Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any general guide I can read?

Yes, we have written a Student Handbook which is sent out to all new students. If you would like to read an online version click here: Download the Student Handbook.

Is there a document which sets out all the OCA policies and procedures?

Yes, the Student Regulations are sent out to all new students. If you would like to read an online version click here: Download the Student Regulations

Does the OCA have a language entry requirement?

Yes. All students need to have an appropriate standard of English to complete their chosen Open course of study, which will include a substantial written element. International or EU students will need to provide evidence of their ability, which could be i) prior education in the medium of English, ii) long term residency in an English speaking country or iii) one of the following international qualifications:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): A minimum score of 6*
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): Minimum score of 550 (Paper PBT), 213 (Computer CBT), 80 (Internet IBT)

Other equivalent exams will be considered.

Open courses at Level 2 (HE5) and Level 3 (HE6) require you to carry out research and write critical essays, so you will need to have sufficient proficiency in English language and be familiar with the conventions of academic writing. The OCA provides students with guides on writing academic essays and the use of the Harvard referencing system.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact OCA via or on 0800 731 2116.

Does the OCA have an IT entry requirement?

Yes. The primary mode of communication for Open courses is online, therefore, it is important that all students must have readily available internet access and the basic IT skills listed below.

The ability to:

  • access, read and write emails, reply to emails and forward emails
  • upload and download attachments
  • search for information on the internet and complete and submit web-based forms
  • save web pages and download files from the web
  • click on links on a webpage and navigate to another page
  • copy web content, including images, into a document and know how to print it out
  • use standard word processing software.

Students will be required, as part of some programmes of study, to develop further IT skills in specific applications, such as Photoshop, Illustrator or Sibelius.

Exemptions to this policy are only given to students with specific disabilities or to those studying in prison.

How many HE credits are awarded for courses (by level)?

All Open courses are fully integrated with the HE CATS scheme (please refer to the Credits Accumulation and Transfer Scheme). This makes transfer of credits to or from the OCA more straightforward than it would be otherwise.

Open courses at Level 1 (which equates to HE Level 4) attract 40 CATS credits. Open courses at Level 2 (which equate to HE Level 5) attract 60 CATS credits. At Level 3 (HE6) you will negotiate a programme of study with your tutor(s) which will result in 120 credits.

How many credits do I need for each qualification?

The Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) requires 120 credits at Level 1 (HE Level 4). So if you complete three Level 1 Open courses and are successfully assessed you would qualify for a Cert HE, if you completed your studies at that stage.

The Diploma of Higher Education (Dip HE) requires 240 credits. So if you complete three Level 1 Open courses and two Level 2 Open courses and are successfully assessed you would qualify for a Dip HE, if you completed your studies at that stage.

BA (Hons) degrees all require 360 credits. That is 120 credits at Level 1, 120 credits at Level 2 and 120 credits at Level 3.

How does open learning work in practice?

Doing a course via open learning means working at your own pace, in your own time, and wherever you choose to study.

It does demand self motivation and discipline because you study your course materials on your own but you can ask other students for advice through our forums and you are supported by a tutor who gives detailed feedback on your assignments. At Level 1, there are five assignments in each course. For more detail look at What’s involved?

How long does each Open course take?

Our learning model is very flexible. We have no fixed entry points and no fixed cut off dates for submission of assignments. However both tutors and students find it helpful to pencil in some target dates for assignments. This helps to keep up the momentum.

We normally say that students should plan to put in between 8 to 10 hours a week in order to complete the course in a year or so. It is possible to complete an Open course more rapidly if you can put in more time during the week.

We set a maximum period of two years to complete each Open course. For most students this is more than enough time. However, after 24 months tutorial support will end (unless you have negotiated an extension – see next FAQ).

Can I get an extension if I run out of time?

Possibly. For most students 24 months gives plenty of time to complete the assignments and prepare for the assessment; typically students complete in 10 to 15 months.

However we recognise that sometimes circumstances arise which make it difficult to keep up the pace (e.g. major illness or caring responsibilities). We will be much more likely to award an extension if the student has been in touch at the time and explained the position.

Is there an overall time limit to study for an Open degree?

Yes, to study for an Open degree you must complete all courses in 12 years. This does mean that if you take the maximum time for each of the seven courses you will run out of time, but the majority of students complete their degrees in 5-7 years.

How can I find out more about OCA tutors?

The profiles of all our tutors can be viewed on this website in the tutors section.

How will I communicate with my tutor?

When you enrol, we will give you an OCA student email address and your tutor’s OCA address. Your OCA student email address is also used to access the student website.