Open universities are universities that are open to people without formal academic qualifications. Open universities offer distance education using specific didactics and media. The goal of open universities is to offer everyone equal opportunities to develop their competences, to raise their level of education and to receive retraining. On the other hand, it is also a way of attracting potential students that at one point, would like to enrol and pursue a degree.
Most open universities award undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates, or continuing education units.
Open Universities all over the world
In Europe, the Open University of the UK (1970) was the first established to organise open and distance education for a broad range of programmes, especially to widen the participation of students who don’t fulfil all usual admission criteria.
Consequently, in the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Australia, Africa and in other countries open universities were established. Since then, millions of students have successfully followed open university education and still do so.
No entry requirements for higher education
The term open university or open universities usually refer to a university with an open-door academic policy, i.e. no entry requirements. That is why open universities are usually ”open” to all students. The initial thought behind open universities was to make higher education accessible to all people. That is why today open universities are accessible for you, even when you might not have a certificate from secondary school.
For instance, open universities from Australia have the following entry policy:
1. students who opt to attend classes on campus will be required at least one academic entry requirement
2. students who prefer to attend online courses of the same university won’t need to present or provide any documents from their prior studies.
In other cases, such as the Open University in Israel, candidates will go through a screening process, but there are no high standard entry requirements. The university accepts high school and Bachelor’s degree graduate students with a minimum grade average. However, the reason for this minimum screening is to ensure that the admitted students have an adequate mental capacity and maturity to deal with the challenges and the environment of academic studies.
On top of that, the open universities have specific services for disabled persons and for people studying at a home/workplace at their own time and pace. Open universities developed a distinct policy around openness.
Similarities and differences between open and distance
This holds for most open universities, but by selecting an institution you should check their policy on these openness criteria. Usually, open universities accept any student, with no age limits and no prior education requirement.
In the case of distance learning universities, some apply strict entry requirements as conventional universities do (e.g. Fernuni in Germany). In this case, the same entry requirements apply as for on-campus programmes, even at the Bachelor level.
Whether you decide for an open or a distance learning course, you can choose from a wide palette of options, from personal development programmes, learn about various cultures to more in-depth knowledge related to research in various fields, like engineering, chemistry, business, management, law and more.
In some open universities, students cannot complete a degree, but the credits they earn can then be transferred towards a degree if they decide to enrol and get admitted at the same university.
The objective is to offer everyone opportunities to develop their competences, to raise their level of education and to receive retraining.
Broad variety of distance learning providers
Confusion may arise because the term open university sometimes is also associated with universities that provide distance education. And to further complicate the issue, not all open universities focus on distance education only, whereas more and more traditional universities do introduce distance education programmes.
Emerging technologies have enabled many traditional institutions to start offering open and distance learning (ODL) programmes; new ODL institutions are springing up everywhere.
That is why in order not to get confused or consider a distance degree as an open course or vice versa, check and read carefully all the details of the programmes. If still the description is not clear, the best advice is to contact the university staff and require more information.
The on-going evolution of ODL delivery models has led to ODL becoming an umbrella term for a confusing array of learning descriptors. In addition, the term open and open education is evolving and therefore, becoming somewhat confusing. You should decide for yourself how important different kind of openness is for you, and what kind of distance delivery model you prefer.
The easy path to open universities
By simply searching on the internet after typing open universities, you will find plenty of relevant results, names of universities worldwide, each presenting their interesting offer with courses. The only thing left for you to do is to choose one that appeals most to you and think it would enrich your knowledge or at least, provide a pleasant learning experience.