Applying for student finance

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Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

No matter how many credits you plan to study per year with the Open University, the student finance company classes it as part-time. What this means is that all Open University students must wait until part-time applications open on the student finance company website, usually by early summer.

When I enrolled on each module, the Open University, not unreasonably, asked me how I intended to pay for it. There are several options, but I chose student finance. I then had to answer a short series of questions to see if I was likely to be eligible.

Normally, if you already have a first degree, like me, you wouldn’t be eligible for second degree funding. However, the BSc (Hons) Computing and IT degree is on a list of eligible degrees on the Open University website. That this is open to me eased my financial concerns about starting the course and helped me to see that studying was possible.

Once the Open University was satisfied that I was likely to be eligible for student finance, it held my place until part-time applications opened.

For me, the student finance website opened for part-time applications slightly later than usual, in mid-June.

Almost immediately, it was beset by technical problems. So much so that they had to temporarily suspend part-time applications. When they re-opened towards the end of June, the website was still buggy. I eventually gave up trying to apply online and downloaded and posted the form.

From then on, things moved quickly. It only took 15 days between posting off the form and having my application approved.

I was concerned that it then took over a month for the Open University to update their records to reflect this. It got a little unnerving to keep seeing the message that they were waiting for my student loan to be approved. From comments on the official forums and Facebook groups, other students were having the same problems. Still, they sorted out in the end what seemed to be a technical glitch.

Another difference with the Open University is that you pay per module, rather than for each year of your degree. The exact fees differ depending upon whereabouts you live in the UK. In any case, the module fees cover all the study materials, tuition, assessments and any exams. This self-contained approach is a lot different to my first degree where I often had to buy or borrow textbooks. It’s a bonus if you’re working full-time, or have other responsibilities, since I will find it difficult now to read around a subject as widely.

Student finance pay the tuition fees directly to the Open University once they receive confirmation you are studying on the course. My initial thoughts were that this might be quite challenging on a distance learning course as you’re not physically present on a campus. How will they know I’m studying? I suspect that promptly replying to my tutor when they get in contact and actively engaging with the module website when it opens might help.

Submitting coursework on time is probably also a good idea for letting the Open University know I’m there. It might also help me pass the course.

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