OU announces fees of £5,000/y FTE in England

The OU has just announced its fees from September 2012 for students in England:

For students in England studying with us for the first time from 1 September 2012 there will be a standard fee of £5,000 based on 120 credits of study. This is equivalent to a year’s full-time study at traditional universities.

The OU’s fees structure is being radically simplified. At the moment, courses are priced individually. From September 2012, the fees will be simply proportional: if you study 120 credits, it’s £5,000. If you study 60 credits, it’s £2,500; for 30 credits, £1,250.

The other big change is that OU students will be eligible for the new student loans from that point.

There are transitional arrangements for existing students until August 2017. Students in other nations of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will pay a lot less, thanks to the different funding arrangements there.

On the level of the fee

The fee we’ve announced is the result of thorough research and is the lowest fee we are able to charge while ensuring we can continue to offer the quality, flexibility and accessibility for which the OU is renowned.

I believe this. My back-of-an-envelope calculation last November suggested “our annualised fees might need to jump from £1,800 to £4,700”, which is pretty close given the gross over-simplifications I was using.

But more fundamentally, I know and trust that OU staff at all levels have been working very hard on this. Making this decision can’t have been an easy one. Nobody working at the OU wants to have to put up our fees like this.

Stellwagen Marine Sanctuary
Dolphins can sometimes be mistaken for sharks - see http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/surfer.asp

There’s coverage by the BBC (currently top of the Education page), the estimable Mike Baker, and Times Higher Education. But obviously the OU’s own stuff is the reliable original source of information.

The THE tweeted:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…more fees announcements. Less deadly but more upsetting than sharks. OU: £5k FTE

I’m sure the fee level wasn’t set with predatory intent. We want to keep our fees as low as possible, to keep education as open as possible. That’s the whole point of what we do. If minimising the cost to students (and the taxpayer, via the loan subsidy) while maintaining our uncompromisingly high standards of achievement and teaching quality is upsetting some people in the sector … well, maybe they should be upset a bit more.

I’ll take the THE quote charitably and assume that they, like me, find the level of fees charged to students upsetting across the board.

Update: the THE explain that what they found upsetting was “more the constant announcement of fees rather than the OU’s fees (or even fees in general)”.

This work by Doug Clow is copyright but licenced under a Creative Commons BY Licence.
No further permission needed to reuse or remix (with attribution), but it’s nice to be notified if you do use it.