Registering for a degree

BSc (Hons) Combined STEM degree with the Open University. A screenshot of my successful registration.
The Open University "you've registered on a course" page, prompting me to choose my first module.

For the second time in my life I have registered for a degree. It's either a good idea or a stupid one. We'll see.

This time it's with the Open University (OU). I will be studying BSc (Hons) Combined STEM, starting in October with the module S111 – "Questions in Science".

Why? Because I've got the career achievements part done, but the academic achievement part has always been something I've yearned for. Doing this won't materially improve my job prospects – instead it's a personal goal to prove something to myself.

This isn't my first attempt at a degree. In 2015, alongside working full-time, I signed up for a part-time BA (Hons) French Studies degree at Birkbeck, University of London. It was in the evenings, after work, three times a week. The campus was only 10 minutes walk from the office. I remember doing pretty well, but I only stuck at it for two out of the four years before withdrawing. The student loan was too much of a burden and I wasn't really learning anything. I suppose I should have seen that coming since it was a UK course in French as a foreign language. Anyway, I digress...

Here I am in 2023, finally registered for BSc (Hons) Combined STEM. I've been debating for years whether or not to study with the OU, and I finally stopped talking about it and hit the button.

It'll take me six years. That's a long time. I'll be 35 by the time I complete it. Of course, that's if I do complete it. But I hope not to drop out again. I have hobbies and friends and a fully-remote job, so even if distance learning gets a bit dry I still have stimulation. No student loan this time. I am privileged enough to have paid off my part-time student loan from the previous study, and I don't want that hanging around my neck again. Maybe the fact that I'm spending real money on it – and studying new and interesting things – will make me more likely to finish?

I have studied with the OU before. In 2012 I took L211, a now discontinued module called "upper intermediate French", at the same time as I did my A Levels. Given that I grew up in France and that I am fluent in French, it wasn't particularly taxing. I used it to help decide if university study was for me. It wasn't. I got a tech job and, in the last ten years, progressed to the professional heights I'm at now.

My plan is to study absolutely no French. I have learned my lesson. I could have transferred credits from previous study – the OU's credit transfer seems generous – but that would have restricted the number of credits I could do purely to save money and time. But I'm not short on time. Let's not forget that I'm doing this for fun. There's no career goals, no student loan to pay back, just personal achievement and learning. I've always enjoyed learning.

I have a mortgage, pets, a partner and a full-time job. I can't go to a traditional brick university because they wouldn't accept me without A Levels, plus I don't have the luxury of being able to quit my job for three years. In my research I did look for part-time, in-person bachelors degrees, but they were in awkward parts of the country that I couldn't easily get to, not to mention that I'd have to take full days off work.

It's true that I was hesitant to register because of the distance learning aspect. There was a fear of social isolation. However, I've discovered lots of Facebook groups and, even better, some Discord communities now that my email address is active again. The one for STEM students seems active even over the summer. There are even reports of occasional in-person meet-ups.

In future blog posts I'll go into my provisional module plans for the next six years. There's 90 days to go until my first module starts. I'm very excited! But before all that, I've got a tech conference to organize.