Are we at the bottom yet? Further falls in Open University enrolments recorded during 2016/17

Today’s first release of HESA’s official student enrolment data for 2016/17 shows a further decline in part-timers. This is against a background of slightly rising numbers in higher education overall. As I’ve tracked the Open University figures since the publication of the 2008/09 data set, I’ve updated my graph. It excludes the (currently 225) students who live outside of the UK for consistency with previous years. The graph demonstrates that the institution and its students are by far the biggest loser from the changes in university funding made over the last decade.

The headline figures:

Overall student enrolments down 5,225 from 2015/16 – a fall of 4.1%

Undergraduate students down 5,830 from 2015/16 – a fall of 4.9%

Postgraduate students up 645 from 2015/16 – an increase of 8.6%

Open University Student Enrolments

Open University enrolment figures for 2008/09 to 2016/17

HESA have also provided some additional detail in the data set this year. Of the 113,285 undergraduate enrolments, 98,740 represent students working towards their first degree, representing 87% of the cohort. The remaining 13% are classed as ‘other undergraduates’ – presumably people studying for a new undergraduate qualification. Although the data isn’t there to interrogate, I suspect that this is a very different split to that during my own Open University experience some years ago.

If you want to explore the data for yourself, HESA have thoughtfully provided an interactive mechanism for doing so this year. You can get to it by clicking on the image below.

Open University Enrolments 2016/17

Open University Enrolments 2016/17

Given that the decline in part-time study is still continuing, something needs to be done, as they say. So here are three of my ideas for encouraging a return part-time study, especially among mature learners.

Lump anxiety

This year (or should that read last year), I was fortunate to have one of the longest Christmas and New Year breaks that I’ve ever taken from work. We had Christmas at home, followed by seeing in the New Year at the wonderful Tithe Barn in Ashburton. I finally got back to work yesterday. The only downside of taking such a long break from work is that it gave me yet more time to worry about my lumps. Having lymphoma gives you an ever-present anxiety about what the future holds, but I find it harder to cope with when I’m not being distracted by the craziness that working in software pre-sales provides on a daily basis.

Anyway, the lumps on the left-hand side of my neck are definitely getting bigger (as my new blog photo demonstrates) and I can now easily feel some lumps on the right hand side for the first time. The right-hand side lumps haven’t come as too much of a shock, as some activity was present on my last PET/CT scan. But I wasn’t able to really feel very much in the way of lumps there in October. However I can definitely feel the enlarged lymph nodes now. General tiredness is becoming more of an issue as well.

Fortunately I’ve got a busy couple of weeks at work and at home to keep me suitably distracted until my next appointment with the consultant. That’s a good thing, as at this time of year my other main distraction lives almost permanently in the garage. He hates salty roads and darkness – or rather, his owner hates what salty roads might do to him and is becoming increasingly unwilling to drive very far in the dark.

So that’s where I find myself at the start of 2018. Glad to be back into the daily distractions that work brings, but rather nervous that the time for starting chemotherapy is drawing ever nearer.

One final thing – my eldest daughter criticised my July to December photographs for not including something from the ‘Wedding of the Year™’. I admit that she makes a very good point. So here’s the complete photograph that my new lumpy-face blog image comes from, to partially assuage the guilt I’ve been feeling ever since I hit ‘publish’ on that post.


Emily and me (Lucy James Photography)

I love the adoring look I’m getting as I’m making my speech!

Buckfast Abbey and Buckfastleigh

Today’s wanderings around Devon took me to Buckfast Abbey. It’s very quiet at this time of year, so there’s plenty of opportunity for reflection and generally poking around the site.

Buckfast Abbey

Buckfast Abbey. The current Abbey (left) was completed in 1937. The monastery is the grey building to the right. The last tower on the right is the oldest part of the complex, dating from the 11th century.

The Benedictine abbey celebrates its millennium this year. However, Dissolution meant that for around 340 years (until 1882) there was no monastic community present at Buckfast.

The Methodist Chapel standing in the middle of the current Abbey site was erected in 1881. It may now look rather incongruous in its surroundings, but it stood by the main road when it was built.

Buckfast Methodist Church

Buckfast Methodist Church. A joint Methodist-Anglican service is held at 3pm on Sundays.

After lunch in The Grange Restaurant it was a short walk into Buckfastleigh. It’s a well-kept, albeit a rather sleepy place – there was almost no-one around this afternoon with many of the shops closed.

Fore Street, Buckfastleigh

Fore Street, Buckfastleigh

However excitement may be on its way. I see from the Town Council notice board that a by-election is in the offing if the current vacancy for a Councillor is contested.

The Globe Inn, Buckfastleigh

The Globe Inn, Buckfastleigh

Old Timmy’s Almanac 2018

It’s that time of year when I wipe the Christmas pudding from my crystal ball, stare hard into the tea leaves and look up at the stars, to bring you the predictions that will shape 2018. Old Timmy’s Almanac will guide your way through the darkness. Or not.


After Storm Dylan fails to deposit much needed carrots over the Northern half of the country, storm Ermintrude arrives. Six foot high cheese-drifts appear on the M25, causing traffic to flow only a little more slowly than usual.


Theresa May’s government wins a vote in the House of Commons to ban beard and sandal wearing by 310 votes to 13. All 12 Liberal Democrat MPs plus Caroline Lucas vote against the measure. A newly clean-shaven Jeremy Corbyn argues that his principled decision to whip Labour MPs to abstain is simply another example of him playing the long game.


A snap general election is called, with polling day set for Thursday 29th March. After a campaign that sees former UKIP leader Nigel Farage being defeated in his ambition to become an MP for the 8th time, he accepts a peerage. The House of Lords votes to abolish itself before he can take his seat. In the Commons no seats change hands apart from Sheffield Hallam, which is won by the independent ‘We’re really, really sorry Nick’ candidate.


The Daily Mail finally finds a replacement columnist for Katie Hopkins. However after only three days working for the paper her replacement, Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout, resigns. In an interview with Graham Norton, Zebedee says that he should have listened to Dylan after all.


Derby County win the Championship by one point, thrashing Barnsley 8-1 in their final game. Nottingham Forest finish bottom, three points adrift of Sunderland and Birmingham. The city rejoices. Owner Mel Morris immediately sacks manager Gary Rowett for not playing in ‘The Derby County Way™’ and failing to crush the hopes of their fans during the second half of the season.


In a surprise move, Chris Grayling, secretary of state for transport, bans all cars that are not genuine Lotus or Caterham 7s from the roads for the entire summer. Caravan owners are seen weeping at the roadside.

Lotus and Caterham 7 ownership soars

Lotus and Caterham 7 ownership soars


US president Donald Trump is impeached. He immediately takes to twitter to complain that he is allergic to peaches and would prefer a banana instead. A small army of Minions led by Kevin and Bob are seen leaving the White House, bananas in hand, heading in the general direction of North East Somerset.


Arsene Wenger is appointed manager of Derby County. The first three games of the new season are all lost, with the worst being a 7-0 thrashing at Leicester City. Arsene Wenger says that he is content, as he is simply playing the long game.


A newly introduced tax on disposable coffee cups is hastily rescinded when people realise that most of the taste of their favourite high street brands comes from the cardboard the cups are made from.


Having lost all of their games of the new Premiership season up to this point, Derby County finally get a 9-8 win at home against Manchester United. Mel Morris immediately sacks Arsene Wenger for failing to adhere to the tenets of entertainment as set out in ‘The Derby County Way™’, page 94.


The eagerly anticipated John Lewis Christmas advertisement is aired for the first time. In a break with tradition, it consists solely of a cute cat holding up a sign that reads “Buy more stuff”. Sales rise 150%. Marketing gurus praise its “minimalist but honest” style.


Theresa May’s government calls another snap general election, with polling day set for Thursday 27th December. Vince Cable adapts the John Lewis Christmas advertisement, using a camel wearing a fedora holding up a sign that reads “Vote for Vince”. Liberal Democrats win 450 seats, with the Labour party being reduced to just two – Islington North and Bolsover. In an interview with John Humphrys, Jeremy Corbyn claims that by playing the long game at this election he will be Prime Minister by Christmas.

Derby in 1950 – according to the AA Road Book

This map and description of Derby in 1950 is taken from the AA’s Road Book of England and Wales. Much remains familiar. The Cathedral, Bridge Chapel, Art Gallery, Library and Museum (still boasting a Bonnie Prince Charlie room) are open for visitors. County cricket continues at the Race Course Ground. Royal Crown Derby will definitely welcome you, but there’s no need to apply by post in advance. Engineering is still a core activity, even though the Brexit the city voted for may put it in jeopardy.

Map of Derby UK, 1950.

But much has changed. County Hall relocated to Matlock in the mid 1950s. Derby became a city in 1977. St Alkmunds was demolished to make way for the Inner Ring Road in 1967 and rebuilt a few hundred yards away as a striking example of modern architecture. The railway stations at Friar Gate and near Chester Green are long closed. The A52 dual carriageway, the 1968 absorption of Spondon into Derby’s boundary and the creation of Oakwood have moved the city’s centre of gravity North-Eastwards. The locomotive works are now the site of the Pride Park industrial area, Wyvern retail park as well as being the home of Derby County.

Thank Trump or tackle homelessness this Christmas?

I received two Christmas messages from political campaigners yesterday. The first was from a right-wing US website. I have no idea how I ended up on their mailing list. I’ve tried to unsubscribe many times without success. Their endless stream of nonsense is now fed directly into my junk email folder.

The Christmas mailing asked me to thank Donald Trump for fulfilling 150 campaign promises by choosing one of “… six beautiful digital cards you can personalize and send to the president without cost … to counteract the constant attacks on his policies, his character and his dedication to putting America’s interests first.”

The second message came from Vince Cable. In it he asked us to do something to support a local charity tackling homelessness this Christmas. In Derby, the Padley Group have helped people with a range of issues including homelessness, debt and destitution, drugs, alcohol, mental health issues, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, severe autism and long-term unemployment since 1985. It’s challenging to maintain services when £250,000 in local and central government grants have been removed.

However, they’re trying hard to attract new supporters to their Padley 4000 scheme which you can subscribe to for £2 a month – less than the price of a cup of coffee. They’ve asked their existing supporters to publicise the scheme this Christmas. If you are local to Derby, please think about joining it. There are also opportunities to volunteer if you’d prefer to donate your time.


A Happy Christmas and peaceful new year to you all.

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