The OU has been popular with home educators and some used to take OU qualifications as an alternative to A-levels, but the funding situation changed a few years ago and now the decision is more complex. OU courses used to be a cheap alternative to A-levels, but this is no longer the case.
One parent commented:
"[The OU] have a dedicated team for under 18s and some funding is available but they usually wish to meet with the under 18's or chat with them first as applications for under 18s are different than normal. You have to enquire by email or phone and will be assigned a person who will guide you through the application process...The courses usually start on Oct 1st and applications open on March 9th. There are no entry requirements for them. "
- 1 What are the advantages of OU study?
- 2 Can I get into a brick university on the basis of OU courses?
- 3 Where can I find out about OU courses?
- 4 OU for those aged under 18
What are the advantages of OU study?
- No entry requirements for prior qualifications for admission to undergraduate courses.
- Many Level 1 courses do not have exams. Note that OU is not on the same framework as other UK qualifications so OU Level 1 is not the same as eg Level 1 Btecs.
- Students do not have to attend tutorials (although they can be helpful).
- The course materials are generally high quality.
Can I get into a brick university on the basis of OU courses?
Often this is possible. The more competitive universities tend to treat the first completed year (ie full-time equivalent, regardless of how long it took you) of an OU degree as A-level equivalent and will want you to start in Year 1 of their degrees. However, other universities will sometimes allow you to start in Year 2 if you have completed a year of OU. It depends on the course structure and content, so it's best to discuss this with universities you are considering.
Many universities publish admissions requirements for OU courses - for example:
Reading University consider 60 points (usually gained from two first-year courses taken over 9 months each) as meeting their minimum entry requirements.
Bristol University: We accept Open University units, provided that they satisfy course entry requirements. We may ask for specific OES scores in particular units, or for an additional A-level, to satisfy subject requirements. We generally expect a minimum of 120 credits at Level 1 in a relevant subject to satisfy entry requirements for year one.
Loughborough: The Departments of Chemistry and Physics are partners in the Open University OpenPlus scheme. This allows students who have successfully completed two years of study with the Open University to progress directly to the second year of a Chemistry or Physics degree at Loughborough. For more information on the scheme see the OpenPlus website. Loughborough also recognises achievement in other Open University courses as appropriate qualifications for entry. We would normally expect 120 Level 1 credits for first year entry.
General info on A-level and OU unit comparability
A levels are known as "level 3" qualifications and OU courses are at "level 4". Anyone doing them is already working at university level. However, the content is not the same as the A level syllabus and so you need to check the content against the requirements for specific degree courses. For example, MU123 does not cover all of the A level maths syllabus, so a university maths department may not accept it in place of the A level. However, a Certificate in Mathematics comprising MU123 and MST121 would certainly cover it. A course that requires maths A level but is not dependent on it is less likely to have a problem accepting MU123.
Alex Dowty had studied two courses with the OU when he got a place to study law at Oxford University.
Where can I find out about OU courses?
The OU have very helpful telephone advisors, so it's always worth giving them a call.
The full OU prospectus is at www3.open.ac.uk/study.
- A-Z of Where to start courses gives a list of courses that are particularly useful for people who have done no formal study.
- Science short courses are ten-point courses that can be taken over two or five months. Many young people find them a good place to start, particularly if they already have an interest in the subect.
- There are other ten-point courses available in other subjects.
- A certificate is a qualification in its own right (usually involving 60 points’ worth of study).
OU for those aged under 18
People between 16 and 18 should NOT need to meet any different criteria from those over 18. After the age discrimination legislation came in, the OU decided that it would be at risk of prosecution if they did not take under-18s and so they changed the lower age for entry to 16. http://www.open.ac.uk/students/charter/sites/www.open.ac.uk.students.charter/files/files/ecms/web-content/admission-under-18.pdf was published in January 2009.
Admissions for under 16s
A policy for the admission of applicants under the age of 18 was published in January 2009. Different OU regions apply it somewhat differently for under 16s - not all regions require a face-to-face interview. Contact your Regional Office and speak to the Young Students' Advisor, who will let you know what you need to do.
In general, they want reassurance that the student is capable of university-level study, has the discipline to complete the course, and is doing it because they want to (i.e. they are not being pushed into it by parents). The student may be asked to write something about all of this, explaining why he/she wants to do the course and how he/she will handle it.
Some regions ask the student and parent to meet OU staff - often the Young Student Advisor and perhaps a Staff Tutor in the subject. They may ask for evidence of other work. One reason given for reluctance to admit under-16s is that the OU does not want them to fail. If there is a relevant online self-test, I would suggest that the young person work through it. Then you have some ammunition to back up your claim that the young person can work at that level. The following two OU websites contain self-assessment tests for Maths and Science:
The South West (Region 3) is very helpful. One family had their children accepted (at 13.5 and 14.5 years' old) on the basis of self-assessment tests and a letter from the parent and the young person. A 14yo in Region 2 (based in Oxford) was getting the run-around. When her parent pointed out that some regions have no problems accepting under-16s, she was admitted to a ten-point course. She did six short courses by the time she was 16.
One family's experience:
Our son did his first course aged 12. We had to go to their office so they could interview him and we also met with the tutor so they could be sure he was ready for the course. The first course he did was a 30 point course but at a lower level than he had wanted. They felt he needed to get some experience of working in the OU style and doing the assignments before he did the course he wanted. He was a bit frustrated that the course wasn't challenging but he did learn a lot about writing assignments and how to structure things. At first they were cautious but have become more relaxed since then. He is now registered for a degree and as long as he passes his modules they will automatically enroll him on the next one he wants. The rules changed a couple of years ago and they can now enrol under 16's for a degree.
We found they were cautious at first but now they are fine about it and have been really helpful. As far as I know they have other under 16s doing courses so they should at least consider your son. Our son has now done 5 courses and has 210 OU points. He's doing another 2 courses this year for 60 points. Some of the courses have exams attached to them which are 3 hours long so you might need to take that into account as well. There is a lot of work involved in the courses and it is often hard working on your own but our son certainly enjoys it and is going to complete his degree with them before deciding what to do next.
If your son is interested in a particular course you should find out as much about it as you can and certainly have a chat with them and see what's involved.
Child Benefit over 16
Child benefit after 16 is usually only available with non-advanced study. OU study used to make you ineligible for Child Benefit after 16 but the rules have changed-. Full details are available on [Edyourself.org article on Child benefit after 16]
What about funding?
You normally have to pay for Open University tuition, but the amount varies according to where you live. In England you can take out a Student Loan to pay fees. The fees page on the OU website has some guidance about costs and financial support.
If the young person is studying a 30-point course, ask for the financial assistance papers when you register. It is the student's income that is assessed, not the parents. The fees are paid and there is a small annual grant for books and other necessities. It is administered by the Student Loans Company but is not repayable (but you can only get up to a certain amount per year).
If the family is on benefit, it may be possible to get discretionary funding for 10-point courses.
"There is a part time fee grant if you are over 16 but as far as I know there is no funding for under 16's even if the student has no income. The slight upside is that the fees in Scotland are lower than in England but still expensive."