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    I'm looking to apply for some Computer Science and Maths type MSc courses at Imperial, UCL and possibly elsewhere. I'm currently doing an undergraduate degree with the Open University.

    Imperial ask for two academic references and I assume other universities will too. With the OU you don't have a single person overseeing your study, you have Tutors for each module you take, but that means I've had about ten different tutors over the course of my degree. None of them know me personally and some of them I've never even met.

    The OU course office could provide an academic transcript and such, but it's not like they could comment on my "work ethic" or personality or anything like that.

    What do these "academic references" actually need to provide? Any other OU students had to face this dilemma?
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    (Original post by oumaybe)
    Any other OU students had to face this dilemma?
    Nearly all of them presumably, and as OU students often go on to do further degrees in traditional brick built institutions it isn't an issue. In fact, referees for students already at brick built institutions often have very little personal contact with the students they are writing about. Many references are written on the basis of grades, meeting submission dates, and general engagement with the course. I'm sure if you ask the tutors from your strongest courses, you'll find you have no problem.
    • Thread Starter

    Thanks, that's reassuring to hear, so I guess I'll just choose one of my current tutors. I also just read on the Imperial application form that in some circumstances they will accept one academic reference and one professional reference. Perhaps as I work full-time at the moment (and do my OU degree part-time) it makes sense that one of my references should be from my work. I guess I need to check with them (but I already sent Imperial one email query about something else and got no response...)

    The other thing to consider is that I do have a degree from a brick uni already, but it was 6 years ago and I didn't exactly do well on the course so I don't think a reference related to that would be relevant or helpful?
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    Get your reference from your most recent course unless the one before that was more relevant to what you want to do.

    The OU will produce both an academic transcript and an academic reference for you. The reference is actually pretty reasonable in terms of outlining what you have achieved, what transferable skills you've gained, etc. It's both more personal and more substantial than I thought it would be. I also asked one of my tutors for a reference, and it's pretty bare-bones.

    I'm going to submit my OU academic reference and a professional reference, as I'm in exactly the same boat as you. I recommend that you ask your Student Support team for the proper OU reference - they sent mine directly to me as I'm doing an online MSc application, so you can make up your mind then. It took less than a week (3-4 days IIRC).

    Good luck.

    I had this same dilemma last year and it can be a bit of a faff, when I asked tutors about a reference they instructed me that it was against OU policy for them to give one directly but that they could comment on an OU reference(this may vary between tutors). Essentially you get a rather generic OU reference from the student support team explaining that you started studying with the OU in X year and that as a distance learning institution you have less contact with tutors + some explanation of the grades etc..etc.. then they will put in some comments from tutors you've contacted. One tutor of mine basically just gave a one liner saying I'd have a good result in the latest bit of coursework (fair enough as I've never met him and he's only seen my coursework). Another tutor was from a residential school I had attended and so had met me in person and was kind enough to write an actual reference recommending me for post graduate study.

    I then contacted the admissions tutors of the courses I was interested in to check that a single OU reference with two tutor comments on would be OK - they were mostly OK with it (though for a couple of applications I also included a professional reference which, to further complicate things, had to come from a client as I didn't want my employer to know I was planning to leave!)

    There are a few things to watch out for, especially check what the SST do, they're nice people but remember that they're busy with admin stuff and can easily make mistakes - firstly I contacted the relevant tutors in advance, do check with the SST that they've contacted the tutors that you've had agreement from if possible otherwise they'll just contact your most recent ones (this happened to me despite initially giving them the name of a tutor that had agreed to provide a reference).
    Do also check the reference they've created for you... my first one almost got sent out by them for my first application with only one tutor comment on it, the other tutor had delayed in responding and the SST just thought they'd send the reference regardless. This could have caused issues if I hadn't seen a copy myself and queried it as the admissions tutor had agreed to receive just the OU reference on the basis that it would have two tutor comments.

    Again it is an idea to speak to the admissions tutors first as some online application forms won't let you progress unless you've uploaded two pdf documents or attached e-mail addresses for two references. I think with one form I put in the SST generic e-mail and in the second field the e-mail address of the person who wrote the reference at the SST. With other application forms you may just have to upload the same document twice or liaise with someone in admissions to force your application through with just the single reference attached.

    Another issue is to check up on the progress of applications with the SST (but obvs don't hound them too frequently) - unfortunately some automated e-mails from the various online applications systems seemed to not reach them and had to be resent, when they do get the e-mails you tend to see your reference uploaded on the online application within a day or two... if your application is still waiting for a reference after a week (and they've already got a reference prepared for you) then it is worth calling them to check they got the mail from XYZ university.

    Anyway good luck with it all, I got place at UCL in the end on a computer science and maths type course (which I had to defer till this Sept as a result of a medical issue).

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