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by Susan Stewart, The Open University (Scotland)
18 October 2022
Associate Feature: Delivering life changing education across Scotland

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Associate Feature: Delivering life changing education across Scotland

At The Open University in Scotland, we are proud to help people from all parts of society, to develop their knowledge, acquire new skills and achieve life-changing qualifications.

With 22,000 students and almost half a million informal learners, we connect with people in every parliamentary constituency, and in every corner of the country from Dumfries and Galloway to the Shetland Islands. This makes us the fourth largest university in Scotland and, with around three quarters of our students combining work and study, the largest provider of part-time higher education. 

Widening access to higher education is a key policy driver for the Scottish Government and it has long been at the heart of our work in Scotland. We are continually seeking new ways to match our core curriculum, offering short courses and free content on our OpenLearn site to the learning needs of people across Scotland.

We work collaboratively with businesses, local authorities, the NHS, social care, the third sector and trade unions to provide skills through multiple programmes driving economic recovery. Over 200 employers across Scotland sponsor Open University students. 85% of Open University graduates remain in the location where their study was taken, meaning this investment in talent and skills benefits local communities. 

The Open University has a diverse student body. 23% of our students are from rural and/or remote areas, 24% of our students declare themselves to have a disability and 20% of our new undergraduate students join without standard university entrance qualifications. We recruit as many students from the most deprived areas as the least deprived areas. 

The majority of our students study for free with a Part-Time Fee Grant and we offer a wide range of financial support options, such as discretionary funds for study related costs, a disabled students’ allowance, plus bursaries for our care-experienced students and those who are carers. Our students also have access to the confidential 24/7 online mental health support service Togetherall.

Our social mission is to make education open to all regardless of income or previous qualifications. It is important to us that our students know we are here 
for them during the cost-of-living crisis which is impacting heavily on students as borne out by recent research published by NUS Scotland. Our Student Support team are a welcoming friendly voice on the end of the phone, ready to listen and explore options to support our students to achieve their potential in these difficult circumstances. The OU in Scotland ranked joint first in Scotland for student satisfaction in the 2022 National Student Survey and I’m immensely proud of our Student Support Team and tutors whose work with our students contributed to this impact. 

The OU offers affordable, flexible study that allows students to work at the same time as they learn. Jade Taylor, age 23, quit her studies at a campus-based university in Edinburgh and was able to complete her degree back home in the rural Scottish Borders with the OU. A Part-Time Fee Grant funded Jade’s OU studies. Jade achieved her degree while working full time, and through the pandemic.

She says, “After completing my first two years at university, I decided living in the city wasn’t for me and I was losing interest in my course due to money stress. So, I decided I was going to quit after completing my second year. Luckily, I was awarded credit transfer – two years’ worth from my original university - and managed to go straight into stage three at the OU, which was the equivalent to third year of uni.”

Jade’s story is just one of many where the choice to study with the Open University has led to life changing qualifications. Our articulation agreements with sixteen colleges across Scotland help to create stronger pathways for people so they can access learning and every stage of their lives maintaining our social mission.    


Susan Stewart is Director at The Open University (Scotland)

This article is sponsored by The Open University (Scotland)

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