You are here

  1. Home
  2. Our work
  3. Widening access

Widening access

The Open University widens access to higher education to all people in society. This is a core part of our mission to be ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas’.

image of a woman studying at a desk with her computer

We bring university to everyone in Northern Ireland

Distance has never stopped us. Our flexible approach to study means people across Northern Ireland can learn around their lives. People can access all their materials, join tutorials and connect with tutors and fellow students, wherever they are.  76% of undergraduate students in Northern Ireland work full or part-time while they study.

image of a degree ceremony

We don't ask for previous qualifications

For most courses, our only entry requirement is a desire to learn. That means whatever a person’s starting point, there are no limits to what they can achieve with us. Our mission is to make learning accessible to all and we’ve helped over 47,000 students in Northern Ireland reach their goals.

image of two people chatting across a desk

We support our students every step of the way

With a dedicated tutor for every module, our students receive expert advice and regular feedback.

We also provide an experienced and qualified advisory service through our Belfast office support team, including providing information on additional funding, arranging additional study support sessions, advising on study strategies or providing educational advice on how to continue with studies.

Any student that declares a disability or additional need is offered advice and support available via our Student Support Team in Belfast. This includes provision of reasonable adjustments, access to equipment and services, special exam arrangements and advice and support with applying for Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) via Student Finance Northern Ireland.

The Open University Students Association also runs specific support groups for students with disabilities and additional needs; including mental health conditions. In 2019/20 5% of students in Northern Ireland declared a mental health condition. Students who may feel they need some additional support with their mental health can access free online support 24-hours a day, seven days a week via the Togetherall service (formerly Big White Wall).

The OU also has strong links with disability organisations and community-leaders in Northern Ireland who widely promote the opportunities for students who may need to learn in a more accessible manner..

image of person using a calculator

Our qualifications are more affordable

50% of students in Northern Ireland pay nothing upfront by funding their studies with a fee grant and/or tuition-fee student loan. If your household income is under £25,000, you could get a fee grant of up to £1,230. *  You can also fund your studies with loans, bursaries or pay-as-you-learn instalments..


image of a student studying at a desk

We help people prepare for HE study with our access courses

If you’ve been away from education for a while, we have optional Access modules to ease people into study. Designed as an introduction to distance learning, they are a great way to refresh your study skills. Many OU students say studying one of our Access modules helped them feel prepared for a full qualification.

Widening Access and Participation Plan

We are committed to help all students to access and succeed in higher education.  Every year, we submit an updated Widening Access and Participation Plan to the Department for the Economy (DfE).  The plan evaluates our contribution to Widening Participation in Northern Ireland and outlines how we intend to progress.  

Read our Widening Access Participation Plan here

For further information contact:

Maggie Bates

Senior Manager in Widening Access