Open University to provide a new path to the University

In the future, entrance examinations will not be the only path to the University. The Open University wants to provide one of such alternate routes.

Universities are currently debating new ways to select students, and alternatives are being sought to the traditional entrance examination. The goal is to help students get started with their studies by cutting down on the time required to prepare for entrance examinations and reducing gap years. The Ministry of Education and Culture has decided that many routes will be available to higher education also in the future.

The Open University wants to offer a new, alternative route to university studies alongside admissions based on the matriculation examination.

 “The route via the Open University would give us students with high motivation.  They would be confident in having chosen the right field and they will have demonstrated their ability to study,” says Jaakko Kurhila, director of the Open University.

“The route via the Open University would give us students with high motivation."

When students are already familiar with their field when they enrol, there may also be fewer students who want to switch degree programmes. This is an optimal situation for both the student and the University.

In practice, the new path means that a student could gain a study right at the University based on studies completed at the Open University. The studies could be incorporated into a degree which would shorten graduation times in a very concrete sense.

Lear­ning from the com­pu­ter science MOOC

The Open University path already exists. However, faculties have applied strict criteria for the path. Students have typically had to complete both the basic and intermediate studies in their chosen discipline, basic studies in their minor subject as well as some of the general and language studies required for degrees. All this they have also had to complete with excellent grades. In practice, only a handful of students have been admitted into the University via the Open University each year.

It should be possible to complete the studies required for admission in a shorter time than in the current system.

Kurhila feels that the new path should be used more effectively than the current one, and it should be better thought out in terms of pedagogy. It should be possible to complete the studies required for admission in a shorter time than in the current system.

 “It’s up to the degree programmes how they want to plan their student admissions. What kinds of skills would the degree programmes want their new students to have? We have to plan and hone the criteria and methods for the new pathways carefully.” 

In his previous position, Jaakko Kurhila helped develop the massively open online course, or MOOC, for the discipline of computer science, which has used it as a pathway to admission for some time. In practice, students demonstrate their skills, persistence and aptitude for the field by completing the MOOC. Every participating student gets credit through the Open University, and the ones with the highest grades are admitted to the University. There have been other admission pathways for computer science, such as the traditional entrance examination. The discipline staff have been happy with their overall admission system.

The Open University is a significant social influence

The Open University has made higher education teaching accessible to everyone for 40 years. It was established in 1977 when Finland wanted to increase equality in the education system from comprehensive to higher education.

The Open University continues to have a significant impact on both society and the educational paths of individuals. The need for lifelong learning is becoming recognised more and more, and many fields require continuing education at different points of the professional career.

In its early days, the Open University was intended for mature students. But at the moment, the biggest age group among students is those under 24, who are typically studying during their gap year and to prepare for universities’ entrance examinations. The current debate about entrance examinations and admission pathways is directly relevant to the Open University and its significance for young adults.

Over the course of its four decades, the Open University has accumulated a great deal of experience and understanding about how higher education teaching is organised. The Open University is particularly known for its flexible arrangements and sensible use of digitalisation in teaching. The Open University took its digital leap well before the rest of the University of Helsinki.