Young Students by the Thousand Turn to the Open University
The number of young people learning with the Open University has almost doubled
in five years according to new figures that show one in every 12 OU students
is 24 or younger.
The number of OU undergraduate students aged under 24 in the UK has risen from
5,894 in 1996/97 to 11,360 in 2000/01 – about the total number of students at
many other UK universities. In 1996/97 students in this age group represented
5.3 per cent of the total number of OU undergraduate students; the figure for
2000/01 was 8.5 per cent.
The rise in the number of Open University students aged 21 or under is even
more striking; it has risen from 1,543 (about one per cent of the OU student
body) in 1996/97 to 4,313 (about three per cent) in 2000/01.
Younger students are turning to study at the university for three main reasons,
says Professor Allan Cochrane, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students, Quality and Standards).
"We’re finding that the cost of going to other universities is putting
people off and they are turning to the OU instead. When you consider that OU
students do not have to find the money to live away from home and that our fees
are significantly lower, it is not altogether surprising.
"Secondly, an increasing number of people do not want to study for three
years before embarking on a career. They want to be able to combine starting
a career and studying as soon as they finish school – something they can do
if they work and take Open University courses. "Some of our students have
come to the OU having tried studying at other universities, where they have
found the lifestyle, including the lack of a strong work ethic that some of
them perceive, not for them. Studying with the OU allows them to work at their
Two-thirds of the students aged 21 and under are women. Of all students aged
21 and under who join the OU for undergraduate study, almost half (46 per cent)
of those who do not already have a first degree have qualifications that could
take them into a conventional university, if they wished.
"We have also found that we are attracting the kind of students that the
Government wants to bring into higher education to widen participation, for
example members of minority ethnic groups and members of lower socio-economic
groups," adds Professor Cochrane. Government education ministers have made
public their target of attracting 50 per cent of young people into higher education
by the end of the decade.
The Open University is Britain’s largest and most innovative university, with
more than 220,000 students and customers in 1999/2000. A total of 22 per cent
of all part-time higher education students in the UK study with the Open University.
There are no entry qualifications to the university’s undergraduate courses.
Information about case studies of younger Open University students and graduates
is available from Neil Coaten, media relations officer, on 01908 652580.
Neil Coaten Open University Media Relations 01908 652580