Questions for OCA about a closer relationship with UCA
The questions below were raised by OCASA committee members following the announcement of discussions between OCA and UCA in March 2016 – WeAreOCA article here.
1 What are the perceived benefits of the merger between OCA and UCA ?
In the longer term, greater choice for students with the possibility of both distance learning and blended learning routes. In the short term, it provides a route to solving the long running issue with online journal access.
2 Are there any likely downsides for OCA students as a result of the merger ?
We cannot see any. The Trustees have considered the idea carefully over a period of months and voted unanimously in February to explore further.
3 What will happen if the merger does not go ahead ?
In the short term, the OCA will remain as an independent provider validated by UCA. In the longer term it remains likely that we would explore a closer partnership with another HEI. Since currently OCA students are registered with UCA, any partnership with another HEI would only go ahead with the agreement of students.
4 Would anything of the existing OCA organisation remain in place and would the existing trustees remain ?
We expect the staff would remain and some trustees to become Members of the UCA Council (ie the equivalent of Trustees)
5 Is the intention to maintain the ethos of OCA and if so how would this work with the UCA model ?
Yes, we are still exploring the structural and governance options as part of the due diligence process – see question 9.
6 What will happen to development projects like Project 2016 ?
We expect them to continue as presently.
7 Would the new combined organisation still have a Charity status ?
Yes, UCA is a charity, so this is the coming together of two charities.
8 What would happen to OCAs existing reserves ?
They would be merged with the UCA reserves
9 Is there an agreed timeline for the merger to be achieved?
We are working towards joining UCA on 31 July 2016, at the end of their academic year. To achieve this date, we are currently engaged in a due diligence process (where both parties examine the legal and financial issues closely) and will report to the OCA Trustees on 16 June. Assuming the Trustees are satisfied for the proposal to go ahead, the final decision will be taken by the UCA Council on 16 July.
Organisation and Support:
1 How will the organisation and support be affected in the areas of the Barnsley office, student advisers and learning support, the IT platform and websites, OCASA and student activity funding ?
In advance of the formal decision being made, we haven’t yet begun work of the details of how OCA operations will be delivered, but UCA are interested because they can see that the OCA model is both successful and highly cost effective. We certainly expect OCASA to continue, to continue to receive per capita funding and it will be likely to have a relationship with the UCA student union.
1 Will the open to anyone, start anytime and flexible study timescales remain in place for existing and new distance learning students ?
All of these features will remain for existing students, we cannot guarantee that there will not be changes to regulations for new students at some time in the future. This answer would be the same regardless of the discussions we are having with UCA.
2 Will the course fees, payment options and payment support remain the same as now for existing and new students ?
When students first start with the OCA they join a fee band and we seek to ensure the increases they face do not exceed general inflation while they are studying. We cannot guarantee that there will not be changes to fees for new students at some time in the future. This answer would be the same regardless of the discussions we are having with UCA.
3 Would there be a reduction in course fees if external assessment fees are reduced ?
No, we are seeking to drive out costs to increase investment in the student experience.
4 Will there be any impact on existing plans for new courses and the frequency of re-writes ?
Potentially a positive impact as cost savings from the combined institution free resources for investment.
5 Is any change envisaged in the financial investment available for developing new and existing courses ?
See 4. above
6 Will there be any changes to how courses are structured e.g. mixing and matching course modules or perhaps part on-line and part bricks and mortar ?
We are excited by the potential for greater choice for students with the possibility of both distance learning and blended learning routes, however we remain committed to offering distance only degrees as we know many of our students chose the OCA because attendance at a bricks and mortar university is not possible for them.
1 Would there be any impact on the tutor to student ratio ?
The 1:1 tutor/student relationship is key to making open learning in the arts successful. This is extremely unlikely to change. As overall enrolments grow, we will recruit additional tutors.
2 Would the working artist model for tutors remain in place ?
Yes, the model is attractive to potential tutors and works well for our students and for the OCA. It is a key feature of our provision and there is little prospect of it changing.
3 Would there be any impact on the quality of tutors ?
No, tutors are central to the delivery our learning model; attracting, developing and retaining good tutors will always be a priority.
1 Would we gain access to other University libraries and learning portals ?
We will be working to gain access to the UCA resources. In theory, once part of UCA it will be open to OCA students to access other university libraries through the SCONAL scheme, Unfortunately, as some of you may know, this scheme does not always work in practice.
2 Will there be more learning support facilities available such as videos for ‘How to’ or lectures and visiting artist talks ?
This is what we are aiming for, as cost savings from the combined institution free resources for investment.
3 What are the possibilities of hosting things like Summer Schools in UCA colleges ?
This is a significant area of opportunity, we are particularly excited by the potential for credit bearing summer schools. The emphasis on credit bearing is deliberate; there is a lot of summer school provision in the arts, some of it of doubtful quality. We will only offer summer schools which integrate with existing OCA degree pathways.
4 What are the possibilities of using UCA facilities like darkrooms or art studios out of main usage times ?
Within the summer schools, there is clearly potential. We do not expect that there will be opportunities outside of these specific arrangements.
5 Would there be combined graduate shows or would the on-line course and students remain separate ?
This is something we expect to explore once we get into the detailed operational discussions.
6 Is it envisaged there would be any joint working between OCA on-line students and UCA bricks and mortar students ?
We do expect there will be greater cross fertilisation between the student bodies, but it is extremely unlikely that there will be joint working. The flexibility in OCA timescales would make this very difficult to co-ordinate.
OCASA/TL/GD V4 05/05/16