My Experience Studying With Open University

Law is something that has always fascinated me but leaving school at 16 with no A-Levels, going onto study it at University wasn’t really an option for me unless I wanted to quit work and study full-time.  So, when I came across Open University I was thrilled to learn they took on students without A-Levels and offered part-time, distance learning that meant I could continue working full-time while studying.

I now study law full time at a ‘brick university’ (i.e. a normal university) after falling in love with the subject and wishing to complete my qualification sooner rather than later.

I’ve seen quite a few people online ask questions about Open Uni and the courses so thought it might prove useful for some people if I wrote about my experience.  

What subjects are available?

There are tonnes of subjects available to study at Open University (a full list can be seen here).  I’ve seen a lot of people ask if they are ‘real degrees’ and yes they are just the same degrees as a normal brick university would award you.  The only thing I would point out for potential law students is that the only qualifying Law Degree is the Bachelor of Laws, other courses such as Criminology with Law, won’t allow you to carry on to the LPC.

Can I get a loan to pay for my degree?  Am I eligible for a maintenance loan?

If you study with Open University, either part-time or full-time,  you aren’t eligible for a maintenance loan.  This was fine when I was studying part-time as I was able to continue with my full-time job, but staying in full-time employment isn’t something I want to do while studying full-time.  Hence why the maintenance loan is pretty important to me.

Otherwise, the Open University is funded exactly the same as any other university, via Student Finance, so that aspect of it is easy (although applying for Student Finance often feels more difficult than my actual degree).

Will all my studies be done online?  Do I need to attend university for anything?

All of my studies were at home and completely online.  I received no paper materials but I know that some subjects get books and paper material delivered in the post to accompany the online material.

As for attending university, I wasn’t required to attend university at all during my first year but I did have the option to attend tutorials if I wanted too.  Stupidly, I never took advantage of these tutorials so I can’t comment on these but I’ve heard from fellow students that they’re worth attending.  If you have any exams you will need to go to a local exam centre but all of my assessment for this module was done via essays (also called TMA’s).  But if you’re unable to take the exam at a centre for medical reasons then the exam can be done in your own home and I believe one of the Open University exam invigilators will come out to you.

How much time do I need to commit to studying?

The Open University recommends 16-18 hours a week for part-time work (60 modules) or 32-36 hours a week hours for full-time (120 modules).  I studied 30 modules and managed easily while working a full-time job.

What kind of support will I get?

You will be assigned a ‘tutor’ at the beginning of your studies.  Your tutor will be the go-to person for any queries and questions regarding your course material.  They are also the person who marks your assignments.  Other than that you are pretty much left to your own devices, I’d recommend joining a Facebook group for your subject because that helps you feel more supported.

Would you recommend the Open University?

I think it would depend on your situation.  If you can’t afford to go to uni full-time, you’re a parent/carer or perhaps suffer from a disability/illness that would make a brick uni difficult, then yes, I would recommend the Open University.

If you were just leaving school and planning on going to University with none of the above affecting you then I would probably recommend you have a look around, see if a brick uni would be better suited for you.  As a young person, I felt the Open University could feel a bit ‘lonely’.  Since studying at a regular university I feel I have enjoyed the experience of studying much more. I think this is a mixture of the social aspect (i.e. making new friendships and attending freshers events etc.) along with more interactive study such as attending court, completing a Moot and listening to guest speakers.

I think Open University can be an incredible choice for people, depending on circumstances and ensuring research is done. 

My Top Tips for Studying With Open University

  1. Keep up with the module material.   Don’t let yourself fall behind if you can help it.
  2. Join the ‘Open University’ Facebook group and try and find a subject-specific Facebook group if you can (searching for your course on Facebook normally brings something up!).
  3. Don’t rely solely on course material.  As you would with any other university, have a look online and do extra reading.  I found YouTube really helpful if I couldn’t quite grasp a certain topic.  I also loved doing some extra reading (Letters to a Law Student is always a winner for law students!).
  4. Stay organised.  I used a combination of OneNote and handwritten notes when studying and both had their advantages and disadvantages.  It’s just about what works for you.
  5. Make use of the tutorials when offered.  I never did due to either being stuck at work or being lazy but I really regret it.  I’ve heard from other students that they’re worth attending and it’s all included in your fees so you might as well!
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