A good start for the new OU vice chancellor

I’m generally a message in a bottle kind of person as far as political activism goes rather than being that proactive with firing off letters to all and sundry as Wendy tends to do.

However, I thought that I’d drop the new Open University vice-chancellor, Martin Bean, a line about my thoughts on some rather undesireable side-effects of the ELQ fiasco. Specifically, the dropping of all but one of the science summer schools and the associated dropping of all the crop of named science degrees.

The summer schools have been a fixture of many Open University degrees from the very start. They’re the time when one feels like a “real” student for a week. They’re the time when one has the chance to get together with a whole heap of fellow students for all kinds of activities (ranging from serious study to, sometimes, the less high-minded student activities). They’re the time that one sees the Open University in the flesh.

The snag is that whilst up until a number of years ago the summer schools were an integral part of the regular courses, they were almost all separated off five or ten years ago as courses were rewritten. Thus whilst the original S100 science foundation course included a summer school, the updated S104 doesn’t and instead there’s a separate course made up entirely of the former summer school. That has the consequence that the summer school is now optional and therefore almost impossible to get a sponsor to pay for it and so many fewer people do the summer schools these days.

To add to the problems, the current proposal is to implement these changes over the next couple of years. That would be fast enough in a normal university where degrees typically span three or at most four years. In “OU-time”, it’s incredibly rapid as degrees can take anything from six to as many as eleven years even without breaks between courses. Thus even people who are well through their degree can be affected. One of those on the forum who’s almost at the end of her degree has already been forced into doing one of the summer schools a year or two “too soon” because it seems unlikely that the final summer school that she needs will be replaced after it expires. She’s one of the lucky ones: many of those at the start of their degrees will find that they can’t complete the degree they were aiming for as the required summer schools (and perhaps other courses) will long since have been cancelled by the time they’d be doing them.

Anyway, Martin tells me that he will be raising the issue fairly soon. I’m sure that this issue and other ELQ related ones will make his time an “interesting” one.

I was going to say that I was surprised to receive a personal reply from him the day after I sent my little missive but actually I’m not. It’s just what one would expect from the Open University vice chancellor and it’s good to see that he’s already taken the “open” part onboard.

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