News from the OU about postgraduate psychology provision

… has just arrived in my inbox from the Faculty of Social Sciences. It confirms what I’d been told by the Yorkshire region a few weeks ago, with the merest hint that something may be resolved in time for late 2012. The email is reproduced below, with my thoughts in italics.

Dear Tim Holyoake

I understand from PGSS colleagues in Region 07 that you have enquired about studying psychology at postgraduate level with the OU/Faculty of Social Sciences. I note from your academic record that you have recently achieved a first class honours degree in psychology with us. Warmest congratulations – this is a splendid achievement!

Thank you!

As you will be aware, the Faculty of Social Sciences has taken the difficult decision to withdraw its current postgraduate qualifications. This is due to the significant cuts in government funding of higher education institutions, as a consequence of which, it is no longer possible for the Faculty to sustain the number and diversity of its existing postgraduate modules and qualifications.

But the Browne review specifically excluded postgraduate study and funding from its remit. So this statement would seem to suggest a number of  concerns that the OU might have – such as the demand for postgraduate courses declining rapidly due to their potentially being far fewer graduates in future or the expectation that graduates will increasingly regard postgraduate study as unaffordable if they are worried about paying off loans incurred through undergraduate study. Either that or it’s simply a false statement – and frankly, I’m inclined to believe the OU on this rather than the politicians.

This ‘crossroads moment’ has afforded the Open University as a whole an opportunity to undertake a wide-ranging review of its postgraduate teaching and curricula.

I understand the need to review provision, but I think that most students were under the impression that this review was due to be completed in mid 2011, not sometime in 2012. The OU is about to lose a whole cohort – and possibly two or three cohorts – of suitably qualified graduates who would otherwise have gone on to postgraduate study with them. I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of the first students through a brand-new set of postgraduate modules!

As you can appreciate, all Universities need to refresh and renew their academic programmes in order to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world with ever-increasing demands for a more sophisticated and highly skilled workforce.


The University-wide review of postgraduate teaching is due to conclude in 2012. The Faculty is therefore not able to provide details of any future postgraduate programme at this time but we will publish information on our websites and when our plans are confirmed.

So no change from the situation of almost a year ago – except an apparent delay in the university-wide review of at least six months and probably longer?

I appreciate that this uncertainty makes planning further study with us somewhat tentative but would like to take this opportunity to wish you well with any future studies that you may undertake wherever this may be.

“Wherever” is the right word! It’s not only the OU which appears to be affected by the way in which HE provision has been mishandled by the current government. However, I’m still thinking that Leicester looks like a good option for me.

Kind regards

Hilary Canneaux

Senior Manager, Taught Postgraduate Studies

Faculty of Social Sciences

Thank you for taking the time to write to me Hilary. It’s not exactly the Christmas present I was hoping for, but at least it’s a clear confirmation of what I already understood to be the case.

So – one final thought – sign the petition if you haven’t done so already and are a UK resident. Please.

Fun with post-nominals

One of the entitlements a degree gives you is the ability to use post-nominals after your name. In the case of my recent Open University degree an email I’ve received today tells me that once the degree is conferred on me (31st December) and I have received my certificate, I will be able to put BSc (Hons) Psych (Open) after my name.

Except, of course, that very few people do so – especially if they have other post-nominals from other academic study and professional memberships. It would just make the whole process of writing your name too long and tedious.

The use of post-nominals (or not) also seems to be profession dependent and country dependent too. Apparently Americans only ever go for a single set of post-nominals and the ones they use are meant to be the ones which are most appropriate for a specific situation. We British apparently go in for not only lots and lots of post-nominals if we have them, but also lots of flowery stuff before our names too (such as His Excellency, the Right Honourable Dr. … etc.)

Debrett’s provides advice which includes the statement:


Other degrees [anything that is not a DD, MD, MS, BD, MB, BS, LLD or DSC, or Dr. before your name] are seldom used in social correspondence, and BA and MA are never used in social correspondence, but they may be included in a formal list.

No mention of what to do with a BSc at all, but I suspect this advice was written for an American audience. Personally, the only time I’ve ever used my other BSc post-nominals (or BSc (Hons) CompSci (Warw) to use its official designation) has been tongue-in-cheek on Christmas or Birthday cards sent to my friends from Warwick University! In other words, on social correspondence. What do Debrett’s know anyway?

Oxford University offer slightly different advice about the use of post-nominals for academic degrees in their media guidance. They make the point that degrees should always be written without points – i.e. BSc or BA, rather than B.Sc. or B.A. They also say that (Hons) and the subject – e.g. Psych or CompSci should not be used and so my first degree should be written as BSc (Warw). Helpfully, they also provide a list of official abbreviations for British and Irish Universities – e.g. Warwick is Warw, Oxford is Oxf. The Open University (to give its correct title) does not have an abbreviation listed, so the rule: “names are to be given in full for universities not in this list” would therefore appear to apply. So my new degree should be written as BSc (The Open University) according to this guidance, rather than BSc (Open). I think I’ll stick with “Open”, however!

Now, if I want to use both my Warwick and OU degrees together, they say that “same-level degrees will be arranged in sets and in alphabetical order of the name of the university“, so that would make me BSc (Open), BSc (Warw).

I also have some professional post-nominals to add. I am currently a MBCS and CITP and according to an email I received yesterday, I should be elected as an MBPsS on Monday. Oxford’s guidance on this is that these should “be included”. Debrett’s says that these should come after the degrees, but provides no clue as to order – but does suggest that which ones are used should be situation dependent. I think if I’m going to put everything down in full, I’ll go for MBPsS MBCS CITP as it looks neater!

So there we are. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll formally be Tim Holyoake BSc(Open) BSc (Warw) MBPsS MBCS CITP Esq. I get the Esq. too because I’m a man. Take that, Chodorow! But with the exception of my CV and Linkedin profile (and the odd Christmas and Birthday card) you won’t find me using them in public in any combination. And certainly never all together!

I haven’t changed – but if any commercial or government organisation really, really upsets me (and I’m thinking of you NS&I, Barclays and East Midlands Airport to name but three), I’m going to demand that they put all of those post-nominals into my ‘name’ field on their database. It will serve them right. Just imagine how much hassle it will be for them to accommodate my request if they’ve had particular software providers I could name (but won’t) setting up their systems for them …


Open University petition reaches the top 10

41,500 signatures and climbing.

Marianne Cantieri, OUSA President said “I am proud of what our students have achieved already. There are a very large number of petitions on the Parliamentary website … and for this petition to reach the top ten in such a short space of time is fantastic news.”

If you want to see the Open University remain truly open, please sign if you haven’t done so already and spread the word to your friends.


First Class!

It’s been quite a day!

I’d woken up at around 6.30 this morning and the first thing I did (after giving Jane a kiss, of course!) was to check my StudentHome page. iPads are wonderful for furtive internet browsing in bed while still half asleep. No change. So I’d started to get up to go swimming and noticed that someone had posted a message on the DD307 facebook forum – RESULTS ARE IN!

Heart in mouth moment. I made sure that nothing breakable or valuable was nearby. I checked – and sure enough, just after 7am this morning I had my results.

A distinction for SD226 and a pass 2 for DD307. Yay!

Just now (at 18:16:04 to be precise) I’ve also been able to accept my degree. A first class honours in psychology. A great end to my five year journey with the OU. That sounds a bit Star Trek, doesn’t it? Sorry!

I rarely get over emotional, but accepting my qualification has made my day.

Thank you to everyone who’s sent me a message of congratulations. They’ve made me even more emotional. I had no idea before I started with the OU quite how challenging the process of part-time study for a social science degree was going to be. If I’d have known, I might not have bothered and stuck in my computing and science comfort zone instead! But I’m so pleased that I didn’t.

My congratulations to you if you’re celebrating success too. I also know that some of my OU friends may be disappointed with their results. If you are, you have my best wishes. I hope you recover from your disappointment quickly and are able to move on.

So that’s it – nearly. I still have a graduation ceremony to book and attend and a decision to make on what, where and when I study next. I’d have loved to have gone on with the OU but sadly that’s not possible. Sign the petition if you haven’t done so already!

Congratulations to us all!

Open University epetition reaches 20,000 signatures

Wow. When I signed the petition a couple of days ago, it had a few hundred signatures on it. It’s put on another few thousand today, presumably in response to messages circulating on the usual social networking sites and this email, sent by Marianne Cantieri, OUSA President, to all current OU students this morning.

Dear Tim

We don’t send many communications direct to your mailbox since we’re only too well aware of the frustrations of spamming. However we hope you’ll agree that we made the right decision on this occasion since literally a couple of minutes of your time could help to save everything we hold most dear about our University.

You will be well aware of the UK government’s proposals to make massive cuts to public funding for Higher Ed and to shift a lot of the costs onto the shoulders of students. The changes will affect different sections of our student membership in different ways depending on where they live and what they are studying. The OU is providing lots of detailed information for students and we’ve given the web link to their fees information below.

However, we are writing to you about something that affects all of our students wherever they live and whatever they are studying – and that we believe all of our students really care about – keeping our University truly open!

We are supporting a petition on the UK Parliamentary website. If we can get 100,000 signatures we have a chance of forcing a debate in Parliament which might provide us with a real turning point in the fight to ensure that our University can go on providing life-changing opportunities to those who need them the most.

Please give us your support by a) signing the petition yourself by following the link below b) passing on the link to any friends and family members who you think might also want to make a contribution to supporting this fantastic institution.

Marianne Cantieri
OUSA President

Related links:

The Petition:

More OUSA information:

OU Fees information:

Only another 80,000 required – and it may be debated. Gaining 100,000 signatures in itself, as Marianne points out, doesn’t automatically mean that a debate has to be scheduled – there is some wriggle room for the government (click the ‘i’ icon next to the final step for a more detailed explanation of the epetition rules).

However, let’s not worry about that for the moment … please sign the petition!