Birkbeck and OU ink deal for students forced overseas by Brexit

Credit transfer agreement addresses concerns that part-time learners from finance sector will have to relocate

June 20, 2018
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A London university has struck an agreement with the Open University to allow its students to finish their degrees online if they need to relocate to the European Union after Brexit.

Birkbeck, University of London said it now tells applicants that it can make arrangements for credit transfer to the OU for those who start a course at the Bloomsbury institution but then need to move to the EU.

The agreement was made in response to the fact that Birkbeck, which teaches courses in the evenings, attracts many part-time students who work in the banking and finance sectors.

Earlier this year, German officials said that nearly 20 banks had committed to launching European hubs in Frankfurt since the Brexit vote.

A statement on Birkbeck’s website says: “If concerns about moving away from London are preventing you from applying this year, please note that Birkbeck provides ways for you to continue your studies.” It adds that Birkbeck offers a variety of postgraduate and undergraduate distance learning courses and can “make arrangements for credit transfer to other institutions such as the Open University”.

Diane Houston, pro vice-master for education at Birkbeck, told Times Higher Education that the university had “started to wonder whether worries about mobility – partly Brexit-related mobility – were perhaps putting people off enrolling” at the institution.

“If you are working for Deloitte in London and you’re thinking of doing a business degree or a finance degree in the evenings that all sounds great. But if you don’t actually know whether you’re going to be moved to Germany in the next six months, do you decide that you’re not going to do it?” she said.

She acknowledged that students can already apply to transfer credits to the OU, but said the agreement “was about the two part-time institutions in the country promoting the fact that we could work together to ensure that people can complete their degrees”.

She added that the OU would accept students who wished to transfer on a “case-by-case basis” and such students would end up with an OU degree, not a joint degree.

Several UK universities have launched new partnerships since the Brexit vote, although most of these have involved closer collaborations with institutions in continental Europe.

Earlier this month, the University of Warwick announced that it was forming a “European university alliance” with the University of Paris Seine and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, building on existing teaching and research collaborations.

Meanwhile, Imperial College London is opening a joint mathematics laboratory with the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the University of Oxford is creating an alliance with four universities in Berlin, and King’s College London is considering opening a branch campus in Dresden.

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