Tuesday, 15 July 2008

OU Students Likely To Be Disadvantaged

I sometimes wonder what planet our politicians, especially this government, are on, as they seem to be living in a totally different one to me. Some months ago it was announced that government funding would no longer be given to universities for students who were studying for an equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) than one that they already held. The Open University was particularly concerned about this because many of its students do indeed fall into this category and they felt that if their funding was cut then the cost of OU courses would have to go up. Because of this they started a petition to 10 Downing Street expressing concern about these plans and as both a graduate and a present student of the OU I was more than happy to put my name to this petition.

Today I have received an email from 10 Downing Street, as will all the thousands of others who signed the petition, linking me to the Government's response to this petition.

It seems that our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the Government is hell-bent on making things as difficult as possible for OU students, which is rather sad as Labour were responsible for bringing the OU into existence in the first place. The Government's argument that it will allow more students to receive funding support for their courses (ie lower course fees) is undoubtedly flawed, for how can they guarantee that the funding will indeed go where it is intended. There are apparently something like 6 million adults in this country who have A-Levels or their equivalent but have not got higher qualifications and the reply says that they should be the ones to receive the support that this change in funding will allow. It believes that this will allow a larger number of mature part-time students to be supported. I think that they are wrong.

I had no A-Level equivalent qualifications when I began studying for a degree. In fact, that is one of the major benefits of studying with the OU, there are no significant educational requirements needed for you to become a student. Another benefit is that its courses and qualifications are structured to allow their students to continue working at their full-time job while studying for a degree, and that is what I did.

One of the reasons that the OU has so many successful graduates each year is because it offers a cost-effective way of gaining a third-level qualification. However, this change in funding probably means that it is going to be more difficult for me to continue studying with the OU. I am unable to work at the present time because of the depression and anxiety from which I suffer. Unfortunately I can't get any support in the form of benefit payments because I receive payments from pensions that I paid into, and widow's pensions in respect of my husband, that put my income above the level at which benefits can be paid, but are low enough to mean that I am one of the people who have been adversely affected by the removal of the 10p tax rate.

I worked for more than 30 years for this country, two thirds of the time as a member of the Armed Forces, but now I find that this country is doing nothing for me. I suffer from ill-health through no fault of my own, and the one thing that helps to maintain my sanity is likely to become priced beyond my reach. When will this government stop meddling in things that work well?


Lemon said...

This is terrible.

The OU's been a lifesaver for me.

This is the same nulabour who introduced top up fees after vowing not to do so. Apparently education should be the privilege of the rich.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for welcoming me to the blogosphere.

I enjoyed this post as I've always been fascinated by the OU, its students and how it works (not to mention deeply impressed at the self-discipline it must take to take OU qualifications).

Governmental meddling - twas ever thus. So frustrating.

Dr Aust said...

How depressing to hear that they are buggering around with one of the greatest achievements of the best Labour prime minister since Clement Attlee (the late Harold Wilson).

My dad was both a Wilson-ite (and unsuccessful Labour parliamentary candidate in the 60s) and one of the founding Professors of the OU. He isn't happy either.

If the Govt REALLY believe so much in mass higher ed, why don't they fund everyone? I find it difficult to believe it would cost them that much. And I reckon people who do, say, 10 or more years in the Forces should be entitled to free University tuition.

Elaine said...

I am behind you (and the OU) 100% on this. It is quite disgraceful. This government has succeeded in alienating the medical and allied professions, the teaching profession, the police to name only three - rather large - groups of citizens. They know that they will be voted out at the next general election and seem hell bent on making things as bad as possible before they go.