Newest Review: ... it's not easy to complete the courses, especially as you have to motivate yourself, but the University provide a lot of support. ~Supp... more
Great choice if you'd like a degree whilst still working
Social Sciences At The Open University
Member Name: sbw80
Social Sciences At The Open University
Advantages: Great courses, great support, the livesaver that is the OUSBA
Disadvantages: Funding changes mean it will now be more expensive
I am currently about to start my last year of a BA/BSc (hons) Social science degree with the Open University. Five years and seven courses ago I made the decision to once again try for a degree as it is a requirement on most job specifications once you get past a certain level. As i couldn't afford to quit work and go back to university, the Open University was the best option for me and as you can get grant funding if it is your first degree it was a very cheap option compared to what student life today costs.
This is not a complete review of the Open University as it would be a massive document, rather this is based around the experience I have had so far and relates specifically to Social science courses.
~What is Social Science~
Social Science is a field of study concerning society and human behaviour and includes subjects such as psychology, sociology, social policy, criminology, geography, politics and economics. I choose this degree as it covers a wide area. I did want to study for a degree in psychology but thought this would have less transferable skills. I've studied how politics works, diversity and equality, the role of religion, statistics, research, ethics, budgets... the list goes on.
~Why the Open University~
For me it was the variety of choice available. I know that distance learning was my only option and from research I found the Open University excel at this and are really good in supporting their students. It also doesn't matter where you live, I've moved across the Country during my course and the University is really adaptable to this. Their course materials are great, innovate in some cases, and they do all that they can to make studying easier.
~How it works~
There are a number of courses available for each degree that you can choose from, broken down into three levels, where level one courses are the easiest and level three the most difficult. Each course as well as being in a particular level also awards a specific number of credits, either 15, 30, or 60. In order to complete a degree you need to gain 360 points where 60 credits must be from level one courses, 180 credits from level two and the remaining 120 credits from level 3. Still with me? For each course you are sent all the materials you need including text books, CD Roms, DVDs, etc, and all course material is available online (You can get your text books as pdf files which is great if you like ebboks). Each course has a certain number of assignments to complete (Called TMAs) and a final assignment or exam. Most assignments are submitted online. You are assigned a tutor for each course and some courses have regular tutorials where you get direct access to your tutor.
For my degree there are 5 courses to choose from at level one, 17 choices for level two and 12 courses available for level three. You're free to choose which courses you would like to study from the options provided as long as it makes up the credit required although some other degrees do have compulsory courses or courses that are not compatibly. The student home website does a very good job in helping you to understand how to put your degree together.
I've completed seven modules so far (With two left to go):
DD121 An Intro to Social Science Part 1 - This course has since been discontinued
DB 123 You and your money - I choose this as an alternative to An intro to Social Science Part 2 as I thought it might prove useful. The course provides a general understanding to the economy as well as how to manage your own budget and produce statistical information.
DD203 Power, dissent, equality - My favourite course to date. Provides a general understanding of politics.
AD232 Islam in the West - This course has since been discontinued
DSE 212 Exploring psychology - Provides theoretic and pratical knowledge of different aspects of psychology. Assignments include conducting an experiment which is pretty fun.
DSE 232 Applying Psychology - Probably the most difficult course I have completed even though it is only worth 15 credits. It involves a lot of online activity and is taught without direct access to a specific tutor.
DD306 Living political ideas - This course builds upon the knowledge of DD203 but allows you to understand what is politics in a more advanced way. The course takes an unusual CD ROM 'Room' approach rather than specific text books where to are left to your own learning. As it is a level 3 course a lot more is expected from you but a lot of the subject areas, such as animals in politics, violence and the role of religion, are very interesting.
I won't lie, it's not easy to complete the courses, especially as you have to motivate yourself, but the University provide a lot of support.
There is an amazing team of staff who do an excellent job of supporting you through the whole process of being a student with the university. You have tutors, religion support teams, finance advisors. Staff have gone out of their way to help me with medical difficulties during the last year (Although they keep sending me forms to apply for a disability grant which I can't apply for as I don't know what is wrong with me yet). Yes, a few tutors are not as helpful as they might be but they are the minority. Some of my tutors have been amazing. The Open University website is also brilliant. It's well designed and accessible. The student home site will become your best firend and has everything you need.
When my course is complete it will have cost me £2,721. Not bad considering it would cost me more than that for one year at university. The reason why the cost is so low is due to grant funding available. These funding options have changed since i started and as i started towards my degree before a set date the changes are not applicable to me. Tuition fees and the amount that the Open University charges have changeds considerably in the last 12 months due to government funding changes. The Open University website is very good at explaining all the options which are different based upon Country of residence, nationality, household income and level of education. There are a lot of variables that are considered and as i don't have personal experience of them i haven't listed them here so i would suggest visiting their website if you want to know more.
The OUSBA is the Open University Student Budget Account. In effect it is a loan company but one provided through the Open University and therefore has low interests and is a safe method to use. OUSBA pay your fees to the Open University and then you repay the amount back in monthly instalments during the course of the course. If you pay all of the fee before the start of the course you are changed no interest.
Here is an example from my account:
Course fee: £475
Interest rate: 5%
Interest paid: £8.98
Monthly Instalments: £61 (x7) and £56.98 (x1)
The OUSBA have its own website linked to your Open University account so that all your agreements, statements and an account summary are available. The staff are also really friendly by phone and are quick to respond to emails. I've never had a problem with them and would not have been able to do a degree without them.
Whilst you're a student with the university you can apply for an NUS extra card which gives you lots of student discounts. Even though you are technically not a full time student you can still get an ICIS (International student card) for an extra couple of pound and with this you can get a 16 - 25 railcard. I have one even though I am 32.
I could go on further though I doubt many people have read this far. In summary, I've had a great experience with the Open University even though I'll be glad when it's over. It's a shame that funding is no longer available to the same level it was a year ago and though I would recommend doing a degree this way to anyone I would investigate the changes to funding options further before starting.
Summary: A very great experience (Even if you do have to work for it)
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