The Open University in Ireland has been included in an important national initiative which provides part-time education and training funds for people in Ireland who have lost their jobs because of the economic downturn.
The Irish Higher Education Authority has granted €205,000 to the OUI in the first year of a multi annual fund to support 50 registrations on the University’s MU123 Discovering mathematics module and 100 places on its TU100 My digital life certificate programme.
This success reflects 2 years work led by Gary Sloan, OUI Assistant Director (Development), to map relevant OU programmes to the Irish National Skills Authority’s priority skills and employment sectors.
“This is the first time we have received funding directly from government to support our operation in Ireland – not only does it establish our credentials to contribute further to the national recovery and Irish higher education but most importantly it enables us to make a difference to more lives in these challenging times,” confirmed Gary to the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruari Quinn at the launch of the Springboard Fund in Dublin.
The Minister welcomed the OU’s contribution as one of 35 approved providers nationally and explained that Springboard is a new strand of the Government’s Jobs Initiative which aims to build on workforce skills with new qualifications in areas of potential employment growth.
He indicated that the Fund would be offered in future years to support part-time learning and training in priority sectors such as IT – software and cloud technologies, the Green Economy, Medical devices, Bio-Pharma and Pharmachem, Agri/food and International Services.
He also stated that as well as obvious benefits to individual participants, the development of Springboard would enhance the skills profile of the workforce in line with the National Skills Strategy.
The Higher Education Authority has established a special website to support the Springboard Fund – it recorded over 5,000 enquiries on the morning of the launch – for further details go to www.bluebrick.ie/springboard
The Prime Minister this week praised the four in ten students who study part-time for being at the heart of Britain’s “go-getting, get-up-and-go” culture.
David Cameron made his comments when he visited Milton Keynes to announce his latest plans for the Big Society.
The document sets out plans for more than £40 million of additional support for the voluntary sector in an attempt to kick-start public donations of time and money.
Following Mr Cameron’s speech, Rajay Naik, Head of Government Relations at the OU, asked the Prime Minister about the role of part-time learners.
The Prime Minister said: “For the first time, part-time students are not going to have to pay anything upfront but can go in to higher and further education to benefit from it and have that mechanism of paying back fees.
“Many of them are people who will be working at the same time or may be taking part in volunteering as well. So, I think, it is not just a social culture about building a bigger society, it’s also about an entrepreneurial, go-getting, get-up-and-go culture.
“These are absolutely people at the heart of this culture. The Open University is often slightly overlooked because people focus on the traditional universities and do not spot the quiet revolution you are leading in enabled in part by the internet and technology.”
Following the Governments release of their part-time education funding leaflet we’ve had a couple of questions regarding continuing students – could be interesting for a few of you so we’ve copied the questions and answers in here:
Question from Jackie on the blog:
So, if students already studying with the OU are not eligible for the ‘new package’, does that also mean they will be immune from any imminent (potentially huge) fee increases from September 2012?
I am slightly concerned that those of us already studying will face a big increase in module fees at the OU if the OU are in a position that they need to increase fees in the same way that other universities will do in September 2012, and those of us that are not eligible for the new package may find that continuing to study for a degree will become unaffordable.
Any insights at this early stage would be helpful, especially for those of us who could consider squeezing an extra few credits in to our study schedule before the potentially big fees hit us in September 2012.
Thanks for your question Jackie. The Government has not yet given us full details of the transitional funding they will provide to teach current students and allow them to finish their study goal at the fee levels they presently pay. We are committed to enabling students that started before 2012 to complete their studies at a price and pace consistent with their expectations when they began their studies. We hope to be able to provide more specific details on this commitment in the near future.
I hope this answers your question and is helpful to other students already studying part-time.
Question from Tim on Twitter:
@fourinten What about those who want to pay up-front; those already on p/t degrees – do current fees still apply like for f/t student?
@fourinten and as for the 75% fees cap for p/t/ students – eh? How will that work on OU modules like law and business?
I hope our response to Jackie helps answers your question on continuing students. You also wanted to know about students who wish to pay up front and about how the 75% fees cap for part-time students will that work for OU modules like Law and Business.
The Government in England has not yet decided whether students will be able to continue to pay upfront for their courses. This is not something the OU has control of but is seeking to influence. We have been working hard to make the case with ministers and officials that students should be able to ‘opt out’ of the publicly funded loans system completely and pay for their courses in advance. The OU Student Budget Account offers an alternative way to spread the costs of your course for students not eligible for Government loans. We are still in discussions with Government to ensure flexibility so that our students continue to have a choice of either paying upfront or through an employer.
In answer to your question about modules in Law and Business, the maximum a university can charge for a part-time course will be £4,500 per year or with an approved access agreement £6,750. These maximums will apply to all our undergraduate courses including Law and Business. We are reviewing our fee policy to see if we need to increase fees to compensate for reductions in Government grant. We intend for OU courses to be cost effective in the new funding environment – just as OU study currently represents good value for money compared with undergraduate degrees offered elsewhere.
Thanks very much for raising these questions and I hope our response clarifies things for you.