What it’s like to study ~ BA (Honours) Arts & Humanities (R14) at the Open University

I thought I would tell you a little bit about my experience of studying with the Open University, which as you may know has just celebrated its 50th birthday.

I’ve been studying part-time with the Open University for three years and I’m half way though “R14” which is better known as “BA (Honours) Arts & Humanities”. If you’re interested in creative writing, art history, classical studies, English language, English literature, history, languages, music, philosophy and/or religious studies, it could be the degree for you.

The degree is made up of six modules, each of which takes a UK academic year to complete. If you’re studying part-time like me, you will study one module per year so the degree will take six years to complete (but you can take breaks between the years if life gets in the way). The degree can be completed in three years if you are able to manage two modules at once. The general advice seems to be not to try this if you have a busy life with work, family etc.

The first two modules are “Level 1”. These don’t count towards your overall grade at the end of the degree, but you do have to pass them to move on to the next level. The Level 1 modules cover all of the topics available under the R14 banner. This was great for me because I was a bit uncertain which subjects I wanted to specialise in later in the degree. As it was, my assumption had been that I would probably end up studying English literature but Level 1 showed me that it wasn’t my subject. Some students found it frustrating to study a range of subjects though, particularly those with a very clear path that they wanted to follow (e.g. “I want to study history so why do I have to learn about religious studies?”).

After Level 1 comes Level 2 (see what they did there?). Level 2 counts towards your final degree grade. At this level you can choose which subjects you want to focus on. The choice offered will depend on whether you have chosen to study R14 as a “broad” degree or a “specialised” degree. I chose to follow the “broad” route which meant that I could choose from any of the Arts and Humanities subjects that I wanted to. Students following a “specialised” path are shown a restricted range of modules that fit with their chosen pathway e.g. if they have chosen to specialise in history they will only have history related modules to choose from. If you choose to specialise early on but then regret it, you can normally switch over to the broad degree, or even to an “Open” degree which gives you even more choice. For some subjects, such as history and English literature, there are two modules available at Level 2 but for most there is only one so you have to choose a second subject. My first choice for Level 2 was creative writing which I’m just finishing (and have loved). For my second Level 2 module I’ve chosen Philosophy. I’ll start this around September time after the long summer holiday (yes, Open University students get holidays like students at traditional, brick universities).

Now you can probably guess what comes after Level 2 … yes, Level 3. This level also counts towards your final grade but it’s worth twice as much in the scoring as Level 2. Like Level 2 you can choose the modules that you want to study. You can either carry on with the subjects that you studied at Level 2 or, depending on the module entry requirements, pick different subjects. It’s important to look ahead to the entry requirements for Level 3 modules because some do expect you to have done related Level 2 modules. Other Level 3s are happy for you to dip in irrespective of what you studied before. For Level 3 I already know that I will choose creative writing but it’s too early to say about philosophy. I hope that I’ll enjoy it but if it’s a nightmare I might jump ship to classics for Level 3. If hadn’t studied classics at Level 1 this subject wouldn’t have crossed my mind as an option.

The actual name of the degree that you are awarded depends on the modules you select at Levels 2 and 3. If you have a pair of matching subject modules at Level 2 and 3 then the name of that subject can appear in your degree title. For example, I hope to finish with Levels 2 and 3 in creative writing, so my degree could be BA (Honours) Arts & Humanities (Creative Writing). If I also complete a pair with philosophy that can be added in too: BA (Honours) Arts & Humanities (Creative Writing & Philosophy).

I hope that this blog has been helpful and if you’d like to find out more about R14 here’s a link to the Open University’s information page:


Oh, and just in case you’re reading this from the Open University, or are generally curious, I am studying under my natural name rather than my pen name!

Copyright 2019, Noa Summerlock.

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