Support and Resources | The Open College of the Arts | Distance Learning Degrees and Courses

Support and Resources

Support for students - even at a distance

Learn more about the wide-ranging support and resources available for OCA students below.

Mental Health at OCA

OCA provides a learning environment that promotes health and wellbeing.

Our flexible study options encourage students to have a healthy work/life balance, allowing them to complete degree level studies over a much longer period than the average Higher Education Institution.

Our Learner Support Team is a great resource for students who may need adjustments to tasks due to mental health conditions or extra support on their learning journey. Much of our support falls into the realm of mental health, signposting students to appropriate sources of help. Our team are trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Support with course fees – OCA’s Learner Support Scheme

As part of OCA’s charitable purpose to widen participation in arts education, funds are allocated each year to our Learner Support Scheme.

This means we can offer bursaries to help with the cost of the unit fee where students would be unable to pay the full cost of the fees themselves, and are not eligible for other funding. This includes Scottish students who are not able to gain funding for our courses via Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and students who are evidenced to be ineligible for Student Finance funding (England, Wales or Northern Ireland).

You can apply for funding on a unit by unit basis, and you don’t have to pay the bursary back.

  • You may be eligible to apply if:-

    • You are studying within the UK;
    • You are not eligible for funding via Student Finance;
    • You have a low household income – in 2020/21 this is set at under £25,000.

    In addition, we ask for examples of your work so that we can ensure you will be getting the most from the course you are applying for. More on this is provided in the Guidance Notes.

  • In 2020/2021, our standard bursary award is 50% of the course unit fee for successful applicants. The remaining balance can be paid in agreed instalments.

    Through our Widening Participation schemes, where students are already eligible for the standard bursary, additional funding may be available which could increase the amount awarded to 75% for Undergraduate students, or 90% for Foundation students if one or more of the following apply:-

    • Students with disabilities, or formal caring responsibilities;
    • Students from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background;
    • Students with low, or no qualifications (Level 2 or below).

    Once the budget for the year has been allocated, potential applicants would have to wait until the beginning of the new academic year (1 August ).

  • We are currently paused for new applications, owing to the high volume submitted so far this year. 

    If you are a continuing student looking to apply for tuition fee support then please contact for specific guidance. If you are a new applicant not yet enrolled with the OCA, please check back in August 2021 for further updates.

  • If you need any help completing the form after reading the Guidance Notes or would like to request the application form in a different format, please email Quote Learner Support Scheme query” in the email subject or when calling.

    The clerk cannot comment on the likely outcome of your application but can support you with the application process.

    Where applications are unsuccessful, we do try to support the applicant with guidance and alternate ways forward where possible, which may include offers of support for a different programme of study with us.

  • We encourage students to apply for the Learner Support Scheme – take a look at the feedback about the scheme from some of our students.

    Jelica completed our Open Foundation – Creative Writing course via the Learner Support Scheme and now is currently exploring textiles and hopes to combine this on our Creative Arts Degree course.

    “I was so happy to get a bursary for OCA’s Foundation Degree in Creative Writing. I wouldn’t have been able afford the course otherwise as I work part time and have a diagnosis of a lifelong health condition. Having an online network is helping me to rebuild my confidence, as is the practice of creative writing and making. Without a bursary, none of this would be possible and it was easy to apply.”

    Brianne started a BA (Hons) Illustration degree with OCA through the Learner Support Scheme.

    Both Brianne and her wife are disabled; so a low income and considerable care commitments meant Brianne had left university study behind before finding OCA.

    “Applying for the Learner Support Scheme can be daunting, because it involves getting a lot of paperwork and information together, but I found that with the constant ongoing support I received from the Learner Support office, I had nothing to worry about. Everything was explained thoroughly.”

    “Being able to continue my education has given me a renewed sense of purpose and the feeling that in my own way, on my own terms, I am still contributing to the world around me in a positive way.”

OCA’s Learner Support Team

OCA has a Learner Support Team who work with students with disabilities including mental health issues and other long-term health conditions during their studies.

The team can:

  • Offer you advice before you start on a course;
  • Provide information and support on applying for Disabled Students Allowance;
  • Discuss support for students with short-term disabilities;
  • Provide information, resources and advice about disabilities and specific learning difficulties to academic staff;
  • Coordinate with relevant departments to make reasonable adjustments for students.

For the wider student body, the team’s focus is on wellbeing and accessibility. We work closely with the academic teams to ensure this is considered from course design through to assessment.

Online library access

Students undertaking Undergraduate or Postgraduate degree study with OCA can access UCA’s online library. This includes all e-magazines, e-books and journals.

At the earlier levels of study this may mean subscriptions you made before your studies to subject relevant e-magazines are available to you online. As you progress through your studies you will find the journals invaluable as you increase your contextual research and knowledge.

Even though study with the OCA is at a distance, you are still well-supported with this. Our librarian can help with:-

  • finding and evaluating research sources
  • accessing online resources
  • using the Library catalogue
  • suggesting books/resources for the Library to buy
  • how to search the web effectively
  • how to reference and compile bibliographies.


We have around a hundred tutors based throughout the UK who, just like you, work from their home, studio and workplace. All of our tutors are artists, photographers, designers, writers or composers, as well as being experienced teachers at higher education level.

Your tutor is there to help you develop your skills, give you constructive feedback and guide your practice – think of them as a critical friend. You will work with a number of different tutors during your studies, ensuring you can benefit from the wide ranging experience our tutors can offer.

Throughout your course unit, a combination of audio-visual and written feedback can be negotiated with your tutor, depending on what works best for you. If you’re submitting a piece of creative writing for example, written feedback with annotations may be more appropriate. For students submitting visual arts work, audio-visual feedback may work best.

Assignment feedback from your tutor is formative, at set intervals throughout each unit – usually five or six points for our Undergraduate and Foundation students. For Undergraduate students this means you can make changes and improvements based on your tutor guidance before your work is formally assessed.

Meet our tutors