Pottering along with a degree vs racing ahead at the Open University

Since I only started with the Open University so that I would be able to “speak a little more French” I was only ever really pottering along with what was ultimately to become my modern languages degree. That’s not to say that I wasn’t working hard at it but rather that I just wasn’t in a hurry to complete it by a particular date. At the time I started out that seemed to be largely the approach of a lot of people on the courses that I was doing. Certainly nobody seemed to need to pick up a degree at any particular time amongst the tutorial groups that I was in over the years.

However, over that time the mix of people doing the OU courses has changed substantially. In the “good old days” they simply would not accept anyone under 21 and the average age of the students seemed to be somewhere in the 40s albeit with quite a sizeable proportion well over 60. These days, the courses are more likely to have a fair representation of those doing the degree full-time just after their A-levels since it’s a popular choice compared to traditional universities in these days of increasing charges: even full-time the OU wouldn’t cost more than £2000 a year on the most expensive courses and in most cases it would be more like £1200. The older contingent are still there as indeed are the sizeable representation in the 40s or thereabouts but the average age is substantially down.

That shift in demographics seems at least partially to account for the shift in emphasis from merely pottering along to more of a drive to complete the degree as soon as is reasonably possible. For example, throughout the seven years of the modern languages degree I never had anyone mention that they were planning on speeding up the attainment of their degree yet quite regularly I now get people trying to persuade me to do exactly that. I’ve sort-of succumed to this pressure in that I will probably be running with the Human Biology course starting this October rather than waiting ’til the following October to start Exploring Psychology thus, for the first time, I’ll be doing two courses at once albeit only for a month.

In addition to the move towards doing degrees quicker these days I suspect that the lower age range will eventually have an effect on the range of course on offer. I don’t think that widening will be particularly noticeable though as they’ve been widening the range of courses for many years now and the only real gaps seem to be in the area of creative arts and a general medical programme (though they do offer nursing courses).

What may be noticeable sooner is the shortening of time taken to do degrees which presumably will produce something of a bulge in graduations at some point.

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