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The Open University

Updated on February 19, 2011

MA in English

Fellow hubbers, I would like to share with you my little piece of exciting news. This week I have enrolled on the Open University's MA in English. I am going to be a proper student again, in just eight short months. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself.*

For those of you who may not have heard of the Open University, it is a well established institution (well, established since 1969) which runs the most excellent degrees primarily for distance learners. As such there is no campus (apart from a small one that is used for one or two research degrees), no lectures, no football team, no May Ball, no local pubs frequented by fellow students. In short, no distractions, such as the kind I experienced when I attended the university the first time around in my late teens and early twenties. (I have just received a copy of my transcript for my first degree, and my goodness, was I distracted. My marks were appalling, and I'm ashamed of them.)

I am older now, more mature (marginally), more committed (very much so), more confident (obviously, look at me puffing myself up right here). The Open University is perfect for people like me, people who can't just move to a different city to study, who have families to look after, and various commitments that cannot be simply dropped, people who need their studies to slot into the spare hours in the evenings, and who are ready to work hard because they want to, not just because they feel they're supposed to. (And one of the really big pluses, is that there are no entry requirements - lucky for me, because that transcript would ensure I was barred from postgraduate study at every other institution in the UK, I'm sure of it!)

I have done OU courses in the past, just for fun. The OU is excellent at distance learning, because that is precisely what it was set up for. Students receive splendid parcels in the mail before the courses begin, containing text books, excercises, DVDs and CDs with recordings by the tutors and DVD-ROM applications for the science courses, and lists of supporting television programmes and their air times. Students work through the text books, attempting exercises along the way, and working toward the numerous TMAs (Tutor Marked Assignments). It may seem, on the surface, to be very prescriptive, but in practice it is not. Students are provided with as much information as they need to complete the TMAs, but are also encouraged to undertake their own research and think of their own ideas. The OU provides the basics, the students can do as much or as little as they like with them.

With the OU, many courses also offer weekly or fortnightly seminars with a personal tutor. These can be invaluable. I won't pretend that OU study isn't isolating at times: it is. But this is no doubt the main reason for the tutorials. Talking to fellow students about the course material has that comforting effect of allowing each to know that they are thinking along the right lines on a particular topic, or that they are not alone in finding another area particularly difficult to understand. And there is some sense of community there, though not as strong as any other university where students will live and work together for a full three years. With the OU those friendships formed will be less intense, and based more on the academic than the social - quite the reverse of how it all works at a campus university.

Summer schools are also offered, but I have not completed one of those yet. I would imagine them to be excellent, and I hope to have the chance to do one.

It took me a while to decide which MA to choose. I had intended to apply to the university in my town (a very good university, Lancaster University) to do an MA in Creative Writing. But then I spotted this OU degree in English. I was torn for a while. Creative Writing seemed to be the obvious choice, for a would-be writer. My choice seemed made for me since the OU do not, at present, offer a Masters in Creative Writing. But then I began to think. Lancaster University MAs by distance learning. Mmm. An Ma that is run chiefly in online forums. Mmm. An MA that relies heavily on the criticism of other students, with minimal input from the tutors. This made me wonder whether the MA would be worth the not inconsiderable amount of money that I would be paying. What would I actually be paying for? Was the MA just a money making scheme for the tiny department? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I just had a feeling that if I chose it I would be making a mistake (assuming I could get a place, and that would be assuming a lot, now that I've seen that transcript)

So I looked again at the MA in English. Well-supported, well-organised, well-established, well-recommended. And I have always held the belief that we learn the most from looking at what has gone before. History is of paramount importance to me, so I cannot really think of a better way to learn about writing than to study the work of excellent writers. I will learn from my forebears.

Of course, there is a lot to be said for original thinking and moving forward, of course. But you have to learn the rules before you can break them, so some say. You may well see things differently, and that is fine - you and I are not the same writer. Good. We would certainly not want to all be the same.

I have looked at my reading list, and I am itching to get started. I have one or two of the books already, so have only about three-quarters of the list to find. Studying is something I could happily do for the rest of my life. I wish I had realised that when I did my first degree. And hey, even if I don't do well, I have a splendid excuse to read, read, read for two whole years.

Go out and find something new and exciting to do; it does wonders for a person's state of mind, I can tell you. I could dance in the street, I am so happy (except that it's raining right now, and I don't want to make my hair frizzy).


* It's difficult to convey excitement without the use of exclamation marks, or the appropriate emoticons. But I vowed to use as few as possible when I once read an article that said a good writer should never need them. (Here is a little secret for you: I usually put in lots of exclamation marks, but go through and edit them all out before I hit the publish button. Well, who wants to be seen to be shouting all the time?)

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    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      I wish I had your guts. I don't even have a degree of any sort, so my first would be a BA. I would only have to do a small amount of work, as i would have stacks of credits, Teachers' Certificate, teaching, DipM.

      But I wonder if I could work in isolation...

      Good luck, I'm sure you'll be wonderful.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Might as well finish it off Twilight, if you've got most of the work done already. The isolation is not so bad, as long as you're good at telling yourself that it's not forever. Personally, I'm not sure if I actually NEED a Masters degree, but I just want to do it. If you just fancy getting a BA, might as well. Or not :D Up to you.

      Not guts involved, because that's the wonderful thing about a distance learning course - it's pretty much anonymous :) No-one on the course will know who I am.

    • profile image

      Simon Kewin 6 years ago

      Fascinating. I finsihed an OU BA in Eng Lit a few years ago and was toying with doing an MA in creative writing. The MA you're doing does souns fasntastic though ...

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Well done on the BA Simon, even though it was a few years ago. A BA with the OU takes a huge amount of dedication, so that was no mean feat you pulled there!

      It does sound fantastic. The OU don't do an MA in CW yet - but I think they're considering putting one together (actually I think they've been considering it for a long time). Good luck if you do decide to study some more...

      Linda.

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      Well here's wishing you well on your journey to MA in Englsih. Well done on you wise choice and if that little research is any way to view how you will do, I'm sure you will get on famously and have a great time in the bargain. It would be good to hear how you get on with your reading and assignments etc. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thanks for the encouragement chs. Oh, I think you are right that I will have a great time - hopefully that will help me to do pretty well: enjoying your work can make it that little bit easier I think. We'll see. I will certainly write hubs as I go along.

      Linda.

    • profile image

      natcole1983 6 years ago

      Congratulations on choosing to continue your education! Just goes to show that it's never to late to go back to school!

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thank you natcole. Oh you are right, it is absolutely never too late to go back to school. I used to work with postgraduate students at our local university, and I learned very early on that education was there for everyone no matter how old a person might be - my oldest student was about 74, and she was undertaking a PhD. Marvellous.

    • INFJay profile image

      Jay Manriquez 6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

      Excellent choice to return to school! Although I don't know you personally, however, your writings/posts reveal that you've got what it takes to succeed. Best of luck!

      BTW- your profile photo is much too serious for the image I had of you...

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thanks INFJay. That compliment sure has give me a boost!

      Yes, I can see that - it would have been better if I'd captured the moment right after this photo was taken, which was when I burst into hysterical laughter at how ridiculous I look when trying to appear pensive! I don't have too many photos of myself, on account of always being the one behind the camera. As soon as I find a better one I'll switch.

    • ecamper23 profile image

      ecamper23 6 years ago

      I feel like online school is great for housewives and older people who just want to get back into the workforce or just learn.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Well, I'm not a housewife, since I don't take the best care of my house, and I'm not a wife. I'm also would not consider myself to be an older person :D

      Only teasing ecamper - online learning is fantastic, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to learn but has limited options/time. Thanks for visiting my hub.

      Linda.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      ....again, I am so very proud of you for doing this - and yes it's true that the epi-man 'literally' hangs on every 'exciting' word that you write!!!!!

    • bdouble28 profile image

      bdouble28 6 years ago

      Are online degrees generally frowned upon by employers? Would you suggest it for people who are learning primarily as a hobby?

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Just to clarify bdouble, the OUs degrees are not online degrees, they're by distance learning, which is not the same thing. Text books and additional paper materials and sources are sent out in the post - the online part of the course only really relates to forums where students can discuss any problems they might be having.

      The Open University in the UK is highly regarded bdouble, and employers don't frown upon it at all - this is because it demonstrates that a candidate has a high level of dedication, because studying is done entirely in their own free time, and usually paid for out of their own funds. Degrees with the OU are equal in quality and value to degrees attained at any other campus university (and more than some!) I wouldn't suggest it Primarily to those learning as a hobby, but many people do use it for that purpose. I would suggest it primarily for those who are serious about getting a qualification, but who cannot afford to move to a campus university, and who have to keep a full-time job in order to fund their studies. It's ideal for those who have families too.

      Linda.

    • mbaker2012 profile image

      mbaker2012 5 years ago

      Good to hear that you're on the road to success!

    • mandymoreno81 profile image

      mandymoreno81 5 years ago

      Is it possible to submit your work online? I imagine you wouldn't mail them your homework constantly right?

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
      Author

      Linda Rawlinson 5 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Different tutors ask for submissions in different ways Mandy (nice to meet you, by the way). When I took Open University modules three or four years ago I had to submit hard copies of my assignments by post - but there were about five assignments in a total of nine or ten months, so it wasn't as if we were mailing homework constantly. I think that some assignments are submitted online now, but I couldn't tell you if it has become the norm yet.

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