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withdrawn as a result of the removal of government funding from this area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!

A small update on the future of the OU social science masters qualifications

It appears that the OU Social Science Faculty has recently (on 19th January if the footer on their webpage is correct) updated the information on the status of OU social science masters courses. Unfortunately, it’s not really very informative. The Faculty now says:

Although the Faculty firmly intends to re-launch a postgraduate curriculum in the future, it is not possible to give any further information at present.

While┬áit’s slightly more encouraging than the previous bleak statement about the withdrawal of all masters courses after the May 2011 intake, it still leaves prospective OU students with more questions than answers.

Update – 24th January 2011:

There’s also a bit more news today from the @fourinten twitter feed (which is part of the campaign on part-time study being run by the OU) – they say:

@psychotimmy @Cazzdevil good morning both, we’ve checked with the OU and a new set of social science postgrad courses have academic approval

@psychotimmy @Cazzdevil but they are under review following the Browne Review, this finishes after April when they’ll announce the outcome

So it looks as if there will be some more news on the OU postgraduate programme (which may be good or bad) later on this spring.