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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
OU sees rise in younger students
OU students
OU courses tend to be tailored to those in full-time jobs
There has been a marked rise in the number of young people opting to study for degrees with the Open University.

The OU thinks student living costs might be a factor - more people opting to study part-time while in work.

One in five of its new undergraduates in 2003-04 was aged 24 or under, the university said - compared with one in eight in 1996-97.

It said about half had the sort of qualifications that would have suited them for a conventional university.


The OU's distance learning approach has traditionally appealed to older students.

Almost all study part-time, taking five or six years to complete a degree.

It is now deliberately marketing itself to school leavers and sixth formers' advisers.

Its campaign this summer will include a reminder to those whose exam results mean they miss out on their preferred university places - who might normally go into the "clearing" process.

But it said it had noticed a change in its intake anyway.


"Over the last few years in particular, the number of younger students choosing the OU has increased quite significantly without us targeting this group," said its acting director, students, Helen Niven.

"When you consider that Open University students do not have to find the money to live away from home and that our fees are significantly lower it is not altogether surprising that increasing numbers of younger students are choosing to study with us."

In recent years there has been a general trend towards people studying at their local university, to save costs - and doing a distance learning course with the Open University would be another option.

In terms of fees, the OU's charges vary depending on the course but a spokesman said total study costs for a degree would typically be about 4,800.

It had yet to finalise its fees for 2006 but intended to keep them much as they were now - recognising that many of its students could not afford a higher rate.

Ms Niven said the OU's flexibility could have positive benefits in career terms, as well as being a way to have an income while studying.

"Studying with the OU while also starting a career and gaining valuable work experience can give our graduates an important differentiating factor in the jobs market on completion of their degrees."

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