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Student at the Open University
Open University
Milton Keynes

Is the open university really 'two-thirds' of a brick uni degree?

I saw someone say this on another thread, I don't see how this is possible as you end up with the same amount of credits and the degrees I'm interested in are fully accredited

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That’s *******s.

An OU degree is a recognised degree from a UK university with degree awarded powers
Student at the Open University
Open University
Milton Keynes
Original post by PQ
That’s *******s.

An OU degree is a recognised degree from a UK university with degree awarded powers

I'm considering doing a maths degree with them, or a maths and physics degree, with hope of studying at Oxford or UCL for my masters but I keep seeing people saying that the third year only gets you up to the equivalent of a second year of a regular Bachelor's, which although it doesn't make sense because of the accreditation in quite disheartening:frown:
OU is highly respected by conventional Unis - its hard work, it demands an enormous amount of self-organisation and committment, and all other Unis know this.
Original post by McGinger
OU is highly respected by conventional Unis - its hard work, it demands an enormous amount of self-organisation and committment, and all other Unis know this.

But are the 'end points' of an ou degree and a conventional degree the same? That's what I'm concerned about
Original post by persephone337
I'm considering doing a maths degree with them, or a maths and physics degree, with hope of studying at Oxford or UCL for my masters but I keep seeing people saying that the third year only gets you up to the equivalent of a second year of a regular Bachelor's, which although it doesn't make sense because of the accreditation in quite disheartening:frown:


That's not true in general, although the nature of their maths course means you won't do as much abstract/pure maths as in a maths degree at a brick uni. Depending what area you want to work in for graduate study, this may limit you somewhat.

Note that if you're interested in physics the OU runs the OpenPlus scheme, where you start studying a physics degree at the OU, then transfer to a brick uni for the second half of the degree. They are partnered with a number of notable physics departments, including off the top of my head York and Loughborough as I recall. So that may also be something to consider if you are worried for some reason about the reception of an OU degree, although as above it's perfectly well regarded in its own right (but may not be the best option to prepare for graduate study in certain fields e.g. if you wanted to be an algebraic geometer I'm not sure it would be the best option...). However the fact these brick uni departments have partnered with the OU is testament to the fact they clearly feel the course content and performance of students on the course meeting the requirements for the scheme is equal to or better than their own students'.
Original post by artful_lounger
That's not true in general, although the nature of their maths course means you won't do as much abstract/pure maths as in a maths degree at a brick uni. Depending what area you want to work in for graduate study, this may limit you somewhat.

Note that if you're interested in physics the OU runs the OpenPlus scheme, where you start studying a physics degree at the OU, then transfer to a brick uni for the second half of the degree. They are partnered with a number of notable physics departments, including off the top of my head York and Loughborough as I recall. So that may also be something to consider if you are worried for some reason about the reception of an OU degree, although as above it's perfectly well regarded in its own right (but may not be the best option to prepare for graduate study in certain fields e.g. if you wanted to be an algebraic geometer I'm not sure it would be the best option...). However the fact these brick uni departments have partnered with the OU is testament to the fact they clearly feel the course content and performance of students on the course meeting the requirements for the scheme is equal to or better than their own students'.

Thank you for your answer :smile: Would you say that the mathematics and physics Bsc is a better option then? I'm ultimately interested in studying theoretical physics and going into that field professionally
Original post by artful_lounger
That's not true in general, although the nature of their maths course means you won't do as much abstract/pure maths as in a maths degree at a brick uni. Depending what area you want to work in for graduate study, this may limit you somewhat.


Evidence? Have you seen the module content ...
Original post by Muttley79
Evidence? Have you seen the module content ...


Yes, that is what I am specifically referring to, having studied on maths modules there and looked at potentially continuing. The quality of the materials provided is excellent, however the course does not go as into depth in most pure areas specifically from what I saw there with only two dedicated pure modules covering a range of topics. The essential stuff is all there as expected but there are no real advanced options in pure areas. But as it turns out that is a moot point for the OP...

Original post by persephone337
Thank you for your answer :smile: Would you say that the mathematics and physics Bsc is a better option then? I'm ultimately interested in studying theoretical physics and going into that field professionally


If you want to go into physics (theoretical or otherwise) you should probably aim to study physics in some capacity at undergrad so I'd suggest doing physics or maths and physics. Both are good options, obviously maths and physics has some benefits specifically for some areas of theoretical physics (note that theoretical physics is a pretty broad range of areas and theoretical condensed matter physics is going to be somewhat different to theoretical astrophysics or high energy physics).

The more limited pure maths offerings wouldn't make that much difference for that area as the areas of pure maths you might want some background in (basic group theory, basic real and complex analysis and some metric spaces/point set topology, plus more abstract/formal linear algebra) are represented anyway. So it should be fine and you get the best of both worlds :smile:
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by persephone337
But are the 'end points' of an ou degree and a conventional degree the same? That's what I'm concerned about

Yes they are ... the degree wouldn't be accredited if it wasn't - Maths degrees do vary in content in the balance of pure and applied content.
Original post by artful_lounger
Yes, that is what I am specifically referring to, having studied on maths modules there and looked at potentially continuing. The quality of the materials provided is excellent, however the course does not go as into depth in most pure areas specifically from what I saw there.



If you want to go into physics (theoretical or otherwise) you should probably aim to study physics in some capacity at undergrad so I'd suggest doing physics or maths and physics. Both are good options, obviously maths and physics has some benefits specifically for some areas of theoretical physics (note that theoretical physics is a pretty broad range of areas and theoretical condensed matter physics is going to be somewhat different to theoretical astrophysics or high energy physics).

The more limited pure maths offerings wouldn't make that much difference for that area as the areas of pure maths you might want some background in (basic group theory, basic real and complex analysis and some metric spaces/point set topology, plus more abstract/formal linear algebra) are represented anyway. So it should be fine and you get the best of both worlds :smile:

Maths degree content varies enormously - from what I've seen it's absolutely fine. The pure I've seen isn't 'limited' which modules are you specifially referring to?
You get a full degree at the end of it, not two thirds or any such nonsense. Don't listen to rubbish.
Original post by persephone337
I saw someone say this on another thread, I don't see how this is possible as you end up with the same amount of credits and the degrees I'm interested in are fully accredited

I worked with a guy who got his Computing and IT degree throught the OU. He had worked as a System Admin for 3 years too, fyi,
He decided he wanted to take a break from work, and do the bricks and mortar thing for a Masters as he wanted that experience of a physical University too. He got offers for varous CS-based masters from:

University of Glasgow
QUB
University of Nottingham
Royal Holloway
Aston University

And a few more, I think there were 7 in total.

If other universities in the UK, including RG universities, readily accept OU degrees, does that not tell you something about how valid they are?
(edited 2 years ago)
I had offers for Masters from Leeds University and Nottingham University (although I was an alumna of Notts, I did my nurse training there but this was for an English MA so a totally different subject) both Russell Group. I also had offers from Leicester and Loughborough- which while they aren’t Russell Group are decent unis.
None of these were remotely bothered about my OU degree and would have been quite happy to have me had I chosen to go there.
Original post by persephone337
I saw someone say this on another thread, I don't see how this is possible as you end up with the same amount of credits and the degrees I'm interested in are fully accredited


Edit (future me): while I was the original poster that said the OU was 2/3rds of a brick degree, I didn't realise at the time my math was wrong on this. It was not 2/3rds it was actually 5/6ths of a brick degree because two 30 credit modules are GCSE. Therefore, the OU is a perfectly valid university and degree, given it's roughly 30% cheaper than other universities.

Original Post below:

Unfortunately, I've only just discovered this thread now. It looks like my post regarding "two-thirds of a brick uni degree" spurred further concerns from people. My intention wasn't to worry or detract from the Open University's degrees, but rather, to enlighten some of the concerns that I have regarding the degree.

To clarify, a degree at the Open University is the "same" as every other university, in the sense, it is the same qualification.

The comments regarding the 2/3rds compared to a brick uni degree, was specifically because the Open University starts every degree programme with 60 credits of GCSE modules - as they of-course, have to, because there are no requirements for the degree. How else would they allow everyone to join a degree, if there are no requirements?

So yes, that means that 60 credits of the first year, are GCSE, while, at other universities, those 60 credits don't start with GCSE, but with other modules. So, in that sense, I argued that a degree at the OU was "two-thirds of a brick degree", in the sense that they start at 60 credits GCSE, while a brick uni doesn't start at GCSE; this was particularly a concern for students who had just finished their A-levels, who had studied concepts far beyond the topics taught at Open University - therefore, I said I wouldn't recommend it for any student who had just graduated from sixth form or college, and has fresh knowledge of their A-levels.

However, there has been some changes from the Open University in the months since I made that post:

Open University announced advanced, accelerated degrees, that remove the GCSE options, and replace them with suitable A-level and first-year university modules (and in some cases, second year modules), that are more suitable for a graduate from high-school or college.

As of this post, there is only one - Physics: https://www.open.ac.uk/courses/physics/degrees/integrated-master-of-physics-m06

However, I would imagine more would continue to arrive over time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, if the Open University had a way to replace the 60 credits of GCSE modules, with A-level or first-year university modules, then the degree would be significantly better - and I would recommend that. The Open University has since started doing this with the integrated master's degree, and so, consequently, I actually recommend any of the integrated master's degrees, as they start at a much more reasonable level. Unfortunately, only one of these degrees exist as of yet, so there may be a little wait before you get one in your preferred subject.

I hope this has clarified further what I meant in my previous post. If not, hopefully, it will help future readers understand better what I meant, and make a more reasoned decision.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by Muttley79
Maths degree content varies enormously - from what I've seen it's absolutely fine. The pure I've seen isn't 'limited' which modules are you specifially referring to?

Not really any advanced topics - no functional analysis, measure theory, (the page for the probability module says that the mathematical elements are not emphasised, at least) little advanced algebra, (stops at around a second year level, though there are bits on field extensions) seemingly no serious geometry, etc. Their coverage in complex analysis is pretty good though, covers everything you'd want in a first course. I'm sure it's comparable to quite a lot of brick and mortar universities, but I would agree with the designation of "limited".

To OU's credit, they do seem to offer a lot of resources.
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by _gcx
Not really any advanced topics -
To OU's credit, they do seem to offer a lot of resources.

I think looking at a module content list cannot give you enough information on the depth of the detail.

I've had no issues with OU grads subject knowledge.
Original post by Muttley79
I think looking at a module content list cannot give you enough information on the depth of the detail.

I've had no issues with OU grads subject knowledge.

I don't really want to dwell much on this, but what is omitted is clear from a content list. The offering seems skinny to me with a lot of important things missing. ** Granted, I'm not really sure what standard to compare the OU to, so I might be completely off the mark. I probably should be giving more consideration to the fact that the OU builds up from very meagre foundations as well.

** I actually missed the fourth year modules - I do note Galois Theory makes an appearance, as does analytic number theory, fair enough.
(edited 2 years ago)
Reply 18
Remember a "brick uni math degree" can have less advanced maths then a "stone uni math degree". Also some university design maths degrees with the aim of students then becoming maths researchers, other design math degrees with the aim of the students being able to usefully use what they learn in their jobs.
I am currently doing BSc in Maths with Open University (in my 30thies with previous degrees from brick unis).

Level 3:
Just completed:
-M337 Complex Analysis
-MST326 Fluid Mechanics
-M303 Further Pure Maths (Abstract Algebra, Number Theory and Metric Spaces) -> will start formally in October.

After I get my BSc from Open University next year I am considering taking a career break and doing a full-time Masters in Mathematics at a brick uni. Therefore, the question of how far the OU BSc takes me in terms of curriculum is quite an important one.

After spending hours comparing the course content for various BSc in Maths my conclusion is:

1. Compared to average universities following the IMA curriculum, you end up in a similar place (decent coverage of 3 years).
As an example take University of Essex (I have some friends who went there and are professionally indistinguishable from the "Russell Group crowd" after 5+ years of working in London):
https://www.essex.ac.uk/courses/ug00269/1/bsc-mathematics

in the 3rd year you do Complex Variables (pretty much the same as M337) plus 90 credits (so 6 modules) out of Quantum Mechanics, Number Theory, Group Theory, Graph Theory, Statistics, Partial Differential Equations etc. Similar stuff to Level 3 at OU.

https://www.essex.ac.uk/component?componentID=17647398-e739-43af-bfe7-b9dc22acbb38&headerImg=/-/media/header-images/subjects/mathematics.jpg&lastYear=1&title=BSc%20Mathematics

So the conclusion is that the curriculum BSc in Maths at a normal uni (Essex) and Open University is pretty similar. You get your 3 years.

2. Compared to top 10-20 universities (lets stick to Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick and UCL as arbitrary examples): you have good coverage of the first 2 years.

Looking at course choices and picking up required number of modules that are similar to the OU ones:
For UCL it is almost 1:1 except that OU does not cover Further Linear Algebra.
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/maths/current-students/current-undergraduates/module-information-undergraduates

For Warwick some of the complex analysis, fluid mechanics and number theory at OU counts as year 3, so call it 33% of year 3 covered.
https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/maths/currentstudents/ughandbook/year2
https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/maths/currentstudents/ughandbook/year3/

For Oxford and Cambridge to have "Year 2 covered" you would need to do the course choices above and add 2 more modules from OU (i.e. SM380 Quantum Physics and M347 Mathematical Statistics).
https://courses-archive.maths.ox.ac.uk/year/2019-2020#44186

Therefore, OU BSc in Maths gets you good coverage of the first 2 years of those unis.

To be clear: I enjoy my BSc in Maths at Open University a lot and it is intellectually challenging and beautiful. The textbooks are EXCELLENT. I can recommend it to others. I study since 2020 along a demanding full-time job in finance and I am still very enthusiastic about my studies.

I am still trying to figure out how to "cover the 3rd year gap" so to be able to do an MSc in Maths afterwards. Any help in the form "I know a girl who did BSc in Maths at OU and got into x university to study Msc in Maths and did well" would be much appreciated. One option is the MSc in Maths with OU, but it does not have the courses like Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Topology, Set Theory etc. So far the best I could find is the MSc + Diploma in Maths at Warwick (Year 3 + MSc) - you effectively pick up where you finish at OU.

I would really appreciate a view of someone more advanced in maths on this.

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