Studying with the OU


I recently completed a first year, 60 point, course with The Open University and to say that I struggled to fit it in with my work and other commitments would be somewhat of an understatement. I also struggled with justifying the cost and the rationale for embarking on the course in the first place. I wonder if the OU should put the word struggle in it’s moto.

‘The Open University – It’s quite a struggle really.’

I went to university at 18 but, for reasons I will delve into another time, I did not complete my studies and I dropped out in my second year. Since then, and regardless of the fact that I am doing OK with my career, I have always felt that having a degree would be something worthwhile. So I decided that I would embark on studies on a subject that is of interest to me, Psychology.

Psychology is not an area I work in, I work in IT, and although helpful when dealing with people it is going to take quite some time and investment to be competent to use any learnings in a professional capacity. So the fact is, I want the degree to feel better about myself and the subject I have chosen is purely because it interests me.

As such spending thousands of pounds and a lot of time on something that  is purely selfish was weighing on my mind all through the course. Especially since we have many other things we need to purchase (not least a house) and debts we have to clear.

Coupling the emotional guilt of doing something selfish with the fact that this thing involves making my brain do ‘thinking’ and involves me doing a lot of extra work when I already work, on average, 50-60 hours a week, I would have to be honest and say it was REALLY REALLY tough.

‘The Open University – It’s really, really tough fitting it all in.’

The Open University try to make it clear that the effort required is not small and provide study planners for you to understand the commitment you are undertaking. What you also need to consider though is that although you plan your studies around work you also need to factor in being a parent, having a poorly mother, needing to maintain your marriage, work suddenly deciding to up the ante and what ever else your life contains which is not constant.

This all looks obvious right? Well, I did not really consider it thoroughly enough because on top of all of the above I also quite like to sleep, eat, go to the loo occasionally. I also like binge watching TV and playing video games. None of which I can do if any down time from work, parenting, wife-ing and caring needs to be taken up with studying and essaying.

‘The Open University – Forget, relationships, relaxing and having fun!’

Additionally they do not let you jump into the good stuff immediately. I had to do a course on Social Science in general. The course covered psychology, sociology (which I failed at A Level), politics (which I failed at A Level) and economics. All subjects I enjoy at an armchair analysis level but find difficult to engage  in academically. So instead of studying the mind’s of serial killers, or the phenomenon within parapsychology I had to study sexism in sport, or the social divide due to economic class, or why big supermarkets hold so much power.

‘The Open University – We will teach you stuff you do not want to know.’

Also they teach you to write academically. This is quite different from writing in a work environment. It takes real effort to do and then people mark you on your effort and make your realise how pants you are at it.

‘The Open University – Forget thinking you are clever; you are deluded.’

So, I did not enjoy the experience. There I said it. It did not make me feel empowered and it did not help me to discover who I am, other than to perhaps reinforce that at heart I am a lazy sod.

I am now waiting to hear my results. The last assignment went in the other week and now there is quite a time to contemplate my navel before the pass / fail message will be delivered.

I have not signed up for the next course in the study route I want to take. This is because I really cannot spare the money. I also cannot spare the time but I will go back to it. I will get my degree. My tutor was fantastic, I have learn’t new stuff (even if I could have lived without some of it) and I can actually use the academic writing style in work to be more concise.

So all in all I think The Open University is great. I actually cannot wait to start a new course, but I have to, and I know I will get just as frustrated as before but I also know each annoyance is taking me a step closer to what I want.

‘The Open University – Annoyingly interesting, you’ll want to do more.’




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