Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Open University and Tracy Jackson's Bra

Today is Open University results day. With passes in S282 Astronomy and MS121 Exploring Maths, I edged a little closer to getting those OU degrees. How much closer? Well, if I'm represented by me, which seems fair, and my degrees are represented by the surface of Pluto, I've moved from the living room into the kitchen. There's a long way to go.

I may have mentioned it before but I love the Open University. And I think most OU students do too. It consistently comes top of university student satisfaction surveys. That's quite an achievement when you consider that they have more students than the population of India. You would think that with all those people to organize something would go wrong occasionally, but apparently in forty years of operation the worst thing to happen was when, during a residential course in 1985, a Mr Barry Mansfield of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire snapped his favourite pencil. It was a black day for everyone involved.

But maybe I'm looking at it all through too rosily-tinted a pair of spectacles. Maybe question papers don't turn up in time for examinations, or perhaps people register for courses and then slip out of the system, or maybe maths tutors routinely machete tutorialfuls of students for failing to grasp calculus. But it's never happened to me and so it doesn't count. Allow me to adjust my glasses. Yes, it's all very nicely pink, thank you very much.

But what's really great about the OU is that it gives you a second chance. You may have messed up at school, spending more time trying to catch a glimpse of Tracy Jackson's bra than knuckling down to your GCSEs (or O-levels as it was when I was at school back in 1741) but that doesn't mean you have to consign yourself to the academic dustbin along with things like board dusters and canes and pupil discipline. No, you can reinvent yourself. You can become a scientist, or a linguist, or a philosopher. You could even become a trawlerman, but I'm not sure the OU has a course for that. Maybe next year.

Some people are nervous about returning to education but the OU eases you in gently with its Level 1 courses. And Level 2 builds on Level 1, increasing the complexity and preparing you for the big stuff. It's not until Level 3 that they hit over the head with concepts that makes your brain want to leak out of your ears. But it's a degree. It shouldn't be easy. If you didn't want to work for it, you may as well have bought your certificate on Ebay. (Speaking of which, if you've got twenty quid I've just uploaded a lovely PhD in Molecular Engineering. First come, first served.)

So I'll keep at it, taking those little steps each year heading for my final destination on the surface of Pluto. And - who knows? - perhaps next year you might find I've got as far as the garden.

Toodle pip!

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