With funding from the Student Loans Company in the bag, it's all systems go for the re-launch of my Open University study in early October. After several years of sheer frustration in having to turn down unconditional offers from Leicester University and then Derby University the recent changes to the funding of university study has strangely worked in my favour.
Alas it was to prove logistically and financially impossible to achieve full time study at either university. An alternative was perhaps doing the Geology BSc at Derby Uni part-time but that needed payment of fees upfront - under the previous system, student loans mysteriously did not apply to part time study, That meant that University study was just not viable for me so my dream of studying for a geology/earth science degree in any form seemed dead in the water. Then came the controversial changes instigated by the then new coalition government. Up shot the level of fees to previously unheard of levels, but on the plus side, the unfair discrimination against part-time study was to end with potential part time students able to apply for student loans to cover their fees.. This was to be applied to the Open University too, opening up all manner of new possibilities for me.
However, there was to be nothing plain sailing about choosing to take the O.U. path. These dramatic changes seemed to trigger a chaotic scramble to restructure the entire working of the O.U. One of their big selling points has always been that virtually anyone could sign up to a course and study simply for the joy of learning. Not everyone studied for a degree with many people studying year after year, doing course after course with no real aim other than 'learning'. That approach seems to have been completely taken away now as fees shoot through the roof.
However for me and my situation, as long as I study for a qualification higher than I have achieved previously (HND), I can study for a minimum of 30 credits per year and aim to complete the remaining 300 credits of my degree within 10 years, then I can fund it by a student loan. Actually, I aim to complete my Open Degree in 5 years. Starting in October this year I will hopefully polish off the remaining 60 Level 1 credits by August 2014, tackle 120 Level 2 from Oct 2014 - 2016 and then the Level 3 credits between 2016-18. Sounds feasible?
What isn't quite so clear is the content of my degree. With all this restructuring has come wholesale changes to constituent modules. Some much loved short courses have disappeared completely, while others have been rewritten and others merged to form longer 60 credit modules - Geology being one such course. As I write, Geology S276 remains as a 30 credit Level 2 course, but undergoes its final run in 2014. However, S209 will start in October 2014 as a 60 credit course apparently incorporating an element of fieldwork, which sounds good, but is all yet to be officially confirmed. And this I have to say is where the OU has got it horribly wrong.
Communication of their plans has been nothing short of abysmal at times, but I guess their silence has been to a degree understandable given the extent of the changes thrust upon them. But, existing students have had their study plans torn asunder with little or no details of replacement modules forthcoming.