Dear Mr. Bean …

Dear Martin,

I can understand why the Open University and you specifically are welcoming the Browne review. It appears, quite rightly, to put part-time degree study on a level playing field with full-time study. For those of us who are OU students or thinking about study with the OU, this ought to be welcome news.

But what will the “level playing field” really mean to students? My concern is that it will inevitably involve students paying far higher fees in the long-term for an OU education. You’ve been remarkably silent about this in the statement put out by your press team and also in the media interviews I’ve heard you conduct today.

What I and many other OU students want to know from you as a matter of urgency is an indication of what your plans for fees are in the medium term. I appreciate this may be difficult to do before the October 20th comprehensive spending review announcements, but a direction of travel now and some more considered guidance after October 20th would be very welcome indeed.

To be absolutely direct,  is the OU intending to raise fees to £3,000+ for a typical 60 credit undergraduate module – the equivalent of half a year’s study at a brick university? If you are, then I guess that’s understandable given the way in which ELQ funding was slashed under the previous government and the unwillingness of the current coalition to see universities as a collective investment in our future prosperity as a nation. On the other hand, if you’re not intending to raise fees to this level, then I think you ought to be making a virtue of not only the flexibility that OU study provides to its students, but that in these stressed economic times it makes sense for more students to consider following the OU route, whatever their age.

You see, without this vital piece of information from you, I think it is perhaps just a little bit too early for the self-congratulatory tone of the statements you’ve made today welcoming the Browne report.

I look forward to your response.


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Reader Comments

  1. Arnold

    As you say, whilst we’d like a level playing field it would be a terrible shame if it were levelled up in terms of cost to the student. I suspect a move to £3000-odd from the more typical £650 would finish off the OU. In the case of the OU it’s also worth comparing the growing number of serious universities offering their courses online: some of the American universities set their charges at a similar level.

    Interestingly, the OU’s sister institution the Open College of the Arts charges around £15 per point (with no ELQ issues affecting it) compared to the OU’s subsidised £11 or so per point.

    Of course, there’s also the problem that if payment starts when one gets more than £20k income, does that mean you’d be paying right along if you were working and doing the degree part-time?

  2. Emma


    Very good points you make, I also wondered if you were working & obtained a loan wouldn’t you be charged interest straight away instead of the OUSBA account where the interest has always seemed very low, the final amount paid isn’t that far off the actual price when you pay initially in full. I hope you get a response & print it here.

    DD307 next year? Our paths may cross there, best of luck for DD303 I have that entire delight to come!


  3. tim

    Hi Arnold, Emma;

    I’ve given up trying to find an electronic means of communicating with the VC (am I the only one who finds it shocking and unacceptable that at a distance learning university, the VC has no publicly published email address or an internal one on FirstClass?) and so the above article is winging its way by snail-mail to him at the OU. Even tweeting at @OpenUniversity didn’t provoke a response (though several people in Milton Keynes have read this post …)

    If I do receive a reply, I will publish it here of course – or the OU can comment directly instead, if Mr. Bean can work out how to use modern communication methods 😉

    I’m looking forward to DD307 next year so I hope to see you (virtually) there. Some of the forum postings have been pretty lively, very unlike (most of) what I’ve seen on the DD303 forums this year.


  4. Arnold

    He does have an email and he does reply to the emails too (sent him one about a year ago and received a reply in a matter of days). Can’t find it right now due to change of computer but it was quoted on one of the science forums.

  5. Suzanne

    Hi Tim,

    I was given this email address by his secretary today:

    vice-chancellor [at symbol]

    Haven’t tried it yet but I am composing a complaint to submit. I am infuriated, gobsmacked actually, that the OU could endorse the Browne Report without considering all the implications and without a formal debate involving current students. What right has Martin Bean to decide to abandon the very principles the OU was built on? If these changes are implemented then the OU community will be a very different one. Suzanne Sunfield

    • tim

      Thanks Suzanne.

      I won’t be using it this time as my post has already gone by letter to him. As I said in it, I understand why Browne ought to be good news for the OU and its students – however, I’m afraid the bad news of potential (probable?) eye-watering fee increases will outweigh any good in it.


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