Want to Go back to School? How About Studying At The Open University

Have you ever thought about going back to University, but are not sure about fitting studying around your family and work commitments. An Open University course could be the answer for you by offering flexible learning which you can do in your own time at home.

Open University

The Open University was founded in the 1960s and is open to adults of all ages, backgrounds and locations. Over the years, the OU (Open University) has become one of the top education centres for candidates that are not able to attend a conventional campus university. More than 50,000 employers have endorsed the University by sponsoring their staff to enrol in one of their many courses.

The development of the internet has meant that the University has continued to expand as distance learning has become far easier with lessons being given by email, instant messenger and online conferencing. As long as you have a computer and an internet connection, you could become one of the 180,000 students that are studying this year.


Courses generally start twice per year, in the spring and autumn, however, given the courses are modular, they allow you to take a break when things get too busy and then come back when you have more time.

Studying is 100% online, which means that you don’t have to go to attend lectures each day. The University calls its teaching methods “supported open learning” or “distance learning”. You learn using media supplied but the OU including printed course material, texts books, website sites, computer software, DVD’s and online lectures.

What Qualifications and Courses Can I Do?

At present, there are around 600 Degree and Master level courses, and another 1,000 free course covering a range of different subjects from everything from Arts, to business, to management, computing, law, languages, science, education and childcare

The best thing about the OU courses is that you can tailor your own to make your own course, you can start a course and not finish it if you want.

The Open University works on a Modular basis where each module represents a certain number of points which, when put together with other courses, make a degree. Passing modules gain points; each module is worth a certain amount of points. You need the following for a degree;

  • To obtain a B.Sc. degree, you need to gain 300 points.
  • To obtain a B.Sc. (Hons) degree you need 360 points

The 360 points required for an honours degree should be split across modules at three different levels – you need to gain 120 points by passing Level 1 modules, 120 at Level 2 and 120 at Level 3.

Modules typically come in three sizes: 10 point modules (mainly level 1, and residential/practical courses), 30 point modules and 60 point modules. Modules start and end on predetermined dates, and while generally 30 and 60 point modules usually run over ten months (e.g. January to October), ten-point modules can be completed in as short a time as ten weeks, or as long as 20 weeks.

Exams and Assessment

You will need to study, and on average, one point is equivalent to ten hours of study. So, a sixty-point module should require two times as much study time as a thirty point course.

A sixty point course over ten months will require, on average, about 60 hours study time per month, or 15 hours per week. However, it does seem to vary between courses and levels. Of the students I have spoken to, most suggested that a level two, thirty point course seemed to require as much study time as a sixty-point level one course.

This is the only time when you might be required to travel to an assessment centre. Typically level one courses do not have exams and will have one assignment at the end of the course. Level two and three classes will have continuous tasks throughout the ten-month course and an exam at the end.

How Much

Hopefully, your employer will pay or at least cover some of the cost. If not, you can get a grant, but remember because it’s modular, your not expected to pay the whole course upfront, on the module that your taking.

As a final option, you could get an OU loan (by opening an Open University Student Budget Account or OUSBA) which allows you to spread your costs by paying off your loan in monthly instalments.

There are varying costs attached to following an OU course – most people will pay a UK course fee to cover course materials, tuition, assessment and any residencies you may need to attend as part of your syllabus. In addition, you may have to buy individual books to support your study. You’ll also need a computer (and you’ll have to cover your own internet and telephone costs), and there may be some small costs attached to any travel you need to make as part of your course.

To give you an example, if you were to apply to follow a BSc honours degree in psychology, the entire course units would cover a 6-year period, divided into units of various points. So, in the first year, you would study towards the course of an introductory opening, if you were entirely new for studying and had no relevant professional or academic qualification/experience. This 10-point course would cost £110 (based on figures quoted on the OU website for 2020). Additional modules at various costs (ranging from £215 to £1025) and providing you with varying points would then be followed until you’d worked through the entire course to be awarded your degree. The total cost, if you were to complete all necessary units over the six years, would be £4560.

How to apply

You can apply for your course online via the Open University website (use the ‘click to register’ button on the course description in the online prospectus) or reserve your place by calling 0845 300 60 90 (lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays). You can alternatively download an Application to Study form and send your registration through the post.


And yes, you can get an NUS Extra student card if you are studying with the Open University. It costs you £10, but then you can use it to, say, get free Microsoft software or discounts at various retailers.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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