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

Is distance learning right for me?

Distance learning can offer a certain freedom and flexibility, in particular when you have other commitments such as work, childcare and health issues. Students can schedule study time within the comfort of their own home, and access resources online when you’re able to do so.

You should be able to set aside designated time for your studies and be comfortable working independently, as self-motivation is key to a successful distance learning student.

The majority of our learners already work either full or part-time whilst studying and for students interested in using a degree to develop or change careers, distance learning means you don’t need to move to university to study. Longer term, this makes developing your creative practice more sustainable, as you’re already fitting your work around your circumstances and location.

What shall I study?

Hopefully you will have an idea in mind as to what you would like to study, but it can be daunting making that initial commitment.

A good place to start is the degree prospectus’, as these will outline the aims and expectations of the degree. You can download them here: https://www.oca.ac.uk/prospectus/You may also benefit from the visiting the Creative and Cultural Skills website [https://ccskills.org.uk/careers], a resource for anyone wanting a career in the creative sector.

What are the requirements for me to study?

OCA is Open Access, meaning we do not require any specific academic qualifications or a portfolio review, only that you meet the minimum entry requirements.

English Requirements

Students whose first language is not English are required to provide evidence of English language competency as part of the enrolment process. All OCA course units and communications are conducted in English.

Students unable to study effectively and complete assignments as a result of their lack of competency in reading and writing English are not entitled to a refund of the course fee except within the initial cancellation period. OCA reserves the right to withdraw a student from the course unit if their English language ability is not as declared at the time of enrolment. OCA also reserves the right to withdraw a student from a course if it is deemed that their English language ability is insufficient to continue on the course.

For students whose first language is not English, OCA requires evidence of one of the following for admission to a degree programme.

  • A Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course, equivalent to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR). IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Academic may be accepted as meeting these requirements, provided the student has achieved a minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four elements of language learning. Integrated Skills in English II from Trinity College may be accepted if the student has achieved a pass in each of the four elements of language learning.
  • Have successfully completed an academic course (not professional or vocational) at Bachelors degree level or above from an educational institution in the UK.
  • Have previously studied an academic qualification at Bachelors degree level or above taught in a majority English speaking country: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States of America.
  • A passport provided as evidence of nationality of a majority English speaking country: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States of America.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course, with minimum scores in each of the four elements of language learning as follows: reading 18, listening 17, speaking 20 and writing 17.
  • Cambridge English B2 First qualification with scale range 160-179 taken in the last two years as of the date of enrolment to the course.

IT Requirements

Access to a desktop computer or laptop with internet access: as OCA degree programmes are designed to be studied at a distance, it is essential that students have a desktop computer or laptop with internet access that they are able to use regularly, and that they are able to easily manage a range of basic functions through ICT. OCA will consider exempting students from the requirement to have access to ICT in specified circumstances.

Ability to easily manage a range of basic functions through ICT: students must be able to easily manage a range of basic functions through ICT. OCA will consider exempting students from the requirement to use IT in specified circumstances.

 

Summary of ICT competencies for students in higher education
Information Browsing, researching, filtering information, evaluating information, storing and retrieving information, including from cloud storage
Communication Interacting through technologies, sharing information and content, engaging in online citizenship, collaborating through digital channels, netiquette, managing digital identity
Content Creation Developing content, integrating and re-elaborating copyright and licences, programming
Safety Protecting devices, protecting personal data, protecting health, protecting the environment
Problem solving Solving technical problems, identifying needs and technological responses, innovating and creating using technology, identifying digital competency gaps

 

Music Requirements

Students who want to enrol for Music 1: Composing Music as their first OCA level 1 (HE4) music course unit must provide evidence of having passed the ABRSM Music Theory Grade 5 or an equivalent qualification.

Students can study OCA’s Foundations Music in lieu of ABRSM Music Theory Grade 5 or an equivalent grade 5 Theory qualification. Upon completion of Music Foundations, a sample of their work will be reviewed by OCA’s Music Programme Leader to ensure suitability for enrolling on to Music 1: Composing Music as part of the degree.

Supplementary Skills

Students enrolling onto degree programmes such as Graphic Design, Illustration and Photography would benefit from having previous experience with editing software e.g. Photoshop, InDesign, or other applications within the Adobe Creative Cloud. Students unfamiliar with editing software will need to learn and develop skills in this area alongside degree study.

Students enrolled onto Photography and Moving Image course units are required to keep a learning blog alongside their studies.

What support is available to me?

Learner Support provides support to students with disabilities, long term health conditions and mitigating circumstances that might impact their studies.  

Course Support can provide advice and guidance on subject and course content related queries such as exercises, research points and assignments.

Student Services can assist in the new student and continuing student enrolment process, degree and unit transfers, timeframes and scheduling advice, assessment queries and all other general advice and guidance.  

Tutors are there to support your learning by providing formative feedback on your work.  

Disabled Student Allowance [DSA] is additional support that is provided via Student Finance to help overcome the barriers that a student may face because of their disability when accessing higher education.

This can include long term health conditions, mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. You can check your eligibility and see more information here:- https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas/overview

Support varies on the individual but can include supportive technology and software, ergonomic equipment, and non-medical helpers.

What are the financial options available to study with the OCA?

Self-Funding

Students can make payments per course unit in full or via a deposit and instalment option. More information about this can be found on the Fees and Funding page.

Student Finance

Students can fund their studies through Student Finance. Please visit the relevant government site [England, Wales or Northern Ireland] to check your eligibility. Students need to make a part time funding application, regardless of the intended rate of study. Scotland do not provide student finance for part time courses based outside of Scotland. Please see Learner Support Scheme section below.

Learner Support Scheme

The OCA has a Learner Support Scheme which can provide partial bursaries towards course fees for students with a low household income who are not eligible for funding via Student Finance. Please check if you are eligible for funding via Student Finance before applying to the Learner Support Scheme.

Information about eligibility and how to apply can be found within the Guidance Notes and Application Form.

ELCAS

The Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme provides financial support amongst members of the Armed Forces. For further information, please visit www.enhancedlearningcredits.com

Employer Funding

You may want to consider if your employer will fund or partially fund the course. Upon enrolment, simply pass your employer details to our Accounts Department in order for the OCA to arrange an invoice.

What equipment do I need?

All students should have regular access to a computer and the internet in order to access the student site and their OCA email.

OCA courses are designed to be completed without needing to purchase highly expensive equipment. As you progress through your course units you may wish to source more specialist equipment to supplement your learning; your fellow students and OCA tutors can be great sources of advice.

How long does it take to complete a degree programme/course unit?

We expect students to complete each Level in 3 years, therefore the degree overall in 9 years.  As study is flexible, you may be able to complete the degree sooner if you are able to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to your learning.

We advise discussing the rate at which you would like to study with a Student Advisor, to ensure that you can maintain your expectations.

On average, our students finish their degrees between 5 – 8 years.

Can I meet other students?

Distance learning can feel isolating at times, so it is important to reach out to your peers. The Open College of the Arts Student Association [OCASA] arrange study visits and workshops that give students the opportunity to interact; you can find out more about these on the We Are OCA blog https://weareoca.com/. You can find more information about OCASA by visiting http://www.ocasa.org.uk/.

We also host forums on the student discuss site where students can exchange critiques, ideas and general discussions with their peers and OCA tutors and staff.

Is the degree recognised?

All our degrees are accredited by our validating university, the University for the Creative Arts (UCA).

UCA is one of the UK’s leading specialist universities, offering a range of courses in art, architecture, communications, design and media across five campuses in the South East of England

What contact will I have with my tutor?

The role of the tutor is to provide feedback on the course assignments in a timely, constructive and challenging manner. Students receive feedback in written format or via video tutorials on Google Meet at set points through their course, and have the opportunity to talk to their tutor before they start. Tutors can provide some  additional support between assignments via email, but their main focus is on providing students with assignment feedback. Students may wish to seek additional advice and guidance from Course Support on course content and subject related queries.

For further information about the student-tutor relationship, please visit:

https://www.oca.ac.uk/distance-learning-study-with-oca/

How is my work assessed?

Students complete a series of exercises, research points and assignments within a course unit, and upon receiving tutor feedback for the final assignment, are invited to submit a portfolio of work to an assessment event. There are three assessment events within an academic year [November, March and July] and students should keep these in mind when planning their studies.

Formative feedback is provided by the tutor upon submission of each required assignment within a course unit, and identifies areas of strength and improvement.

Summative feedback takes place at an assessment to help evaluate student learning by comparing it against assessment criteria, receiving marks out of a 100.

Students must obtain the minimum pass mark of 40% in order to be awarded the credits attached to the assessed course units. Work submitted is assessed by a minimum of two internal assessors [experienced OCA tutors] and then samples of submissions are reviewed by a university appointed independent external examiner.

Marks given at Level 3 (HE 6) determine the class of undergraduate degree awarded.

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

On average, students complete a course unit between 10 and 15 months. For most students this gives plenty of time to complete the assignments and prepare for the assessment.

However, we recognise that sometimes circumstances arise which make it difficult to keep up the pace (e.g. major illness or caring responsibilities). Students should contact us at the earliest opportunity to notify us of any issues, and may be eligible to apply for extension via our Mitigating Circumstances policy.

Details of the Mitigating Circumstances Policy can be found within the Student Regulations.

What happens if I can’t complete my studies?

Students unable to continue their studies must formally withdraw from the course. Students will withdraw with a transcript of credits achieved and, potentially, an exit award. Once withdrawn, students must wait a minimum of 12 months before enrolling onto another degree programme with the OCA.

Exit Awards

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

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

Financial Liability

Refunds – Course Unit Fees up to 30 days

Students resident in the UK can claim a full refund for a course unit for a period of up to 14 days after receipt of course materials. Materials must be returned to OCA Head Office, complete and in the condition in which they were received and/or relinquish access to digital content. Materials must arrive by the end of the 15th day after receipt, after the initial 14-day refund period printed course materials are deemed to belong to the student.

Students resident outside the UK can claim a full refund for a course unit for a period of up to 14 days after receipt of course materials. Materials must be returned to OCA Head Office, complete and in the condition in which they were received and/or relinquish access to digital content. Students must notify OCA by email by the end of the 14th day after receipt, providing proof of return and confirming the expected the date of delivery. Students will be responsible for meeting any costs levied by customs offices between the course materials leaving the student’s country of residence and arriving in the UK. OCA accepts no liability for such costs. After the initial 14-day refund period, printed course materials are deemed to belong to the student.

Students may claim a partial refund of the course unit fee at any time between 15 and 30 days after receipt. The amount to be refunded will be calculated on the difference between the full fee and the deposit payable for the course unit.

No refund is payable after 30 days have elapsed from the student receiving their course materials and access to digital content will be revoked upon withdrawal.

Further details can be found in the Refund policy

Can I transfer credits/apply previous experience to start at a higher level?

Students can make an application of Accredited Prior Learning (APL) based on previous study and experience.  The learning must have taken place in the last 5 years and be relevant to the level and subject of study. However, the only way to know for sure is to formally apply for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL).  For further information, please review the APL Guidance notes.

Can I speak to a Student Adviser?

You can chat to one of our advisers on (+44) 01226 730495 or freephone 0800 7312116, email enquiries@oca.ac.uk or speak to us on Live Chat. Office hours are 09:00 – 17:00 Monday – Friday and 09:00 – 16:00 Friday.

What are OCA Levels 1, 2 and 3?

OCA Level 1 is equivalent to Higher Education [HE] Level 4, Level 2 is equivalent to HE Level 5 and Level 3 is equivalent to HE Level 6.