After finishing my Masters, I decided to develop my career and take on a new challenge, thus taking on the long term goal of becoming a barrister. As I already had a degree I could have chosen to take a conversion course to provide the qualification required for the Bar course (BPTC). However, thanks to a shove from my uncle who had found out about an OU open day, I ended up at the OU centre in Sharston, Manchester. I decided to take on a full LLB through the OU for three reasons. Firstly I felt the full LLB would give me a comprehensive and more in-depth appreciation of the law. Secondly, the OU mode of study immediately appeared to suit my individual needs. The course was extremely flexible, being part-time, with the vast majority of work requiring independent study. This obviously suited me as I work full time and act as the usual taxi service for the children etc! Finally, I found that an OU degree was also highly regarded, a reputation built on by the high standards set by the University in the preceding years.
With some transferred credit from my first degree in hand, I then embarked on the first of the four core areas required for the LLB, in 2007. From 2007 I studied W200, W201 and W300, and I now find myself hurtling towards the end of W301 and the conclusion of my degree!
The true value taking a degree course through the OU becomes apparent once you begin study. Invariably, all the tutors have been in my experience, approachable and knowledgeable, all appreciating the various juggling acts required between home, work and the course. The course however, comes into its own as you are able to access assistance according to your individual needs. The provision of monthly tutorial sessions allied to contact with your tutor meant that one could keep contact with the tutor in line with the level of support required.
There is no doubt that if you take on the study of a degree there will be low points. These were invariably when work and/or family life took an unexpected turn, and the area of study that week was not your favourite. At times like that it paid to keep chipping away at the manuals, which guide you through to where you should be each week. To complete the LLB there is ultimately no option other than to expect to be working extremely hard, often at unusual times of the day! If one accepts a level of commitment that will see you working a regular pattern each week, with an organised approach, then achieving the degree is attainable.
Having mentioned how tough the degree is, it also worth noting the highlights. The OU online resource facilities are excellent, from access to the online library facilities; the link to the College of Law; as well as the quick and easy way to submit assessed work. There are some great highs when an assignment is received with the marks you had hoped for. Each essay submitted is returned with guidance and a useful critique supplied by the tutor.
The distance learning method of study may seem like a rather remote and lonely way to study. However, those who are happy to study with little support will enjoy the freedom. Furthermore, if you prefer more interaction with fellow students then it is available through the online OU community and various forums, as well as face-to-face at monthly tutorials.
For me, I was lucky enough to enhance friendships made at the tutorials with practical experience for the Bar. In 2010 I was one of four OU students who entered the Weekly Law Reports Annual Mooting Competition. This was open to all universities in a knockout format, each round being composed of a court hearing in front of a judge. The competition gave me an excellent insight into the qualities required of a barrister, forging ties of friendship; as well as reinforcing much of what I was learning on the course! Although this required a great deal of additional work and preparation, our work paid off, as the OU team made it to the final held at the Law Society in March 2010.
And as for the loneliness of distance study? Well both the semi-final and final of the mooting competition saw the OU bring a whole range of supporters. I was hugely impressed and buoyed by numerous other OU law students appearing to cheer us on. This was matched by the attendance of tutors who had taught the team at various stages, as well as a number of senior members of the OU including Professor Gary Slapper, Director of the OU Centre for Law, and Professor James Fleck, Dean of the OU Business School.
Ultimately the OU will provide a quality course of study for any prospective student. However, crucially, it also provides the support and flexibility many people require to achieve their ambitions.
For me now? Well, I finish the LLB this October and then hope to start the Bar course next year. Thanks to the OU for helping me along the way!
Julian has managed to study regularly and diligently, often burning the candle at both ends and foregoing his lunch break to study in some corner of the office.
Through Julian’s influence and example, I began an OU course in February 2010 (AA307 Religion in History). Although the course is only one academic year in length it is intense and demanding, perhaps more importantly, it is enjoyable and I have an excellent tutor.
As a former full-time and part-time student I was delighted to be introduced to the OU. The experience has been quite refreshing and I have a great deal to thank Julian for.
William A. Westhead
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
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