Enter a prestigious University with Saylor.org

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September 8, 2013 at 4:14 am #5356

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Hello everyone,

My name is David, I am from Spain and I am thirty years old.

I would like to study at a prestigious University in United Kingdom. After some research, the more usual way is to study IGCSE, AS and A2 levels in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics, but I also need to obtain a Certificate of Proficiency in English with at least a B, preferably an A.

Right now it is impossible for me to take classes in these subjects. When I tried to find online materials, they were either incomplete or poor, so I decided to try to obtain a Certificate of Higher Education in Natural Sciences with the Open University. Unfortunately, my OUSBAN loan was rejected because of my lack of stable income.

Looking for more information of online courses I found saylor.org and the major in Biology. With the core subjects I could easily study all the subjects I want to study in a much higher level than A2 levels, specifically this way:

Biology:

BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology
BIO101L: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab
BIO102: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
BIO102L: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Lab

Chemistry:

BIO105/CHEM101: General Chemistry I
BIO106/CHEM102: General Chemistry II
BIO107/CHEM103: Organic Chemistry I
BIO108/CHEM104: Organic Chemistry II

Mathematics:

BIO103/MA101: Single-Variable Calculus I
BIO104/MA121: Introduction to Statistics

Physics:

BIO109/PHYS101: Introduction to Mechanics
BIO110/PHYS102: Introduction to Electromagnetism

The problem here is not if I will be able to complete these courses, the problem is if a University would accept these subjects as IGCSE and A levels.

What I think is that they will never accept these materials, BUT, maybe, if I am creative, it could be a valuable resource. I could create a Youtube channel, where I explain topics I have seen in these subjects. I could create papers of my own in specific topics that are not covered in these subjects… Right now I cannot think of anything more.

What do you think? In the worst scenario, I would learn a lot of things in these different subjects and apply again to Open University next year.

Thank you for your time.

See you in the forum.

September 8, 2013 at 11:13 am #5358

Paul Morris

Moderator

A lot of different questions here, so I’ll work through them as best I can.

Entry to British universities by international students does not require that they possess exact equivalents to UK applicants. All qualifications are given equivalence values by the admissions boards so you need only satisfy them that your domestic (in your case, Spanish) qualifications meet the entry requirements. If you search most UK universities will have a section describing this process.

As an example, entry to Oxford university specifies the following for Spanish applicants:

Attainment of 9 out of 10 from the combined Bachillerato and PAU. Particular degree schemes will require that an applicant has studied the appropriate specialist area in their Bachillerato (e.g. science and technology specialism for degrees in sciences, mathematics, medical sciences or engineering).

In addition, mature students will be considered even if they do not meet all the normal requirements if they can demonstrate that their work or other experience would allow them to successfully complete a course of study. Such applications would be considered on individual merit although they would almost certainly include an interview.

All candidates who do not have English as their first language will also be required to pass IELTS at level 6 or better (in the academic papers) or the equivalent.

Entry to Open University courses is, as the name suggests, open to all applicants regardless of qualifications although, as you’ve found, you still need to pay. This will be cheaper than the fees for conventional universities but you wouldn’t qualify for a government backed tuition fee loan as you would for full-time study.

I’m not clear whether you intend your OU studies to be used as a way to improve your chances of entry to another university or as an end in themselves. If your intention is still to make an application to another university at a later date then the OU qualifications would certainly help, one of my friends gained admission to one of the top rated business degrees solely on the basis of his OU studies having dropped out of school without any qualifications. If you intend to take the OU qualifications for their own value then you will have no problems there, their awards are fully recognised (my own first degree is from the OU).

While Saylor courses might help you to prepare for study and, as a mature student, demonstrate your interest and ability to study, I’m 100% sure that no UK university would consider them as equivalent to any formal qualification for admission purposes.

My advice would be to contact the university admissions office and speak to them about your current qualifications and the options open to you. You may well be surprised by their flexibility. Should you not have suitable existing qualifications or experience then your choices are to take courses in Spain to meet the requirements – I’d guess there are part-time or distance learning opportunities their as in most countries – or, as you have suggested, take an OU course. If you take the latter route as a means to qualify to admission to another establishment then, again, I’d discuss this option with the admissions office to clarify what they would want to see from you.

Remember that all the OU requires from you is the money to pay for the course – no entry requirements and no language tests. Although the cost of courses has increased recently, the first module of the Certificate in Natural Sciences costs only £2500 (say 3000 Euros) and you pay for each module separately.

If you can’t afford OU fees then have you considered how you would fund full-time study in the UK? Remember that, although as an EU student you would be eligible for a loan for your tuition fees, any other costs – accommodation, food, books, travel – would be your own responsibility and the opportunity to work while studying full-time is quite limited, especially given the current economic climate.

I should say that I’m not a university admissions adviser. The advice I offer comes from someone who has been an OU student (albeit UK-based) and whose wife has sought admission to UK universities using overseas qualifications. I am also a teacher and have some experience with current university admissions practice and fees structure. My best advice, as I indicated earlier, is to speak directly to the university or universities in which you are interested. Check online for their international students office and call or email (I’d recommend telephoning).

Good luck.

September 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm #5359

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Hello,

Thank you for your answer, I’ll try to specify the missing information.

Entry to British universities by international students does not require that they possess exact equivalents to UK applicants. All qualifications are given equivalence values by the admissions boards so you need only satisfy them that your domestic (in your case, Spanish) qualifications meet the entry requirements. If you search most UK universities will have a section describing this process.

I knew about this possibility, but my qualifications in Bachillerato are very poor, I do not even have PAU that is needed to finish your high school studies.

In addition, mature students will be considered even if they do not meet all the normal requirements if they can demonstrate that their work or other experience would allow them to successfully complete a course of study. Such applications would be considered on individual merit although they would almost certainly include an interview.

Sadly, I do not have anything. I worked for the Medical School of the University of Harvard but that is all.

All candidates who do not have English as their first language will also be required to pass IELTS at level 6 or better (in the academic papers) or the equivalent.

It depends of the institution that you look for, but most of them will ask you for at least an Advanced, sometimes a Proficiency and Oxbridge for a Proficiency with at least a B.

Entry to Open University courses is, as the name suggests, open to all applicants regardless of qualifications although, as you’ve found, you still need to pay.

The thing is that I will have the money in fifteen days, but last day to pay is eleven. I contacted OUSBAN and Open University to ask for more time, with the “Register now, Pay later” method from OUSBAN. I cannot have the money for day eleven, so I have to wait for another year.

I’m not clear whether you intend your OU studies to be used as a way to improve your chances of entry to another university or as an end in themselves.

Both. In several Universities you can access with 120 Open University credits from level 1 subjects in a similar topic (you cannot study a BSc in Chemistry if you did English Literature), that is why I selected a Certificate of Higher Education in Natural Sciences. But I would like to do Physics too!

While Saylor courses might help you to prepare for study and, as a mature student, demonstrate your interest and ability to study, I’m 100% sure that no UK university would consider them as equivalent to any formal qualification for admission purposes.

That’s what I think too. I contacted several Universities some years ago and all agreed in one thing. If you are a mature student and it has been a long ago since you left high school, you can do courses yes, but it is more important to be proactive and creative. Maybe if you know how to present yourself you would not need to do any course. Whatever I finally do, I will have to think in something.

My advice would be to contact the university admissions office and speak to them about your current qualifications and the options open to you. You may well be surprised by their flexibility.

I did that already some years ago and with my actual qualifications I could not do anything. But maybe if I show that I mastered the subjects from saylor.org could help me, who knows. What I know is that to be wiser cannot do me any harm, am I right? And I cannot study Open University this year, so I do not have much to do now.

Should you not have suitable existing qualifications or experience then your choices are to take courses in Spain to meet the requirements – I’d guess there are part-time or distance learning opportunities their as in most countries – or, as you have suggested, take an OU course. If you take the latter route as a means to qualify to admission to another establishment then, again, I’d discuss this option with the admissions office to clarify what they would want to see from you.

This is sad to say, but there are no courses for mature students in Spain. None. The only thing you can do is to prepare for exams on your own, with no support. You have to pay for private classes.

Remember that all the OU requires from you is the money to pay for the course – no entry requirements and no language tests. Although the cost of courses has increased recently, the first module of the Certificate in Natural Sciences costs only £2500 (say 3000 Euros) and you pay for each module separately.

I know it, but I will get the money from my severance package at the end of the month. That is why I cannot pay.

If you can’t afford OU fees then have you considered how you would fund full-time study in the UK? Remember that, although as an EU student you would be eligible for a loan for your tuition fees, any other costs – accommodation, food, books, travel – would be your own responsibility and the opportunity to work while studying full-time is quite limited, especially given the current economic climate.

There are loans for accomodation too. There is no doubt that if I do not receive full support I would be unable to study there, but if you are good enough, money will not be a problem. Even if I cannot find public funding, I would search for private financial support.

I should say that I’m not a university admissions adviser. The advice I offer comes from someone who has been an OU student (albeit UK-based) and whose wife has sought admission to UK universities using overseas qualifications. I am also a teacher and have some experience with current university admissions practice and fees structure. My best advice, as I indicated earlier, is to speak directly to the university or universities in which you are interested. Check online for their international students office and call or email (I’d recommend telephoning).

Thank you for your advice. I prefer not to use the telephone, I live in a village in southeastern Spain and we are not well communicated, it would be a nightmare to try to speak with United Kingdom.

Good luck.

Thank you for your fast answer and kindness!

After meditating about this, I think I have to try it. The last day to send application information is the fifteenth of October, I will apply myself and study hard saylor.org subjects. I have studied at college at the same time as working full time and I passed with honours every single partial exam I did, but, sadly, when I had to the final exams I always had to work sixteen hours a day from monday to sunday. It was impossible either to go to class or to study and I failed the final exams.

And what for? One day they told me, “you are fired, do not come back tomorrow”. That is why I want to keep on studying, all I have found with my Level 5 HND in IT is slavery (at least in Spain).

Thank you again for your fast answer! See you in the forum!

September 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm #5360

Paul Morris

Moderator

Thanks for the additional information.

Have you spoken to OU? It is possible to reserve a place and make late payment – I know because I have done so in the past. If telephone communications are really so poor from your home village, I’d suggest you travel to a larger town and telephone from there. These problems are far more likely to be sorted out in a telephone call. When I was trying to arrange a delay in payment with OU I spent weeks getting nowhere by email but it took only five minutes on the telephone to get an agreement in place.

In terms of studying with OU, it is important to be realistic about the workload. A 60 point course takes about 15 hours per week (possibly more if you are not working in your first language – my wife found she needed almost twice the recommended time for her first few courses).

To complete your Certificate in time for September 2015 admissions you would be looking to complete 120 points in a single year. This is the maximum permitted study rate with OU and equates to full time study – nominally 30 hours per week. This is a heavy load, I know that I struggled when I tried to do it.

In regard to finance for living costs, the loans of which I am aware within the UK are all contingent upon residency qualifications; you are required to have been resident in the UK for three years before the start date. I don’t know if there is any finance available in Spain for students to study overseas. There are some bursary funds and scholarships but most of those seem aimed at UK residents. Finally, there are career development loans available in the UK but you would then be borrowing on commercial terms (ie higher interest and shorter repayment calendar) and would struggle as an international student without capital or income to guarantee the loan. It would probably be easier for you to raise finance in Spain, if possible.

I would estimate that you would need a minimum of £10,000 per annum for living costs (in addition to the £9,000 tuition fees which would be covered by the student loan). I really wouldn’t count on being able to generate much income from working during study – I’d be surprised if you were able to earn more than £100 per week from the sort of minimum wage part-time jobs that are likely to be available, bearing in mind that university towns have thousands of other students looking for the same jobs and that unemployment is around 8% (although that is better, I understand, than Spain).

One day they told me, “you are fired, do not come back tomorrow”

Sadly, that can be true whatever your qualification and experience. I had the same happen to me when I was working as a Network Planning Engineer – came back from holiday to find both a gift pack (‘thanks for all your hard work in rebranding the company’) and a redundancy notice.

September 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm #5361

Paul Morris

Moderator

I think this thread is going to be getting an award for the longest postings!

September 9, 2013 at 2:04 am #5365

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Have you spoken to OU? It is possible to reserve a place and make late payment – I know because I have done so in the past. If telephone communications are really so poor from your home village, I’d suggest you travel to a larger town and telephone from there. These problems are far more likely to be sorted out in a telephone call. When I was trying to arrange a delay in payment with OU I spent weeks getting nowhere by email but it took only five minutes on the telephone to get an agreement in place.

I sent them three emails and they did not answer any of them. I will try that option and call them, I hope it can be fixed!

In terms of studying with OU, it is important to be realistic about the workload. A 60 point course takes about 15 hours per week (possibly more if you are not working in your first language – my wife found she needed almost twice the recommended time for her first few courses).

To complete your Certificate in time for September 2015 admissions you would be looking to complete 120 points in a single year. This is the maximum permitted study rate with OU and equates to full time study – nominally 30 hours per week. This is a heavy load, I know that I struggled when I tried to do it.

If I was able to study in Spain while working full time, I can do this too.

In regard to finance for living costs, the loans of which I am aware within the UK are all contingent upon residency qualifications; you are required to have been resident in the UK for three years before the start date. I don’t know if there is any finance available in Spain for students to study overseas. There are some bursary funds and scholarships but most of those seem aimed at UK residents. Finally, there are career development loans available in the UK but you would then be borrowing on commercial terms (ie higher interest and shorter repayment calendar) and would struggle as an international student without capital or income to guarantee the loan. It would probably be easier for you to raise finance in Spain, if possible.

I knew about it too. When I finish my Certificate, another possibility is to finish my studies in Physics and try my luck in United Kingdom, and after three years maybe my financial situation is different or I can ask for more loans. But right now, it depends of the University of course, I can get loans for accomodation and expenses too. A United Kingdom citizen can ask for more, yes, but it is possible for an European citizen.

unemployment is around 8%

That would be the best number in years! We have a 25%, with the famous minijobs they are managing to reduce the number, but creating misery and parents dependency.

Well, I do not know if I will finally study saylor.org subjects or not, but thanks to your messages I will try to phone them. I will try first to use Skype from the library of the capital of my region, they say it is cheap to call abroad.

Thank you very much! I will write here whatever happens, I hope they can give me a bit more of time!

See you in the forum.

September 9, 2013 at 6:19 am #5366

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Hello,

I have just phoned the Open University, the only thing I can do is to pay with credit card and then, pay the interests needed next month. I cannot do that, what happens if I have any problem with my severance package and I receive it later? I will wait for next year, I cannot do another thing.

Thank you for your time! Now I have one month to study all these subjects. Ganbare myself!!! :D :D:D:D:D

See you in the forum!

September 10, 2013 at 4:32 am #5383

Constantin Constantin

Student

Please excuse the potential off-topic, but it seems to me one has to better define some goals…

Is it a traditional diploma you’re after? Are you 100% percent sure that in itself would increase your employment chances far beyond a free online certificate well backed up with practical skills? Or are you merely in a quest for knowledge (it seems you want to study many subjects) and thus wouldn’t need unnecessary stress and prodigality?

Saylor is in no way inferior to most real world universities. I said “most”, yeah :)
It is up to the individual to make the best use of her/his education and prove the credentials they carry aren’t just for show. The person makes the diploma, not the reverse.

September 10, 2013 at 4:51 am #5385

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Hello Constantin,

I will reply to your post:

Is it a traditional diploma you’re after?

Yes, because right now I only have a Spanish Level 5 HND in IT. It is too many hours (when I have a job) and the salary is so miserable that I will never be able to be independent.

Are you 100% percent sure that in itself would increase your employment chances far beyond a free online certificate well backed up with practical skills? Or are you merely in a quest for knowledge (it seems you want to study many subjects) and thus wouldn’t need unnecessary stress and prodigality?

I can tell you that is impossible in Spain. You need undergrade studies even to work as a cashier in a super market. I am looking for knowledge AND for a diploma. I my opinion the diploma is useless if you got a C in every single subject and you studied the month before the exams, passed them and forgot everything afterwards.

Saylor is in no way inferior to most real world universities. I said “most”, yeah :)
It is up to the individual to make the best use of her/his education and prove the credentials they carry aren’t just for show. The person makes the diploma, not the reverse.

That is what I think too! With materials from MIT, for example, I am really enjoying it! I have started with a Biology subject and it is great! Now I will start with precollege mathematics. After this brief month where I will study Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics, it depends of the results I obtain but I will maybe continue the study in these subjects or study the Computer Science area of study.

Who knows, I do not want to think about it now. First I have to study the basics!

See you in the forum!

November 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm #6289

Maria Cristina Silva Lopez

Student

I know this was posted a while ago, but it may still be relevant. I am Spanish, living in England, and working in education.

Bachillerato is all that is needed to get into university here. However, the system is very different from ours. Even though A levels are somewhat equivalent, here different students take a different number of exams, we don’t, for us we all have to do everything. Being in Europe studies transfer is pretty much a case of having it translated (that’s all I had to do with my university degree).

Also, consider that university here is VERY expensive (£9000/year x 3 years), you can get a loan but as a foreigner they require that you have been in the country for a while and that you stay afterwards (so that you can pay it back!). Also, life here is much more expensive than in Spain. I rent a cheap 2 bedroom flat in a cheap area of London for £1000 (after taxes, gas, water and all of that, it’s a nice £1400), and you have to add transport, food, and whatever else you need. Not cheap. Minimum wage is £6.31/ hour before 20% tax, and it’s what most non-degreed foreigners can aspire to when they first move (and most degreed one as well), finding work is not as easy as people in Spain think.

Personally, I would study in Spain, where a full degree can be done for €1500. That’s what I did. I studied, got some money and moved. If you are set of an UK degree, you could consider starting your studies in Spain and then asking for a transfer, it’s not hard and it’ll help you bypass all the signing up process.

And if you want to study online (Open University style), Spain has UNED, which is absolutely fantastic!

November 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm #6290

Maria Cristina Silva Lopez

Student

Forgot to write in 2nd paragraph. The Spanish secondary education system is more comprehensive than the British one, and most universities are aware of this so they won’t mind if you don’t have A levels.

And, even though the British university system is better (in general) than the Spanish one, unless you get to study in places like Oxford or Cambridge, people in Spain tend to think ‘he went to England and only got in a university noone has ever heard off’ (no matter how good the university actually is) and skip you when hiring. (Sad but true)

December 1, 2013 at 4:18 am #6294

David Martínez Martínez

Student

Hello María Cristina,

Your information is much appreciated. I have recently lived in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxford, and it is true that it is expensive to live there, but I went as a helper. I also knew I can use my Bachillerato to study at UK, but because of several circumstances my qualifications are too low and I would need to:

a) do Bachillerato again (I think this is not an option because it’s impossible)
b) do IGCSE and A levels

Maybe I should start my studies in Natural Sciences in the Open University, but right now I should focus on my English. I need at least a B in a Certificate of Proficiency in English, preferable an A.

Kind regards,

David

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