I’ve blogged about the huge increase in Open University fees before. At the time of writing that blog post, only the fees for students in England had been announced. The fees for students based in Scotland were expected to be unchanged and Wales and Northern Ireland had yet to make a decision.
To recap, a 60-point course that used to cost around £600 will cost £2500 from September 2012 for new students (existing students get the cheaper prices until 2017). £600 to £2500 is quite an increase. It’s due to the government slashing education budgets across all universities and, I assume, this is the only option the Open University has – they have to get their funding shortfall from students.
I thought I’d take a look at a course registration page to see what has changed. Let’s look at registration fees for the excellent S104 – Exploring Science course. I did this course in 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It cost me about £560.
When you visit the course page, in the “Register for the course” section you are now asked to pick your country. You don’t see a price until you do:
Picking England gives the previously announced £2500:
Choosing Scotland gives you a “slightly” better deal:
£2500 vs. £735. For the exact same course. The exact same materials, the same website, the same tutor support.
Incidentally, you get the £735 course price if you select Wales or Northern Ireland too.
Any student living in England and thinking about studying with the Open University would visit this page and, obviously, take a look at how much it costs if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
I hasten to add, this isn’t the Open University’s fault. They aren’t discriminating against students from England! Basically, the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have decided to subsidise education. England has decided to remove the equivalent funding. I repeat: this is not the Open University’s fault. It is the English government deciding they do not want to fund university education any more. The fault lies with the government, not with the Open University.
You can, from September onwards, apply for a student loan for part-time courses, as you already can for traditional brick university degree courses*. But I suspect that these fee differences between England and the other home nations would put off any England-based students from applying in the first place. Perhaps it would even provide an incentive for them to move to Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland and distance study from there. If I was planning to study with the Open University to try and get out of a “dead end job”, I may as well be doing a dead end job in Scotland and paying only a third of the price for the same degree.
Either way, I assume the Open University isn’t expecting many applicants from England…
So it is The End of the Open University As We Know It - but only for students that live in England.
How about if I study from Honduras?!
I thought I’d see what happens if I pick a random country:
Yes, it costs the same to study an OU course if you live in Honduras as it does if you live in England. It costs the same to study from…picking another country at random from the drop down list…Japan. Students that live in England who are studying at the Open University (Milton Keynes, England) are paying the same as an overseas student!
Now that did surprise me.
Though, perhaps, location is irrelevant for a distance learning university. Perhaps the only difference it makes to The Open University is if your country of residence is subsidising your education or not.
*You can only apply for a loan if you haven’t already got a degree. So, if at 18 years old you chose badly for your first degree, and then when you are, say, 24 years old you realise that you need to start again, you can’t get loan. (Thanks Sarah for reminding me about this condition – see comments). Again, this is a government rule and has nothing to do with the Open University (or any university).