The end of the line for the OU Psychology Masters courses?

What a depressing thought that is.

When I set out studying psychology with the OU in 2007, my intention was that once I had my conversion diploma (or degree), it would act as a springboard into taking a leisurely canter through the OU MSc in psychological research methods, perhaps after a year or two break to do other things, while carrying on working at the same time.

However, that plan now looks like it will never come to fruition on the basis of the information in this message that has been posted onto the OU Social Science Faculty’s web pages in the last few days:

The Faculty of Social Sciences will not be presenting its postgraduate modules and qualifications after 2014. […] you will find details of the postgraduate modules and qualifications in Social Sciences that will be available to a final student intake in May 2011.

It’s undoubtably a decision that has been taken as a result of the savage cuts to higher education direct grant funding that the coalition government has chosen to make. (And it is an ideological choice, not a deficit cutting strategy, as I’ve blogged about before). As there are no loans available for higher degrees under the Browne proposals, it would be a huge financial gamble for institutions like the OU to carry on offering them and I don’t blame them for a single minute for taking this incredibly sad decision.

It really doesn’t look to me as if the OU is David Cameron’s favourite institution (except when he wishes to use it for electioneering purposes). It’s hard to believe that when he visited the OU in Milton Keynes in 2009 he said:

The Open University is a fantastic innovation that’s been copied worldwide and is a superb model of life-long learning

The likely closure of many masters programmes that the implementation of the Browne report will lead to suggests to me that the coalition government neither understands the concept of life-long learning, nor what motivates people to undertake part-time study.

I’m not really able to comment authoritatively on the impact the withdrawal of higher degree programmes will have on employment within the university sector. Presumably it will result in a negative outcome for teaching, research and support staff alike.

And if the best research and teaching staff do decide to go and work overseas, I would expect it to also have a negative impact on the teaching and quality of future undergraduate courses.

Still, there’s always great programmes to watch on the BBC instead of studying. Oh – wait a minute – they’re the next in line for the axe, aren’t they?

Reader Comments

  1. Stephen Lissenden

    This is sad and I just hope that, when the political climate changes, the damage to the higher education system can be repaired.

    Your point about understanding life-long learning is incisive. The Open University provides unparalleled support to people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances to educate themselves and the undermining of this institution impoverishes our society and hurts us all.

    Sad indeed.

  2. Emma

    Oh no! I had similar plans, I presume you can’t start our Masters until you have your degree! It would also be alot of money to find in a short amount of time, very sad for many. I have looked into different Master’s courses & a lot of other ‘brick’ unis offer them as distance learning, cost is a lot more though from when I enquired it was about £1500 more over the time than the OU.

    • tim

      Hi Emma,

      I don’t think there’s anything necessarily stopping people from starting an OU masters before they have their degree – I think some people are doing from what I read on the OU forums. However, it’s definitely not possible for me to start in May this year as I’m already doing DD307 and SD226 together as well as working! There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

      The real attraction of the OU masters qualification was the ability to do it 30 credits at a time (largely) – which is about the pace (and cost) I wanted to go at. All of the other distance learning courses that I’ve found in the UK so far seem to insist on you doing it over 2 years maximum. (If anyone out there knows differently I’d be really interested). I’m even thinking about looking at overseas universities and their distance learning courses – though they wouldn’t be much good if you were interested in (automatic) BPS recognition.

      So as I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do I’m going to do nothing for the moment and wait to see what comes out of the white paper. I want to see how successful the universities (particularly the OU) are in arguing their case. I’m not hopeful however.


  3. Emma

    I did DSE212, ED207 & Sd226 overalapping and pledged never again! 2 course seem very easy by comparison, I can’t see my managing DD303, DD307 & starting my Masters, tempted though! I found a uni with p/t Masters over 3 years but not distance learning, also in applying you need to have a research proposal as part of your application.

  4. Ruth

    Hi Tim
    I share your feelings about the O.U’s decision to stop the masters. I had wondered about starting an MSc with the O.U next year – I hadn’t made a firm decision but it looks as though it has been made for me. I think this is an appalling decision by the O.U. I suppose I could try to start the masters this year – but I didn’t want to overlap in that way. The more I hear about the consequences of education cuts the more angry I become about it.

    • tim

      Hi Ruth,

      I simply don’t fancy taking the risk of having to do the MSc as ‘continuous study’ now either. Miss a module for any reason (as I had to for personal reasons earlier on in the diploma/degree) then that’s tough – you can’t get it. You’ve wasted your time and money if the MSc (rather than experiencing the individual modules for their own sake) was your aim. Even if I wasn’t already doing 90 points this year(!), that in itself would be a pretty big reason not to do the current OU MSc at all as far as I’m concerned.

      Angry doesn’t fully describe how I feel about the coalition’s cuts to tertiary education. I want to do something constructive about fighting them, but I’m really not sure what to do.


  5. Katie Stanley

    Hi Tim,

    Most of the masters I’ve come across are over 2 years although they are only one day of actual lectures so that’s the route I think I am going down when I finish later this year. There is some funding for some of them (although more for the applied ones than for methods/research ones). Can appreciate your feelings though – there definitely needs to be more distance learning/spread the cost options for this sort of thing.


  6. Ruth O'Dell

    Now here’s a novel idea – if only all those big bonuses for bankers were redirected to compensate for the cuts to education funding.
    Somehow I don’t think that will happen…

  7. Jude

    So, I wanted to start this year June with courses going direction of Masters in Psychology; Will I get stuck at BSc Honours or will there be a way out to go on to Masters etc…


    • tim

      Hi Jude,

      The official OU position is stated here:

      I read it as saying that unless you start the current programme in May, complete it in the right order and undertake continuous study, then you won’t be able to qualify for the OU MSc psychology under the current scheme. As the webpage says, there’s still no news on any replacement scheme. Given the OU say continuous study is required for the current scheme, it suggests to me that any credits you earn on the existing MSc courses won’t be capable of transfer to the new either, should continuous study prove impossible for whatever reason.

      In case you’re interested, neither the vice-chancellor or Dean of Social Sciences have acknowledged or replied to letters I sent in mid-January about this, which is just downright rude.

      Good luck!

  8. Jude

    Where else would I be able to start an affordable Psychology study online? where I could also go on to my Masters.
    Do you have an Idea or any advice? Keep us posted as for when they come out of silence mode and send you a reply.

Your thoughts?