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Personal investment in an uncertain world

Why, where and how should I invest? How are these decisions affected by economic uncertainty? What is the relationship between risk and return? These are some of the questions addressed in Personal investment in an uncertain world. Investment planning requires financial decisions about the allocation of resources in a world of uncertainties that affect the value of pensions, shares and bonds. You’ll learn how to understand the sources of uncertainty, the way that financial service providers adapt to it and how individuals form personal strategies to manage it.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module is taught through three broad themes aimed at helping you understand the concepts that underpin investment planning.

Risk and return

The main building blocks of investment are savings (cash), bonds, shares and property. All of them – even cash which is particularly vulnerable to inflation – involve risks.  You will be shown how to build a portfolio, using financial and economic modelling (such as the Capital Asset Pricing Model), that manages and spreads risk while pursuing higher returns. You will explore and critique how economic theories have shaped the investment funds on offer to the public, and learn how to interpret published information about these funds.

Uncertainty and change

Some events that have a critical impact on investments cannot be predicted. Socio-economic changes can increase the uncertainty that surrounds investment decisions. This theme explores the importance to personal investment of economic forces, government policies, ageing populations, and unforeseen events.

Regulation and ethics

Investors need to be assured that financial institutions and the wider financial system are safe. They also need to be confident that providers and sellers of financial products are behaving in an ethical way.  But, as with most things, there is a cost to regulation. How much regulation is enough? Does regulation deliver enough benefits to justify its cost?

The module is delivered using a textbook and the module website. The website, which accounts for roughly half of the study materials has:

  • exciting audio-visual trigger topics that relate the study material to important economic events such as bank crashes, stock market bubbles and pension crises
  • stimulating interactive online activities to consolidate your learning
  • an Investment Tool that performs most of the required numerical analysis for you.

However you will be introduced to a small amount of straightforward arithmetic that will help you understand the underlying mechanisms and assumptions underpinning investment theories.

Taken together, the knowledge and understanding you gain from studying Personal investment in an uncertain world will deliver two types of crucial skills: skills that are highly practical and relevant in your everyday life, and key practical and professional skills that are essential for a career in the financial services industry.

Although you will acquire knowledge and skills that may help you in your own investment planning, you should be aware, however, that this module does not give personal investment advice.

Vocational relevance

This module is appropriate if you wish to understand or manage your own investments. However, it also has particular relevance if you are working in, or aiming to work in, the financial services industry. It teaches crucial knowledge and skills supporting investment planning, and encourages a thoughtful and ethical approach to their application. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance with your studies. There will be group tutorials that you are encouraged but not obliged to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the number of students doing the module locally to you.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) may be submitted online (recommended) or on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year, in October.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school


The OU level 1 module You and your money: personal finance in context (DB123) is an excellent preparation for this module.

Personal investment in an uncertain world is an OU level 2 module and you need the general study techniques appropriate to OU level 2 study, such as engaging with the argument of the text and taking notes; the ability to extract information from different sources, including tables and graphs; handling evidence in support of arguments; and making critical analyses of topics. 

The module does not assume that you have mathematics beyond elementary arithmetic, but will introduce additional techniques including understanding graphs, diagrams, and the occasional elementary equation. It also introduces you to basic statistical concepts (standard deviation and correlation), but you will not be required to calculate these for yourself as an online Investment Tool is provided.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Mar 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2018.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 29/07/2015.

What's included

Textbook and the website (VLE), which includes audio-visual material, skills support, tutorial and financial tools.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and the Investment Tool will probably not be readable in this way. As the module contains complex and interactive online tutorials featuring detailed diagrams, the use of an assistant may be helpful to some students with visual and/or motor impairments. Comb-bound versions of the printed study materials can be provided on request. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

Because approximately half of the module is delivered online you will need to make extensive use of a personal computer and the internet. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or have concerns about accessing the technological tools on this module you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.