Sunday, 29 July 2012

No longer Educating Rita

Well, the news round here is, the sparkle's dropped off the Open University.

We once thought the OU might be a viable route for Shark, Squirrel, or Tiger. I'm sure I recall that you could combine short study, single modules and a variety of courses to put together an impressive CV of wide learning thanks to the OU. With their help a woman could totally bypass the conveyor belts of school certificates and GCSEs without harm or hindrance to her future employment or that PhD she yearned for in astrophysics.

Once, maybe lost in the mists of mythologies, wasn't the OU also about offering alternative educational opportunities? Choices? Routes into learning? Second chances? Especially to those people who never got on with school?

These days it's all about grabbing the market for first students completing a single degree. So we're looking around at higher educational opportunities and we see the OU is just another competitor in the global learning products and services industry, assessing its worth and standing via the international finance league tables.

What a let down. Last year the management sent out press releases congratulating themselves for putting up tuition fees to a mere £5,000 rather than the (now standard) £9,000. Yes! At last! Now you can pay thousands more than ever before!

But there was, wasn't there? A time when the OU genuinely aspired to be open? How it had socially benevolent ideals? Devoted to life-long learning before those words became empty eduspeak, didn't it attract scholars engaged in groundbreaking academic research, promoting equal access?

I'm sure I'm not imagining how it quickly gathered a reputation for a passion of learning; a place where you could go to rewrite educational wrongs, put yourself in the place you should have been after school set you off all wrong.

How noble that must have been!

Pooh. Now add the OU to the list of education businesses. Where the OU once created academic excellence, now it re-packages online distance-learning courses devised by administrators. Led by people who have impressed the world - not with their scholarship, pursuit of academic research, nor their contribution to human knowledge and inquiry - but by their careers in Microsoft, Marketing and Middle Management.

You don't have to look much further than the point when the OU appointed a Vice Chancellor who was a former General Manager flogging Microsoft's education products. That was a decision which spoke volumes about how the university saw its place in the future.

Well that's the soap box for today. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, unaware of society's fine educational ideals or the betrayals that can sour an allegiance, remain indifferent towards the OU. Shark says she's going to Southampton. I say at least on that score, the OU can breathe a sigh of relief. Shark eyes Squirrel a little dangerously when she pips up that if Southampton has a geology department that takes field trips to the Philippines, she might consider them. Tiger says she's going to take an art course, and as far as she's concerned, the OU's not in the running.

Sign the petition. The Guardian 


Maire said...

We may be lucky and just sneak in as Beth did an openings photography course last year but it is a very sad situation. I did my own degree with the Open Uni and as a grumpy hard to satisfy customer I have nothing but praise for them. But to confirm your take we have had two cold calls from an outside organisation hired to chase up registrations in the last few days, it is it seems all about money.

Katie Pybus said...

A local family to us are using OU - might be of interest