OU soul-searching

March 31, 2016

The Open University does, as Ormond Simpson argues, need to rediscover a personal touch (“The Open University needs to make it personal”, Letters, 10 March), but that in itself cannot be the solution to the massive problem of retention and progression.

In a university where half of new students – the vast majority on tuition fee loans – fail their first year of study or do not progress further, serious questions must be raised about what the OU is for. Is its open access policy as currently operated sustainable? It has to be dishonest and morally bankrupt to recruit students whom it knows will fail and leave indebted – how can this be consistent with a widening participation agenda?

Even if the OU doesn’t care, the government should mind whether universities retain (through to completion of their study goals) the widening participation students they have successfully recruited – or is it too playing the game of a higher education system that “piles them high” but doesn’t want to worry about the consequences?

And Pete Gubbins is right that the increase in cost of OU study and the access to part-time loans has dampened the market for part-time study at the OU as elsewhere, but there is a bigger factor in play – the wider impact on demand for part-time adult higher education of the massive increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds going to university, now almost 50 per cent. The OU was created when less than 7 per cent of adults had degrees; there was real demand for university-level education from skilled and semi-skilled workers as well as those in careers that were to become professionalised via accreditation. Now there is not only falling demand for part-time study but also a far higher proportion of academically weak students entering the OU (those older students with high levels of previous education who used to study there out of personal interest or for “leisure” are not now motivated to take out a loan – but they were the ones who completed degrees).

Whereistheougoingnow
Via timeshighereducation.com


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips