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Category Archives: Politics

Fees.

It was inevitable, I suppose. The Open University is going to be charging a lot more for its courses. Full information can be found here.

For students in England studying with us for the first time from 1 September 2012 there will be a standard fee of £5,000 based on 120 credits of study. This is equivalent to a year’s full-time study at traditional universities.

Now the majority of OU students study part time, like me. Part time study equals 60 credits per academic year and that will cost £2,500.

Currently, each course costs a different amount. My next one is AA315 and that has cost £700. However – and here is what really encouraged me to study with the OU – I have been awarded financial support. I have not had to pay for any of my OU courses, which is what made it so very attractive to me as a 23 year old who only works part time and already owes £8k to the Student Loans Company. Now I believe I am correct in thinking that from September 2012, gone are the days of financial support: now you have to be like any other student and have a student loan.

Previously, student loans were not available to part time students, but they are now, which obviously makes the plan more feasible.

Now, for those who are already an OU student working towards a certificate, diploma or degree, it’s a little bit more complicated, but there is a nice guide and video for you here.

I have to be honest… these changes anger me. I am not, in any way, angry at the OU. These changes will not affect me. But I am angry for the group of kids who happen to be a couple of years younger than me and will pay over twice as much for the same standard of education that I received. I am angry at the government who received their education for free. I feel our generation is being left behind by previous generations who had everything handed to them on a golden platter.

The most irritating thing about all of this is that it only applies to students in England. Not Northern Irish, Welsh or Scottish students. So if you aren’t English, well done on living where you do now.

These fees are still way below what other universities are charging; £4,000 less. This is good; it will make the university a lot more attractive to students who balk at the idea of paying £9,000 a year (which I frankly think is a disgusting amount). Also, less fees means less interest.

But it is a blow to the idea of education as a right. I believe education is a right. It is not a privilege. Knowledge is not something that should be denied to those who are unable to pay. It’s a shame for those students who are ‘hobbyists’; who study for the pure enjoyment of studying. Paying such extortionate fees will turn education into a commodity; something that can be bought and sold, and not something that is valued as a pastime in its own right.

Many people ask why I study History of Art. I study it because it interests me. I have never been one to think about future job prospects. I study for the pure enjoyment of learning, and I fear that such fees will change how we view certain subjects, particularly the arts. A world without artists, dancers, actors, musicians is a very bleak world indeed. A country where the vast majority of the population stopped studying at 18 is also very bleak. How are we expected to compete with China, Japan, Germany? Many people moan about immigration, but think of how many immigrants work in the NHS. More will be needed now.

These fee hikes were inevitable, and we should not be blaming the university. They are still offering fees at a far lower price than all other universities, and that is something to be proud of. But it is a sad day for education and the notion of life-long learning.

Nikki x

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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in OU, Politics

 

Mickey Mouse Degrees.

I read The Guardian like a woman possessed. After I check BBC News of a morning, I always head to guardian.co.uk to get my fix of Tory and Lib Dems arguing. It really never gets old.

Anyhoo, I have just been reading a piece about how the government are shocked (shocked, I tell you!) that most universities are charging the top fees of £9k a year. Never mind that anyone with half a brain could see that was going to happen…

And then I went to read the comments, and there are the usual posts of how A Levels have gotten easier and how everyone takes a ‘Mickey mouse degree’ and that the only real subjects are SCIENCE god dammit! And this always makes me angry so I thought I’d write a post on it.

I have no idea if A Levels are easier than in the past. My parents didn’t take them so I have no point of reference. The thing with A Levels are that you are taught to pass the exam. I don’t think the exams have gotten easier, it’s just that teaching methods have changed to help people pass them. I don’t really see what is wrong with this, but of course with this system it does sort of become a competition on who can retain the most information in their head.

This all stops once you get to university, so I don’t think A Levels are ideal preparation. I never did very well in coursework in A Levels but I rocked at exams. Law A Level was 100% exam based and I got an A (there was no silly A* back in 2006!) But I never did well in coursework because it was very much – mention this and you get a mark – based. University work is the opposite; you are graded on putting forth an argument and backing it up with appropriate evidence. I think Law A Level requires you to do this to a certain extent, but I think more A Levels should be like this, if only to stop the grumpy lot on The Guardian!

Then we get to the ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ bit. What older generations forget is that my generation were sold a lie that if we did well in education, the world was our oyster. To an extent this is still true (though most jobs now ask for degrees and experience because apparently they are too lazy to train staff themselves); and most jobs who want a graduate want just that; a graduate. They don’t care if your degree is in Drama or IT; they just want somebody who is intelligent and self motivated enough to get a degree.

There is also the argument that too many people are going to university – but you told us to! When I was doing my A Levels there was absolutely no question of doing anything else. I ummed and ahhed over studying Anthropology, Psychology or Drama, and of course I picked Drama. I WISH I had done Anthro, but there you go! The fact of the matter being that it was unlikely I was going to get a job in any of those areas so I might as well just get a degree in anything.
The stupid thing is that the kids who left school after their GCSEs are now retail managers, and the ones who have degrees are working at the bottom. In the end, a degree never did get them anywhere.

This is why my plan is to get my degree, and then hopefully study a Masters in Sweden. The Masters I have my eye on includes a ten week internship and I am hoping all together it will be enough to get me started on a career over there. It makes me sad to think that I can have it all sorted so easily when I think of moving to Sweden, but when I think of staying here I am at a loss of what to do because everybody keeps moving the goalposts – yes you do need a degree, oh but now we also want experience, and damn why don’t universities train you to be a better employee? (That was never a university’s job and I hate that argument.)

Education needs to be a higher priority in this country, but judging by the fact that comments like the ones above litter the internet, it is clear to see that we don’t hold education in the esteem that it deserves. I believe that if someone is willing and intelligent enough, a university degree should never be denied to them. And yes, £9k a year is denying it to some. I think I would have gone straight to the OU if I had been faced with fees of that much. Or gone abroad!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Politics, Universities

 
 
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