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About Us - The Open College of the Arts | Distance Learning Degrees and Courses

About Us

Our Story

We are the Open College of the Arts. An open access, distance learning provider of higher education courses based in Barnsley, UK.

We were created by Michael Young in 1987, one of the founders of The Open University, to offer high quality arts courses as a means to transform lives, with the opportunity to develop and express creative talents under the guidance of experienced artists.

An OCA qualification, be that a degree, Certificate or Diploma in Higher Education, or undergraduate degree, can be a huge achievement for many and opens the doors to new careers, or new lifestyles built around the arts.

Over 2000 people study with us every year as part of a truly global community representing 67 nationalities worldwide on 13 degree programmes and two Masters. We reach people in every walk of life, with over 20% of our students having a declared disability, and many students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and with no qualifications.

Our students come from every walk of life imaginable, fitting work, family, caring responsibilities and everything else alongside study and more besides.

OCA’s community consists of students, practitioners and tutors working together, offering encouragement, creative criticism, hints, tips, insights and ideas. A community invested time, running events, social media groups, meet-ups in places as diverse as London and Glasgow, Newport and Scunthorpe, you’ll feel at home as part of the OCA.


A new direction for OCA

From August 2023 we will seek to further our founding principles of providing open education in the field of arts in all countries of the world through joining The Open University. We were established by Michael Young, one of the founders of The Open University, in 1987 after his colleagues told him that practical arts and design could not be taught at a distance. The Open University shares with OCA a common heritage and mission to open doors for those in society who have a desire to learn but not the means. 

Together we plan to build on our mission, providing new avenues into arts education and developing a relevant and ambitious curriculum. Through OCA The Open University can access and develop a burgeoning arts curriculum, and through The Open University OCA gains access to an innovator and leader in distance learning education and support. 

The Open University is a global leader in higher education which has pioneered distance learning for over 50 years, delivering exceptional teaching and outstanding support to students across the UK and the world. From its inception, The Open University has been a movement and not just a university. Open to people, places, methods and ideas, The Open University enables thousands of people every year to take their first – or further – steps into higher education and to achieve the highest standards of academic and professional excellence. It has strong relationships with employers, professional bodies and key industries and is recognised for its world-leading research that is advancing knowledge and improving lives.

The OCA is changing

OCA degrees were awarded by the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) up until January 2024. OCA degrees thereafter are awarded by The Open University.

After five years as part of UCA, both UCA and OCA have concluded that their strategic priorities lie in different directions. You can find out more about the transfer here.

Our Mission

Our charitable mission is to be at the forefront of student-led creative arts education through open, enhanced, and supported distance learning, for an evolving society.

Our Tutors

All the Open College of the Arts tutors are practising artists, photographers, designers, writers or composers and are experienced teachers at HE level.

Their combination of professional expertise with a strong background in teaching is a key strength of the OCA.

Meet our tutors

Our Staff

The OCA Team keep things running smoothly, and are always on hand to help.

Meet our staff

Student Association

All students become members of the Student Association upon enrolment. The Student Association represents student views to OCA, and works with OCA to deliver improvements to teaching and learning activities, student support, and more.

SA Constitution

Value for Money

The Office for Students (OfS) requires that all Higher Education providers demonstrate value for money in all activities that they undertake. This is our statement on Value for Money and how we go about ensuring it.

Value for Money Statement
Contact Us

Have a question about the OCA, or our range of creative arts courses? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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