How UK-centric is the OU History course?

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horstenpeter
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Hello everyone,

I am considering studying history, either at the Open University or at Germany's distance-learning university, the Fernuniversitรคt Hagen (I'm German).

My question to any OU history students would be, how specific to the UK is the course? I am a bit worried that studying at a UK university I might be missing parts of my own country's history. Then again, a slightly more international perspective appeals to me, too.

Also, how did people like the AA100 and AA150 modules? It feels like at the OU I would only start studying actual history after 18 months, while Hagen drops you straight into history. They on the other hand force you to study philosophy or literature as part of the degree, and I'm not sure about that, either.

Any help or thoughts would be very much appreciated.

Thanks a lot,
J.
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AW1983
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The Open University's History degree is not worth your time and effort, please don't waste your money on this course.

A little on my background. I credit transferred from Lancaster to the Open University in 2004 in order to be able to work and study at the same time. Due to arbitrary university rules, I came away with an 'unnamed' degree, despite having read more History than the average OU History graduate! I had one great and one piss poor tutor for my level 3 courses. They sacked the great one when they discontinued her course to replace it with English centric dross; I think the piss poor one still works for them.

The OU's History degree is a disgrace to the subject for a number of reasons:

1) Course choices pander to a certain type of middle class, conservative Englishman who doesn't want his prejudices challenged.

Back in 2004, when I finished my degree, there were some great course choices. USA History, European national identity, French and Italian cultural History. That's all gone to be replaced by the following:

Exploring History: this course is very English centric and, covering about 500 years, frankly has too broad a period to be considered a proper university course. This despite being 'level 2.' It's too broad to go into the detail of a GCSE, let alone a degree.

Empire: it apparently looks at several European empires, but in truth exists to appeal to a certain type of British man who wishes 'we' still had an Empire. This dross replaced courses that tended to cover what you can't study at GCSE and A-Level to broaden people's minds.

There are a couple of courses coming up that claim to cover Europe but in my experience with the OU they still tend to be very UK centric and tend to do little more than cover the same ground as A-Levels. I have a similar attitude to their classical history courses, having studied this subject at A-Level.

2) Expense

The University of London International Programmes are cheaper and more respected (however, there is very little German History covered by either provider). How the OU can justify 5,000 a year when you get far less teaching time and no guaranteed access to a decent library I don't know.

3) Multi Disciplinary Requirement

One sixth of your degree must be in a multi-disciplinary arts course. I started the predecessor course but dropped out because it was the most fantastically scattered, disorganised course imaginable. If you want to waste time appreciating music when you should be reading History, choose the OU.

4) Missing Skills

Part of becoming an Historian is learning to research independently. The OU meanwhile gives you all the extracts to read and they don't encourage you to read outside of these materials. Indeed, I got a first in one of the courses without even reading half the materials they provided themselves! You also don't get to finish your degree with a proper dissertation (just an extended essay). Imagine the skills you don't get as a result of that.

5) The OU is inconsistent

The OU is very good at taking people who failed at school and turning their lives around. We should respect both the institution for doing this and the people who choose to make a difference to their lives. Lots of people study with the OU because for various reasons there is no other choice. However, if you have a choice, take it!

If you have a choice, you can avoid a lot of big gambles. The OU will always have a problem with reputation, because it is not competitive to get in. Some employers respect the university, others don't. You'll satisfy more employers with a brick university, rightly or wrongly. You also avoid the risk of teacher quality. The OU obviously employ a lot of people but they don't sack enough poor performers (my sister had a tutor who used the position as an income stream but was never available and barely turned up). Another problem with the OU is course choice; often, you get no choice at all in what you study.

Looking back, what I should have done is taken my degree with the UofL. That's what I've started to do now, because an OU degree is never going to get me into where I want to go.
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horstenpeter
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Thanks a lot for that detailed answer. It made me think again.

I am checking out UofL at your suggestion - the course indeed seems a lot more focused on actual history. Of course there is quite a bunch of people complaining about lack of support and materials at the UofL, but it seems to depend on the college you are with - are you doing the UofL/Royal Holloway International Programme in History? If so, how are you liking it? There is still a lot of UK stuff I would have to study but among the three unis I have checked out UofL offers the most history & as you mentioned it's cheaper than OU.

For me, going back to a brick university is not an option (for the time being) as I've already spent 7 years studying at brick unis (& already hold a master's degree).
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AW1983
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I've only just seen this. Please don't bother with the Open University, the expense in no way reflects the cost of running the course and you will be ripped off. I'm in danger of being inconsistent here because I did do one course with the OU that was great and the teaching was far better than full time university, but this course was canned years ago for dross new topics. Long gone are the days when one could study American History or European art and culture courses. These days, the course choices look more like a TV schedule for Channel 5. Nazis, British Empire, Classics light etc. Tutors also seem far less willing to let students stray from the course materials these days too, which means it's spoon fed learning and you won't build up research skills in the way students from other universities will. It's a real shame, as this in no way reflects the wider Open University, which is a good institution.
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Orianna
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I have just withdrawn from the History degree with OU for a lot of the reasons you posted AW1983. I had originally changed from a Geoscience degree when it was removed half way through and found that the History degree really lacked choice with only 4 history courses and one multidisciplinary compulsory course. Studying with the OU can be quite isolating, don't get me wrong I have made some great friends (through the facebook group) but depending on the tutor you get there is a distinct lack of guidance or help. Most of my essays have had very sketchy feedback, no constructive criticism just brief notes like 'wrong' connected to some sentences with no explanation.
I'm now looking into the UoL History distance learning, just my personal statement to do..eek!
As far as classics goes you'd have to check the OU's website, I know they have been removing quite a lot of the courses as I have seen friends who are doing classical studies miss out on the courses they wanted to do.
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