ students in order to be eligible, writes Open University associate lecturer Lesley Kane in The Guardian.

On 2 May the Guardian reported a 56% collapse in the number of part-time students since 2010 according to Higher Education Statistics Agency figures. On 13 June we read about the Open University vice-chancellor’s intentions to cut £100m from its annual budget, which many OU staff consider unviable without inflicting irreparable damage on the university and its mission.

You may be interested in hearing about another bizarre stance by the Department for Education this autumn which seems designed to inflict further damage on the Open University and directly hurt its students.

When tuition fees trebled in 2012 for new students in England, the government was determined to eliminate subsidised fees for existing students within five years. OU students have a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances. Not all of them can complete their degrees in six years or less, but in 2012 our existing students were still only given until this year to complete.

The twist in the tale this autumn is that OU students studying since 2011 who want a student loan are being told to take a year completely away from OU study and come back as “new” students in order to be eligible for a loan. This bizarre requirement can only increase their chances of dropping out permanently, and will delay their degrees by a further year. It will also be a direct cause of job losses among OU tutors this autumn.

The present system of student loans and fees in England is a social and financial disaster that needs scrapping. If something isn’t done soon I fear that open access to higher education will become one of the casualties of a government that sees no benefit in higher education other than a market value.

Read more A further blow to the Open University

Are you or have you completed an OU course? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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