No more social science masters programmes to be offered by the OU for “the foreseeable future”

I received the following email earlier on this week from the OU. It was in response to my many enquiries over the last year about their social science masters programmes – specifically those in psychology. Sadly, it looks as if around 8,000* potential students each year really are going to have to find somewhere else to study if they want to pursue a masters in social science by distance learning.

Dear Tim

Thank you for your email

This message covers your reply to <name redacted> and also the phone message
that was passed here to the Yorkshire Region.

Unfortunately all of the OU's social science masters programmes have been
withdrawn as a result of the removal of government funding from this area
of study. Unless that funding is restored (unlikely!) the programmes will
remain closed for the foreseeable future.

We are only able to advise potential masters students to look at other
universities for their further study.

Best Wishes

<name redacted>

Regional Advisory Team 

The Open University in Yorkshire

That looks pretty final to me. It’s interesting that the OU attributes the cause of their demise to removal of funding by the government (and so by implication is saying that it would like to run them), yet my MP attributes their demise to the freedom that the OU has to run the courses it chooses to.

Having sighed philosophically and done a little more research, there seems to be 72 distance learning masters courses which have significant psychological content that are run by UK HE institutions. Some of them (despite calling themselves masters courses) are at an equivalent level of study to the OU BSc and so are of no use to me. I’m touching wood while I’m writing this of course, as the DD307 exam and SD226 EMA results aren’t out until mid-December. For example, such a qualification is about to be offered by Derby University. Four more of the courses listed (bizarrely and frustratingly) are the (now) non-existent OU masters courses. Only another 67 to assess … but it doesn’t look very positive.

I’m really not sure what to do next. The OU senior management hide behind their call centre in Yorkshire. My MP says it’s wonderful that universities can make choices for themselves to run courses for which the government has cut funding. None of this helps me – or any other potential student.

To be honest, I really don’t think anyone cares all that much.



(*) According to their 2009-10 facts and figures, the OU catered for just under 15,000 taught postgraduate students that year. I seem to recall reading that the number of those on social sciences courses, including psychology, was around the 8,000 mark. If anyone can provide me a link to this information, I’d be very grateful. I’m sure I didn’t dream it, but I can’t find the source!

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Reader Comments

  1. Me

    A couple of years ago, the OU claimed that Master programmes wouldn’t be affected by the funding cuts as they were not covered by government funding in the first place. Now they claim that they can’t return them because of the cuts. Can anyone tell me who is really saying the truth?

  2. Glynis Freeman

    The OU did say that Masters programmes wouldn’t be affected. To date they have still not reinstated them, but they do seem have almost finished creating another free courses website (in addition to OpenLearn). That must be costing them money. I also wonder how much money they have lost to date in their refusal to teach post grad social sciences masters. As an aside, I have also noted that the University of Bedfordshire MSc Health Psychology has gone from £3,000 to £9,000, whereas most other universities are offering that course for between £3,000 and £6,000. I wonder how the university of Bedfordshire justified such an increase. So, my two favoured universities don’t appear to want me. I can’t afford to pay £9,000, and if I could I still don’t think I would pay it. It’s a one year course, after all.

    • tim

      Hi Glynis,

      It’s incredibly frustrating I know. The Masters I’ve got an offer of a place at (Leicester) was just over £8.5k last year – I’m expecting it to be nearer to £9k this year. I’d be able to split the costs over 2 years as its part-time (so around £4.5k/year), but even so it’s a lot of money and I would have much preferred to stay with the OU. I’m hoping that my employer will be feeling benevolent and pay for some of it. They were very supportive through the BSc, but have seemed less keen on the MSc to date as it isn’t strictly relevant to what I’m employed to do!

      I hope something turns up for you.


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