Students from Cuba is a sign of changes at the Open University

Cuba Solidarity is rightly leading protests at the banning of applications from Cuban students by the Open University. It has been policy for a while now that the OU does not accept applications from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, because of the fear of US sanctions. So inclusivity and openness are now at risk on an international scale, which comes as no surprise to many of us employed by or associated with the Open University. This discriminatory policy comes with a context. The OU has form on producing progressive rhetoric when the reality of their strategies has for some years been a carnival of reaction. My central and regional colleagues have witnessed with dismay the loss of local offices, along with experienced and skilled student and tutor support staff, since the closure of my regional centre in the south-east in 2014. Many of the support staff are women who have been forced to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy – more effective discrimination. We were told by senior management that these closures were not to save money but to modernise and digitalise the institution. But fiascos have ensued in administrative processes, seriously disadvantaging students and overworking part- and full-time academic and administrative teams. The fall in student recruitment and retention is not just because of the huge hike in fees the OU put into place under the Tory coalition.

Fees Fees vary. The fee for a standard 30-credit module in England is £1,432, and for a standard 60-credit module it’s £2,864. Most students study 60 credits per year over six years for an honours degree.

Fees vary if you are overseas and are lower in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Scotland: If your personal income is £25,000 or less, or you’re on certain benefits, you could qualify for the part-time fee grant to cover 100% of your course fees. It’s not a loan – you won’t need to pay it back.

Wales: Dependent on your income and level of study you may be eligible for a course grant of up to £1,155 to help you pay for course-related costs. This is in addition to the part-time tuition fee loan which can pay for you fees. There’s nothing to pay upfront and you only start paying back when you earn more than £21,000.

Northern Ireland: For the 2017-18 academic year funding options in NI are changing. The current system of non-repayable fee and course grant support will continue to be available for those in receipt of state benefits or who have a low household income. In addition to this, a part-time tuition fee loan, which can be use used as a top-up to the fee grant is being introduced and will add to the range of payment options available for self-funding students. The application processes for fee grants and loans will open on 11 June.