The Open University is to offer named degrees in an effort to protect its position in the part-time and mature student market.
From 2000, OU students will be able to choose from 20 honours degree courses with subject titles, in addition to the traditional OU general BA or BSc. Options will include single honours, such as a BA in history or the more generic BSc or BA in social sciences.
The move, agreed by OU heads last week, follows pressure from students for awards that are better recognised by employers.
The OU is keen to remain competitive. Although a last-minute applications rush is expected with 2,500 students signing a week, the OU is more than 6 per cent below its recruitment target.
Godfrey Woodward, OU secretary for curriculum and awards, said the change followed funding council requirements for the OU to align its awards with other institutions and moves towards a national higher education qualifications framework.
"We do not have plans to phase out the general OU degree, but it is likely that there will be greater emphasis on the named degrees from 2000," he said.
Other expected changes include linking OU diploma titles and course contents to those of named degrees and offering a certificate in natural sciences. Diplomas and certificates are important awards for students who wish to study for shorter periods and who may resume to go on to a full degree.
Some summer school courses will be made more vocational and for the first time will carry credits towards a qualification.