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Should I study with the Open University?

A number of you will probably be receiving your results at this time of year, be it for University, A-levels or even GCSE’s. Who knows! As I have recently mentioned a number of times that my course culminated in an exam for the year, I have had to answer a great many questions about the OU and how it works, so maybe for prospective students and people that are just generally interested in how it works, I thought I’d put together some information as to how exactly it works.

An OU degree is split over 3 years with the course having to be completed within 15 years.

Year 1 - 120 credits

Year 2 - 120 credits

Year 3 - 120 credits

Modules can either consist of 60 credits or 30 credits.

Obviously the further you get in the course, the harder and definitely more challenging the course becomes. The latest exam that I did was quite possibly the hardest thing that I’ve ever done academically.

The beauty of the OU is the flexibility, being able to control fully what you want to study and when you want to study it. You are ultimately in control of the modules that you do, in which order and over how many years. It also works out cheaper than a normal university, with yearly fees not getting anywhere near the overburdening debt that most students accrue over the course of their lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a need to work alongside your studies, which for me is a godsend as I have an unhealthy obsession with being busy, but for most people fitting it around both part-time and full-time employment shouldn’t be an issue.

A few key things you’ll need if you want to study with the Open University:


If you are thinking of studying with the Open University, you are going to have to be completely and unashamedly honest with yourself that you can commit both the time and the brain power to be able to complete the course. There is nothing worse than starting something to then have to give up after a few years, with both money and wasted time having slipped from your grasp.


The OU recommend that you don’t study more than around 60 credits a year to make sure that you are able to actually fully concentrate on the modules that you have selected. In my first year, I was working overnight in a job that enabled me to study the majority of the time, which was both a blessing and a curse. Leaving me lots of time to actually study, but then having the misfortune of being up when the rest of the world was asleep. I was able to complete 120 credits in this time, but again I wouldn’t recommend it for most people, mostly due to the fact that 60 of those credits were language modules in both German and Spanish, both of which I have competency in to be able to complete without devoting much time to the actual course material.

To actually want to study:

There is no freshers week, there is no university ‘experience’, that most people go for. The OU in recent years has gained a reputation for producing people who are genuinely interested in the modules they are studying as well as people who have drive and work ethic. If you have decided to undertake a course which runs alongside your work, you demonstrate a desire for continuous personal development in addition to showing that you are actually able to have not only a work/life balance, but that you are able to have a work/life and study balance, something that not many people are able to show.

The Open University for all it’s merits does have a few flaws and it would be completely unbiased of me, not to point these out.

  • There is very little, if any contact time

You are going to need to be able to study independently and in your own time. You’ll need to not only take the initiative when looking to study, but plan your weeks out religiously to be able to get in the study you need.

  • You’ll need to be resourceful

You will need to be able to think outside the box and be willing to find an answer to questions in a more roundabout way that you are most likely used to. You are unable to put your hand up and ask for a quick response, you’ll need to get your answers from around the internet, documentaries, online classes, videos, other people, even tutors.

  • You will end up yearning for a lecture

One thing which always absolutely infuriates me about the majority of people I know who went to university, is the complete disregard that lectures are held in. On some topics, there is literally nothing I want more than to physically be in a classroom, being instructed by a professor or someone in the know. In the case of sciences it can be incredibly disheartening when you do not grasp a concept at the first pass, or if you are unable to fully comprehend exactly what is going on. If you’re ready to persevere and are prepared for your head to drop for it to come back up again, then do it.

  • You won’t end up making mates

I’ve been studying with the OU for around 4 years now, and I can categorically say that, I cannot name a single person that I have met through the OU that I have seen more than once, or that I have seen outside an academic setting. Unfortunately, that is the way it is. You’ll need a strong network around you to be able to support you through your studies, there are forums made available through the OU, but I have never used them and have never fully got on with forums, even before the OU.

In the end, the only person who knows if you are ready to study with the OU is you. If you are looking to not only advance career prospects but also open your mind to a vast array of new concepts then this is definitely the route for you.

I hope this helps and please send me a message if ever you want to ask any questions.