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The importance of open-access

Access to Higher Education is one of the key policy debates affecting the Higher Education sector, with lots of recent stories in the news highlighting the issue. In October 2017 it was reported that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were becoming more elitist, with over 80% of students entering in the years 2010-15 from the top two social classes (A or B of the NRS Social Grade).
More recently it has been reported that nearly a quarter of students are receiving unconditional offers in 2018. The Government suggested that this is attributable to a “bums on seats” mentality. Unconditional offers have usually been employed for mature students who have already achieved qualifications, or to attract and retain interest.
At the Open College of the Arts (OCA), all our offers are unconditional. Through our open-access policy we do not require students to have specific prior qualifications and welcome all who want to study onto our courses.
This has been the case since OCA was founded, as we believe that education is a right, not a privilege, and all should have the opportunities to study.
This is even more important to OCA at this time as a result of the downturn in the numbers of students undertaking creative arts degrees; in July 2017 UCAS reported that they had received 5% fewer applications for creative arts and design subjects than the previous year, in part believed to be as a result of the Government focus on STEM subjects.
OCA is proud of the diversity of our student body with 30% of students who have achieved A-Levels or lower upon entry, and over 20% with a declared disability, compared with a UK average 12%.
Our open-access policy is integral to achieve our aims of widening participation, with particular focus this academic year on engaging with and encouraging Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students into creative arts education, and expanding our work to encourage students from the lowest NRS socio-economic statuses into Higher Education.
This will build on our excellent Bursary scheme that has successfully helped 90 students into Higher Education since its inception. For more information on our bursary scheme and how to apply contact enquiries@oca.ac.uk and we will be happy to help.
Please also visit the Bursaries page on the oca.ac.uk website for further information

Image Credit: OCA Creative Arts student Gemma Lees.

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Posted by author: Craig Dewis
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2 thoughts on “The importance of open-access

  • Thanks Craig, it is so important that we keep championing this open access. I know some students have concerns that ‘anyone’ can enrol – but that does not mean ‘anyone’ gets a good degree, unless they work as hard as they would in any traditional university.

  • Thanks Craig. I’ve always had a problem with seeing conditional offers as a way of filtering out weaker students. As an educator I feel I should be able to work with any student who wants to achieve something, regardless of their current abilities. After all, isn’t that what learning’s for? Consequently, I feel very proud to work at OCA supporting open access. The results OCA students achieve are just as good as the mainstream counterparts, if not better. The only real difference is learning journey, and OCA students are often much more self-aware about this.

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