The number of people signing up for Open University’s online courses has increased amid the pandemic, the figures show.
The distance education organization’s student numbers have grown by 15% over the past year, and more people have chosen to study online due to Covid-19.
The Open University (OU) says the coronavirus pandemic has been the main driver of the rise as it has increased demand for upgrading and requalification, and has underscored the appeal of distance learning.
OU, which is the UK’s only university dedicated to distance learning, has seen its numbers increase in all four of the UK’s countries, and there has also been an increase in the number of people enrolling to OU to study full time.
Overall, the total number of students enrolled for the 2020/21 academic year, which includes both undergraduates, postgraduates and apprenticeship students, increased by 15% from over last year, from just over 141,000 to over 163,000.
Meanwhile, more than 59,000 new students enrolled at OU in 2020/21, up from nearly 47,000 in 2019/20 – an increase of just over 25%, according to figures shared with the UO agency. PA press.
Students who registered to study with OU for the 2020/21 academic year started their courses in October 2020 or March 2021.
The results come after college students saw their teaching posted online during the spring semester of last year, when the first lockdown in March was announced.
Most students in England, except those taking critical courses, were then urged not to return to campus as part of the third lockdown in January this year.
The DfE said all remaining students in England are still not allowed to resume in-person classes on campus until mid-May at the earliest.
Students in England currently pay up to Â£ 9,250 per year in tuition fees, but the full-time equivalent course at UO costs just over Â£ 6,000 per year.
Marnie Coxall, 18, of Kent, chose to study with the OU for a higher education certificate in psychology in October because the distance and independent learning offer was attractive to her during the pandemic.
She said: âIt was the only university where I was convinced I could study this year.
“It meant I could stay home and do my studies the way I wanted to and find a way I want to study.”
But despite surging demand, OU is worried that the total number of new undergraduates in England is still 40% below the peak of 2010/11, ahead of the student funding reforms that drove universities English to be able to charge a fee. to Â£ 9,000 per year for their courses.
UO vice-chancellor Professor Tim Blackman has warned that the cost of part-time study in England is still a barrier for many people who want to learn and improve their career prospects.
He said: âWe are both pleased and optimistic with this growth, which shows that students continue to make a clear choice to study with the OU, with many choosing to start their full-time studies with us, in this. which has been an incredibly difficult year. for society around the world.
âConsidering the impact of the pandemic, we are not happy with this increase in numbers and are very aware that many of our students are starting their classes in a more difficult and unpredictable environment.
âMany juggle work, family responsibilities and family commitments early in their studies.
âWe are fully aware that the cost of part-time study in England means that many people still lose out and face a barrier to their aspirations and ambitions to learn and improve their career prospects.
âWith the uncertainty of the economy set to continue into 2021 and beyond, we also know that many people will need to upgrade or re-qualify in an affordable and flexible way.â
Professor Blackman added: âWe continue to advocate with the UK government for a policy change in England that invests in lifelong learning.
“This includes providing maintenance loans to all part-time distance learners in England, who are currently denied the same support as students who study part-time but face to face.”