Low fee puts OU and partners in pole position to snap up ‘biddable’ places

Distance learning specialist the Open University will undercut every higher education institution in England in 2012 by charging fees of £5,000 a year for degrees from September 2012, it has been announced.

July 20, 2011

The annual fee – which represents the charge for a course taken full time or 120 credits in a year – will fall even lower for most OU students, who by choosing to study part-time will pay the equivalent price according to the number of credits taken.

Following the government’s reforms, part-time students will also be eligible for loans if they are studying for course at an intensity of a quarter or above – meaning they could borrow state money if they study for 30 credits in a year at a fee level of £1,250.

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor of the OU, said: “Our students have rated us in the top three universities for satisfaction in the National Student Survey for the past five years and we are in a strong position to serve this and future generations of students who value the flexibility, quality and employability that an Open University education brings.

“We are confident that our new strategy will ensure that this great national institution will continue to stimulate economic growth and extend social mobility.”

The fee level means that the OU, or further education colleges offering OU courses, could snap up many of the 20,000 “marginal” places being taken from all universities and auctioned off in 2012-13 in an attempt to drive down price.

The government announced the plan in the recent White Paper, stipulating that only institutions with fees below £7,500 would be able to bid for the places.

Although the OU operates across all four nations of the UK, the announcement only relates to students in England.

The OU said it expected fees in Scotland to be similar to those in 2011-12 while Welsh students would benefit from extra support from the devolved government.

The situation in Northern Ireland will depend on decisions to be taken by the power-sharing administration.

The £5,000 fee level will apply to students starting OU courses after September 2012. Current students will continue to pay existing fee levels, provided they continue with some study every year and complete their qualification by 2017.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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