Open university

Hi everyone,

I’ve been caring for my mum since I was about 10 years old and I am now 25. Due to my caring responsibilities my education suffered and I left school with less than what I needed to get into uni and to be honest it wouldn’t have been the right time. I completely gave up on the uni path and went straight into full time work. I am able to balance my caring responsibilities with work and have recently started looking into an open university course. I don’t regret anything I’ve done or feel any sort of resentment,I just feel like I have missed out on something else that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m just venting :laughing: and wondering if anyone has had any experience with open university whilst caring/and working?

Hi Chelsea … welcome to the forum.

Studying ?

BE VERY WARY … The infamous 21 Hour Rule !

One of the very reasons I started that thread in the first place !

For the benefit of younger carers and carers whose caring roles are numbered,

In your case , not only the £ 123 weekly limit on earnings and still retaining Carers Allowance … now , the dreaded 21 Hour
Rule is thrown in the mix … even if it involves home study !

Good juggling act … £ 122.99 per week + Carers Allowance + 20 hours 59 minutes studying … the diffence 2p / 2 minutes can
make … at times ???

Others will be along to extend their welcomes and provide any guidance on the day to day caring matters.

Thanks for the reply, I can’t claim carers allowance due to working full time and over earnings threshold so I don’t need to worry about that it’s more for advice on balancing everything. :slight_smile:

In which , forget the 21 Hour Rule for now … will reappear should you elect to claim Carers Allowance in the future.

( Earnings ? Marshalling … offsetting certain expenditure and staying within the £ 123 ( CA now back in the frame ) possible
… more on that if needed … or your caring duties increase ??? )

The art of balancing … life / work / study / caring.

No clearcut answer … nor a one size fits all one.

A Question of Balance ( Thanks , Moody Blues ) … an old fashioned remedy … trial and error.

Objectives / hopes in life … how best achieved from the resources available to you ?

Only you can answer that one … whatever balance that feels " Right " for you.

Few on this forum have that option , many have predetermined paths ahead of them no matter what they do.

On the caring side , upto date needs and carer assessments done through your LA ?

I’ll post links if theses are unknowns to you.

Hi Chelsea
I think doing a course is good for you, for your self esteem, for your future prospects, for all sorts of reasons.
I did an OU course while working full time (no caree at that stage) and found it best if I totally blocked out set times to do it in my diary. For example I would do 3 hours every Saturday between 7 and 10 and then would feel free for the rest of the weekend. If a test or report was looming I would set aside extra time, and nothing was allowed to interrupt that time.
I realise this may not be as easy in a caring situation, but some of it is acknowledingn to yourself how important it is to you, and that you are important and worthy of the time.
It will take determination and dedication, but that just makes the feeling of accomplishment at the end even more fulfilling
Go for it! :slight_smile:

Also, if an OU course is too much to start with check out Futurelearn for all sorts of short term online free courses. They will seem like you have to pay but that’s only if you want to pay for a certificate. Most courses are

Hello Chelsea,

The OU also run Access modules. These are slightly different to the Access courses run in colleges. Basically, they offer you the chance to study a module, gain academic study skills and see if you can fit in study with work and caring responsibilities.

Thanks! I’m now feeling a bit more encouraged to go for it. It will be challenging but I think I can manage it. I have had a chat with my family and basically been honest and said much of the above and that they need to start taking it seriously because to be honest without the caring I really haven’t achieved much in life. It may sound selfish but. I feel like I’ve put my life on hold long enough and I now need to start thinking about me. :slight_smile:

Sometimes families don’t fully hear what we are saying, so for studying, it might be worth taking yourself out to the library and doing the work there. That way you can concentrate, the time is ring -fenced and its visible and real to the family.
If they are used to you giving way, or saying yes to everything and putting yourself last, it’s going to take them some time and lots of repetition to realise that this time you are determined and are going to do it.
Definitely go for it

Hi Chelsea - I’ve not been on the forums in years so saw this a bit late, but if you’re still weighing this up or have gone for it but would like some advice, I’m more than happy to chat with you - I started at a ‘normal’ campus university then did a credit transfer to the OU and went part time so that I could still finish my degree after I had to move back home to become my Mum’s live-in carer. Graduated last summer with a 2:1 - took seven years total, but I got there in the end! It’s not easy to balance studying long-distance with caring, but it is doable.

  • Isla

Hi Chelsea,

I’m also quite late in getting a reply to you because I only joined the forum today!
I completed my BSc in Natural Sciences last October with a 2:1. Throughout my degree I worked full time until the very last module and I took a year off to complete this as I knew it would be very labour intensive. I got a distinction in this, so it paid off!

However, because I worked full time (and moved house twice) the degree took longer - 9 years in total. I found working and studying manageable only by studying one course/module at a time for level 3 and planned out my time well. I used to get 2nd hand books for modules from ebay or Amazon and read them over the summer. This is harder to do now that materials have moved online and books are being phased out, but you can find facebook groups for modules where students sell their print on demand copies once they have finished the course.

My advice would be to get super organised:-

  1. Plan for a couple of hours study a night and save 1 day for weekend study.
  2. Before the course gets into full swing, organise your computer by adding a module folder and organising sub-folders for downloadable module materials. I also made folders for a working draft assessment and the final assessment for submission.
  3. Note assessment due dates and build in more time for these. I usually blocked out two weeks prior in my calendar to complete assessments.
  4. Fulfil the learning objectives, as these are assessed in the exams and assessments.
  5. If studying courses in tandem, choose courses that crossover in subject. Repetition of materials cuts down revision time.
  6. If doing two courses simultaneously, choose one that has an exam and one that has an end of module assessment. You then only have revision for one module. Bear in mind that the end of module assessment (EMA) will steal revision time from the exam module. To counteract this, complete the EMA early to free up revision time for the exam module.
  7. If you must complete the degree in less time, double up only on level 1 courses. The degree classification is not based on level 1 courses, but how well you do at level 2 and 3. However, I did do two level 2 courses at once by combining an exam module with an EMA module. I recommend doing only one course at a time for level 3, as higher levels increase in work levels and difficulty and you do not want to compromise final marks.
  8. Revise topics weekly so that it is not a panic around exam time. I was bad at this and found I had to build in 2 months of revision prior to the exam, but wished I had used the weekly method.
  9. Get hold of past exam papers from the OU Student’s Association shop and make sure you work through these before exams. If you do a paper in exam conditions, it will get you used to exams and steady your nerves.
  10. Try to book in some time to relax and exercise.
  11. Buy drip dry clothes!

I’m not going to lie, I was completely burnt out working full time and studying. It’s not easy, but you will feel like you have made an incredible achievement once you get your degree. You will have made lots of new friends and studying will broaden your thinking. You will never look at the World the same way and hopefully you will have broadened your horizons :slight_smile:.

Go for it and good luck!


I attended a part time Honours degree in Business Studies specially for mature students at Southampton Institute, now Solent University. It took four years, attending one day a week and studying at home. Everyone else was working, most funded by their employers. At times I wonder how I ever even got to college, but it was well worth it. My husband was made redundant just as I was finishing the course, we went on to run a business together for many years, and it worked. well, until he died.

Hi Chelsea, I can say that this is not a big problem and everything can be easily solved. I have many friends that had the same situation and it was easier than to study full time at the university. Everything you need is just to take your time and do what you need to do. The hardest thing is the exams session, there you need more time for studying, the rest of the time you can dedicate for work or for yourself.

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