Letter: OU's role in expansion

May 25, 2001

Baroness Blackstone is right to point out that a change in the way Open University students are recorded might confuse readers of the various statistics recently released (Letters, THES , May 18). However, she is unduly modest in interpreting the data.

The figures released by Higher Education Statistics Agency indicate that between 1996-97 and 2000-01, United Kingdom HE enrolments have risen by 9 per cent. The Hesa figures also indicate an overall increase in the past year of 45,300 enrolments. The Open University accounted for half of the undergraduates in this total and 76 per cent of the increase in all new part-time undergraduate enrolments.

I attribute this dramatic change to three factors. First, the levelling of the playing field for part-time students, including the introduction of access funds and fee waivers for poor students and the extension of student loans and disabled student allowances to part-time students. Second, the recognition by many students that the quality and flexibility of OU study fits well with the demands of modern society. Finally, the marked interest by students in online courses.

Geoff Peters
Acting vice-chancellor
The Open University

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