The Open University until recently offered affordable part-time correspondence courses at degree level, but has been subject to the same changes in funding as traditional brick universities.
In fact, it had an even bigger hike in fees. In 2012, the cost of a 60-credit module – a sixth of an Open undergraduate degree – rose more than threefold, from £700 to £2,500. Since then there have been further annual increases – this year it has risen to almost £2,800.
While still cheaper, this expense is at odds with the founding principles of the Open University.
A Labour government established it in 1969. It was there for those who may not have had the best educational advantages, or who had been failed by their school experience and written off as non-academic. This second chance has been diminished by a £90 million loss in government funding.
Tuition fee loans are available. But for many would-be students, the thought of almost £17,000 of debt, often on top of other debts like mortgages, is unappealing.
This has been illustrated by a 28% drop in enrolment. Fees have made the Open University prohibitively expensive for the very people it was set up to help.
By Caroline Vincent