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Academic Regulatory Framework Changes /Pt 1 - The Open College of the Arts

To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.

Academic Regulatory Framework Changes /Pt 1 thumb

Academic Regulatory Framework Changes /Pt 1

From 2nd January 2020 OCA is introducing a revised Academic Regulatory Framework. This document, which forms part of the Student Regulations, underpins and governs how all of OCAs degree programmes work, from the credits that are earnt on completion of a unit to the length of time available to complete a unit, level, and degree. 


The new changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework, introduced from January 2020, mainly affect how timeframes work at OCA. Overall timeframes for a degree remain at 12 years, but the changes relate to unit and level timeframes.

What are the changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework?

Unit timeframes will vary depending upon the number of unit credits. A 40 credit unit will now have a maximum timeframe of 12 months, 18 months for a 60 credit unit, and 24 months for an 80 credit unit. 


Each level will need to be completed within three years from the point of enrolment to the first unit. For example three 40 credit level one units will take a maximum of three years, same for two 60 credit level two units. 


To support students’ changing circumstances, students will be able to defer their studies both in between units, and within units. We’ll cover this in more detail in the next blog post. 


Non completion of a core unit will result in withdrawal from the degree. Students will be formally notified unless a student has applied for an extension or deferral through the mitigating circumstances process.


To enrol to the same degree after withdrawal you will need to wait 12 months before enrolling as a new student. 


Engagement with studies, how often, and what it is, is covered in a new Active Study Policy. This also covers a withdrawal process due to non-engagement which is a legal obligation on OCA from Student Loans Company and Office for Students. Students not actively engaged in study for 60 days will be contacted and provided with support in study planning. If there is still no engagement, the withdrawal process starts.


A new stipulation on degree pathways, that students undertake units in the order laid out in the programme specifications. 


Lastly, there is clarification to ‘deferral’ and ‘withdrawal’ within the glossary, clarification that re-assessment does not lead to an extension of the overall timeframes, and assessment criteria for Interior Design, and Garden Design have been added.


Why are we doing this?

Research by OCA shows that pace of study is an important factor in the likelihood of someone completing a unit, level, and degree. It is important for students to get into good study habits early and maintain regular study. To support this we will be providing additional guidance and tools to assist and encourage student progression. 


In addition the way in which timeframes have been structured in the Academic Regulatory Framework has been confusing. This has led to large numbers of students running out of time on their level. 


The Office for Students and the Student Loans Company require us to monitor engagement, and ensure student retention. We are using these statutory requirements to make positive changes and better support our student body. 


Specified degree pathways will mean that students build through their degree, gaining the skills they need to be successful. Some units need skill development and enhanced knowledge before taking them. This change will ensure that students have more support in taking subjects when ready for them. Students will have more choice within units in assignment tasks and unit structure.


These changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework reflect all of these things.  We hope that these changes will mean students remain more engaged with studies throughout, can more readily understand the timeframes, and above all, to complete studies!


That last point is key for us at OCA. Through opening access to the arts we want to see people complete their studies and become successful practicing artists. 


What will this mean for me?

All of these changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework will come into effect from the 2nd January 2020.


If you are a new student, these changes apply when you enrol, as part of the Student Regulations and Conditions of Enrolment.


If you are an existing student, the changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework will not take effect until you start your next unit following the 2nd January 2020.


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Posted by author: Craig Dewis

20 thoughts on “Academic Regulatory Framework Changes /Pt 1

  • Craig, how will this will work in practice? At Textiles level 3 where we are required to enrol on two courses concurrently (this is my next course). I am also rather disappointed that I found this out about these changes via a post shared by a student (not an official notification from OCA). I was not aware of these proposals,, was there a student consultation? Thanks Nicky

  • I also only saw this after seeing a post on our Facebook group and I’ve checked back over the weekly update emails and nothing about this has been mentioned there. Below are the 2 comments I have made on the Facebook group:
    ‘I don’t actually understand what’s happening here but if the time scales get reduced down to almost the same time as full time or even part time at an actual university building then why would we pay the OCA? The whole point is that we can organise it around our busy lives? Am I miss reading this?’

  • My second comment
    My other worry with this is that we’ll lose the tutors who are also full time practicing artists and instead have full time tutors who are imbedded in the uni not the art world. This may make things more efficient but the degree will become overly academic and not creative. Most textile artists that I speak to shun the academic side of art because it is restrictive and is all about the arty farty bs descriptions of the often poor work rather than craftsmanship. The world of OCA is changing and it seems to me, is seeking out a younger cohort of students who can’t afford uni fees but still need a degree to progress in their chosen profession and with City & Guilds winding down there are fewer places for us mature students to study than ever.

    My other question is why is the new deadline being bought in so soon when there is no sign of the extra support needed to assist students. Shouldn’t that support be up and running well before the new time scales are implemented.

    • I totally agree. These changes have massive implications for mature part time students with many other commitments who have planned the whole degree thinking they have four years for each level. It is being said that this is to motivate students to finish but if students can’t finish a level in 4 years why should they be able to finish in 3. It is clearly nothing to do with motivating students and everything to do with finance and getting more students through more quickly.

  • Like Sally I am utterly shocked that this has not been communicated nor have we been consulted. This is a huge change and I am sure I am not alone in expressing concern that along with a buy job and being a single mother the new time frame may not be manageable at all which would mean effectively I will not be able to complete my degree. Why is this crucial information squirrelled away deep inside a forum I am sure I am not alone in never visiting? Why did we not get an email? It is isn’t even in the news section!

  • I agree, for those of us who are studying part time because of family or work commitments the changes may well mean that the degree is no longer possible. A serious problem if one has already invested a lot of money and time. Not everybody gets a loan of any sort.

    I would be fascinated to know how you can tell if we are not engaged in study for 60 days, as we only have contact with a tutor at the end of each assignment – most study is lone. Are you going to check our learning logs regularly for postings? If this means I can have more regular tutor engagement I am all for it. – are you planning on paying the tutors more to allow for this?

    • We don’t have learning logs on my creative writing courses, nor study events, nor group work, nor tutor tutorials. As you say, we just work alone. But according to the support blog, if the OCA doesn’t hear from us within a 60-day period, we’ll be thrown off the degree.. Or have I read it wrong?

  • Well, this could be me scuppered! I mean, I know My progress has been slow, but to find this out via a forwarded link is discraceful communication, rather lack of, from the OCA. I have always been aware of the timelines of the course, and am aiming to work within them, even though for various reasons it’s been irregular study up until now. I really need to speak to support services to clarify my situation but all their phones are ‘off the hook’ at the moment! I don’t mind changing to the new regulatory framework for my new level, but the timescales involved cannot be applied retrospectively. Not impressed!

  • So, does this mean that the units are all going to be rewritten by the 2nd of January in order for students to stand a chance at succeeding within the timeframe ? And does it also mean that the tutoring will be more focused on helping students getting a Pass 1st time round? This would be beneficial in a way but could scupper the chance to really explore the subject, in effect it would turn the whole experience into a tick box exercise. Is this really what education at University level is about? This is a sad day. I wonder whether the OCA would not have been better off staying what it was before going into the university sphere.

  • My concern is that if you are only aloud 3 years to complete 120 credits which is equivalent to one years full time studying how can you be given upto 12 years to do your degree if after 60 days of not studying or signing up for the next course in your degree the process starts to cancel your degree course the maths doesn’t add up because you still only have 3 years even after extentions on individual courses for the equivalent of a year’s study. Can this be clarified?

  • I am also shocked . these are huge changes. I cannot believe they are aimed at motivating students. Students who struggle to finish a level in 4 years are not suddenly going to be motivated to finish in 3! I believe it has everything to do with finance and getting more students through more quickly. this change has not been consulted on and has been introduced through the back door with no proper communication. I only learned about it by reading a comment from another student. . Additionally the changes are unclear. I cannot find an explanation about e.g if we are taking 2 years over a current 60 credit module does that mean we have 1 year so we complete the next 60 credit module in the required 3 years, or do we have 18 months so that we have the allotted new timeframe to work in (instead of the old 24 months?). Also the question above about level 3 study where two modules are studies concurrently is really important to clarify. this is not to do with the student loan company since most of us are not on student loans I imagine. Also its perfectly possible to enrol for alternative time scales to meet student loan requirements. E.g. to study ‘part time’ over x years or as a ‘flexible’ student over x years. this is what other universities do.

  • I only enrolled just over a month ago and none of these changes were mentioned. Main reason for me going ahead was the flexibility due to my other commitments and now this has change has just appeared, which is really concerning. Not a great first impression for a new student. Thinking i woukd have a maximum of 4 years to complete level 1 (if needed) I’ve now only got 2! To take 2 years away from potential time available is a big deal!

  • As an ex teacher myself and a student whose next stop is a degree with you, I do not think this has been thought throw realistically. (1) The purpose of an online course is many people have many other commitments so flexi is important, (2) I like to study and research properly so I get 100% the best out of the course and in turn my knowledge and skills are developing stronger, (3) what about students with additional needs – like myself, I have PTSD, anxiety, depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder – what happens when I am ill? I am also a single mother with an autistic daughter another reason for needing flexi timetables. This is the main reason I chose to study this way and not at a brick and mortar establishment. Yes time frames are very important but so is quality over quickness, perhaps rather than punishing us all with a 60 day rule you should get on top of students that are falling behind and support them.

  • I am shocked and disappointed to learn about this through the textiles facebook page, rather than an email from the OCA. I chose to study with the OCA as I am agoraphobic, suffer with severe anxiety and panic attacks, and have fibromyalgia and CFS, among other health issues. The flexibility and time scales for completing work were a huge reason I chose the OCA. I understand from students comments on the facebook group that it can be extremely difficult to get an extension on time, some people needing to actually send in death certificates for family members to prove that they have suffered a loss- so how do I prove when i’m having a flare up and cant get out of bed? To be honest, I am left wondering what i’m actually paying for- 30 minutes face time with my tutor at the end of each assignment? Everything else is totally self learnt. Extremely disappointed with all this at the moment and feeling very disheartened.

    • I agree with Samantha above – I also have known health conditions with some that would prove impossible to prove when having a flare up without getting a GP’s letter which is additional cost which many of simply cannot afford. Many of us are studying with OCA due to our own or family health issues and these new timescales will affect so many – I am fortunate being almost at the end of level 2 but there are countless students who will face difficulties and added stress which they simply do not need.
      The lack of actual contact with tutors other than written or video feedback has long been an issue ….. if we are lucky some tutors do respond to questions between assignments but this can be frustratingly slow which in turn delays submitting assignments so if these regulations are coming in for us then it is only fair that our tutors response time should also be speeded up.

  • Well it would appear that these sudden enforced changes and the way that they have been communicated have had the exact opposite effect to that ‘apparently’ intended. Judging from all the comments, and I entirely agree with most, it has completely demotivated and demoralised your entire and previously committed student body.

  • I had to take a mitigating circumstances postponement which has meant it took me 21/2 years to complete the first course. This change cuts across the extended timescales that were agreed and it is a physical impossibility for me to do the remaining 2 courses in 6 months. I signed up for the 2nd course a week ago and there was no mention – presumably I complete this one , go back for the third and find I am already timed out. How can this get to us by someone sharing it on Facebook! It’s appalling.

  • I have to agree with all above… and I feel really bad for people who are working and trying to fit this around other commitments. I am surprised the college is contractually allowed to make these changes with students who are already signed up for the degree. What constitutes a time frame… is it the time it takes to hand in your last assignment, when you get your last report, when you send in your work for assessment or when you get your final results?

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