The Open University (OU) was founded in 1969 by Harold Wilson's Labour government and has since become the foremost figure in distance learning. The University had 250,000 students on its books in 2011, making it the largest University in Europe via student enrollment.
It offers students a wide range of both full and part-time courses, including degrees, and most courses of study have enough flexibility to work around employment or family needs.
Open learning gives students the opportunity to dictate their own timetable and the location of the study centre they want to be attached to. In the past, students have received course materials in the form of books/journals and were required to tune in to early morning OU broadcasts on the BBC. As technology has advanced, students are going online to access study materials, and DVDs have replaced bulky textbooks in many cases.
OU students can also attend local tutorials, which are not compulsory, and provide an ideal opportunity for students to discuss any queries they have about their course with lecturers and fellow students. Courses such as foreign languages and sciences will also require students to attend an intensive period of study on a week-long residential that offers a chance to consolidate learning.
The OU has thirteen regional centres in the UK. These are located in London, Oxford, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Gateshead, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and East Grinstead near Brighton.
Comedian Lenny Henry, musician and television presenter Myleene Klass and football manager Craig Brown have all attended the OU. The University is made up of 44% of students (2011) who may not have the formal qualifications to embark on a regular degree course.
The OU still represents fantastic value for money for students. Recent changes to fee structures in the UK mean that the OU has set a new fee level for new students in England, starting after 1 September 2012. The fee now stands at £5,000 for a full-time year.
Have you attended the Open University? Did you feel that this method could help you to land a graduate job?