Studying With the Open University

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Students in prisons and secure hospitals

Registration for undergraduate modules starting in October 2024



Registration is now open

Open University students in secure environments have been gaining OU qualifications as well as taking and passing OU modules for many years. They include people from all backgrounds, many of whom have previously had negative experiences of education. Their OU studies have not only given them something constructive and worthwhile to do during their sentence, but also helped them to gain confidence and belief in their own abilities. For some, taking OU modules has been an end in itself; for others it has led to valuable qualifications and provided opportunities for a new start after release.

Never in a million years would I have thought I would undertake a degree – yet here I am, doing it! What is most striking is how it turns from something to do with my time in prison into something I do with the rest of my life. I couldn’t recommend it enough.


Where do students start?

The idea of university-level study can be quite daunting if there has been no previous study at this level before, or if a student has not studied for many years. For this reason, the OU offers a range of introductory Access modules funded by the Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) under the banner of Steps to Success. They have been specially designed to help students find out what it’s like to study with the OU, get a taste of a subject area, develop study skills, and build confidence.

Access modules are perfect for new learners with little or no knowledge or experience of studying and use the same high-quality teaching materials and study support we’re famous for. They're also fascinating and fun to do and most are available via the Virtual Campus.

Please click the following link for more information about Steps to Success

My afternoons studying on the education wing became the highlight of my week. I started off with an Access course on the environment. The subject matter was engaging, the study materials were great and the assignments were challenging. The feedback I got from the OU tutors was encouraging. The education staff provided ideas for further courses. I felt like I was part of something.


Unlike other universities, the OU does not have entry requirements to study most of its undergraduate qualifications and there are no tests to gain entry – in fact, more than 40 per cent of new OU undergraduate students in the UK don’t have the formal qualifications they’d need to go through a traditional university application process.

The OU has changed the lives of more than two million people, bringing them new knowledge, skills, interests and inspiration, and helping them to achieve new goals. We are the UK’s largest university, with more than 170,000 students. This includes learners in prisons and secure environments.

The OU offers qualifications in a broad range of subjects and provides access to a range of educational opportunities, from short introductory modules to longer, broader modules leading to degrees and other recognised qualifications.

Please click on the following link for a copy of the prospectus - A Guide for Learners in Secure Environments

Essential details of what studying each module involves is listed on the Module Information Sheets.


Counting previous study

If students have already gained university level credits elsewhere it may be possible for them count this credit towards an OU qualification and start at a higher level. This is known as credit transfer and must be applied for before registering for any OU study.

Please see the credit transfer pages for further information and the closing dates to apply.

Course materials

At the time of publishing all the modules included in the prospectus can be made accessible to students who do not have internet access.

The SiSE registrations team can provide you with information about what's required to facilitate study of individual modules in the form of a module information sheet.

Free learning with The OU

There are over 900 free courses on OpenLearn, from a five minute exploration to a 50 hour expedition into learning.

Offline formats of our course material are available on each OpenLearn course page in the 'Download this course' box.

Please click the following link for more information about OpenLearn


Functional skills free courses on OpenLearn

Everyday Skills in Maths and English

Free online courses for anyone who wants to get inspired and brush up on their everyday skills in maths and English.

These resources are for Functional Skills level 1 and 2 and we envisage them being used alongside classroom teaching.

Find out more about the courses here.

OpenLearn content is separate to OU formal learning and may contain content which is not suitable in the secure environment. OpenLearn is therefore not included on the Virtual Campus.