Discussions with the University for the Creative Arts

I am delighted to let you know that OCA is considering joining with the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), our validating higher education institution. With the support of the Trustees, I made an initial approach to UCA a few weeks ago, expressing our enthusiasm for building on the partnership that began in 2010.

The benefits

As two specialist creative arts organisations, we believe a closer relationship would enable OCA to reach more students, and would increase UCA’s capacity to offer distance learning in an increasingly competitive undergraduate and postgraduate marketplace.

Having worked with UCA for six years, we have been increasingly impressed with the benefits of partnership with them and we know they respect what we offer our students. We see this approach as the best way to develop the vision of our founder Michael Young. That is, to widen access to creative arts study at higher level and to further enhance the student experience.

What happens next?

Alan Cooke, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UCA is leading the exploratory process. Once this work is complete, a proposal will be developed for OCA’s Trustees to consider when they meet in June and for the UCA Board of Governors to review in July. Professor Simon Ofield-Kerr, UCA’s Vice-Chancellor, and I have signed Heads of Terms, which set out in broad terms, the basis of the proposal. We will consult with the President and Committee of the OCA Students’ Association as the proposal develops and make further announcements when plans have been agreed.

If any students are concerned about any aspect of this announcement, please email us at enquiries@oca.ac.uk

Gareth Dent


  1. steph 31 March 2016 at 9:48 am

    Does it means the fees will considerably increase for our courses?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 10:48 am

      I can’t see this happening Steph. There is a well established principle in HE that your fee level is determined by when you start studying. The OCA trustees and I are committed to widening participation and we know UCA share our concerns.

  2. jsumb 31 March 2016 at 10:34 am

    From my time as President of OCASA I have watched with interest at how valuable UCA has viewed OCA’s model of engagement and enterprise with students who might otherwise not have been able to study to degree level and without any sense of compromising the academic integrity of the courses. During my time I have witnessed how all of the courses have been strengthened and now admired by UCA, witnessed by their annual reviews.
    I think it is testament to how far the OCA have come in such a few short years that the college is viewed with such esteem and this announcement should be welcomed in my view.

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 10:52 am

      Many thanks John. In your term of leadership of OCASA you have highlighted ways in which OCA and UCA could work more closely together and I think these discussions provide the basis to take this forward.

  3. susanne1952 31 March 2016 at 10:39 am

    I very much support this, I studied with the UCA before completing my degree with OCA and felt that there was a shift towards a much more professional and contemporary art education after they joined forces. Will this affect the MA course in any substantial way do you imagine?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 10:55 am

      Many thanks Suzanne. I cannot see this affecting the existing MA course, but clearly there are opportunities for expansion.

  4. Richard Brown 31 March 2016 at 11:13 am

    Sounds promising. If it means more collaborative events like the recent talk by Chloe Dewe Matthews then that can only be a good thing.

  5. Sarah Gallear 31 March 2016 at 11:25 am

    I’d certainly be keen to see this progress, anything which strengthens the position of the college and its student has to be beneficial.

  6. Catherine 31 March 2016 at 11:29 am

    Definitely promising and with the opportunity to build on collaborative events. Access to an online library system would be great as well. Maybe even access to workshops/studios.

    1. richard506896 31 March 2016 at 11:57 am

      Or looking further ahead Catherine, summer schools?

      1. Catherine 31 March 2016 at 12:05 pm

        That would be brilliant Richard.

  7. Nigel Roberson 31 March 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Will there still be a presence in Barnsley, or is the trend for moving to the South East inevitable.

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Too early to say Nigel, but I think that UCA are interested because they can see that the OCA model is both successful and highly cost effective.

  8. Lynda Wearn 31 March 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Will this increase the opportunity to access an academic library?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 12:54 pm

      This is one of the objectives Lynda

      1. Lynda Wearn 1 April 2016 at 9:20 am

        Great, overall I think it would be a great partnership extension.

  9. Jennifer 31 March 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Given the many developments by universities to provide online distance courses, I thought this might eventually happen. Given how long current students expect to be involved with the old format (up to 12 years in total), will the transition stage be able to cope with that?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 12:57 pm

      I think that UCA are interested because they can see that the OCA model is successful Jennifer, I am not sure there will be much of a transition for students.

  10. teresalanham 31 March 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Really good news and I am sure this will enable OCA to go from strength to strength in offering great courses open to the widest audience. A very exciting time for OCA and its students and I am looking forward to seeing the developments both as President of the student union and as a student.

  11. starrybird 31 March 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I can understand the appeal of this and the benefits it would offer both parties. Before studying with OCA, I did two first year courses with a b&m uni offering distance learning. It was clear that, for that establishment, distance learners were just a cash cow. If this goes ahead, the challenge will be for OCA to retain its unique identity and ethos within UCA.

    1. Nigel Roberson 31 March 2016 at 3:19 pm

      I think it will look very much like The University of Hertfordshire and IDI in the future.

      1. M Afua 8 November 2016 at 10:28 am

        I hope it won’t be too much like IDI in terms of entry requirements and UCAS points. I did look at IDI for a media distance degree before discovering OCA’s Moving Image. Not everyone has UCAS points and this shouldn’t prevent people from studying a creative degree if they have the passion but lack of qualifications.

    2. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 4:05 pm

      The idea that traditional attendance study should be subsidised by distance learning is a massive strategic error Steph. I am not sure which institution you are talking about, but my sense of where UCA is coming from is that they can see that distance/open/e-learning is the area with the most growth potential. That’s why they are interested and it is also why I and the OCA trustees are interested. We think this not because we are particularly far-sighted, but because it is a major topic of debate in HE right now, see for example this article from the THES.

      1. starrybird 1 April 2016 at 4:44 pm

        The article makes an interesting case for universities moving towards a more distributed model of delivery. I know that Imperial College already records its lectures, for instance, and makes them available to students online (although the lecturers dislike this).

        I completely see the attraction for OCA of relinquishing the time and financial burden of accreditation.

        Governance would seem to me to be the key issue for the success of a merger.

  12. shauncn512659 31 March 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Would OCA students get access to UCA lectures?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 3:44 pm

      I don’t know Shaun but I rather doubt it. What I do think is more likely is greater joint working such as the Chloe Dewe Mathews talk mentioned by Richard above.

  13. Stan Dickinson 31 March 2016 at 3:29 pm

    The association with UCA began just as we were setting up OCASA; I seem to recall it was one of the very first points of consultation. It has proved to be immensely positive and the proposal to move even closer is excellent news.

  14. Jo Davies 31 March 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Do you think, Gareth, that UCA will gain more from having OCA, in its distinct, well sorted and academically respected form than OCA will benefit from joining such a massive institution? My own experience of institutions is that small (and as independent as possible) has been best…

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 5:05 pm

      I think the Trustees and I have been thinking about it not from a ‘what does each institution get out of this?’ perspective but rather ‘what will OCA students current and future get out of this?’ As a relatively small provider we have been unable to overcome the barriers to getting comprehensive library access and since 2014 we have been spending more resources than I would like on meeting regulatory requirements at the expense of investing in the curriculum. We see joining UCA as the best way to widen choice and enhance provision.

  15. lpbcourtney 31 March 2016 at 5:26 pm

    On a practical note, one concern that I would have is the statement above about reaching more students. To me its seems that the tutor ratio to students is a little strained as tutors only work certain days with students having to wait upto 4 weeks for an answer to an email. Will there be more dedicated staff who will be able to answer questions when tutors take time in coming back to student. Expansion is good, but what effect will it have on present students?

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 8:08 pm

      If you have had to wait four weeks for a reply to an email, we would like to know about it. Please email the details to enquiries@oca.ac.uk The turn-round time for assignments which are submitted on schedule is two weeks.

      If student numbers grow there will undoubtedly be additional Head Office staff and tutors recruited. As I said in the post we are considering this way forward, in part, to further enhance the student experience.

  16. Craig 31 March 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Does this mean the OCA will no longer exist as a body/organisation? I too share concerns about tutor to student ratio; quality and quantity.

    1. Gareth 31 March 2016 at 8:10 pm

      The exact structural details are still to be determined Craig. We are sharing the information we have at this stage in order that we can gather student feedback. As I said in the post, one of the objectives is to further enhance the student experience.

  17. cheri1996 31 March 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I think that this is potentially very good news. Especially if it leads to a strengthening of resources etc. As John and others have said in the thread, the courses have become much more robust. If this upward trajectory is due to the partnership with UCA, then it is certainly worth investigating further ‘merging’. I will look forward to seeing the finer detail as it becomes available.

  18. writingoca 31 March 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I think it would be amazing if more Masters degrees were developed for the arts degree’s available. The OCA provides amazing distance learning courses. I am happy to be part of this wonderful learning environment.

    I think that the OCA is doing great, this is wonderful news.

  19. karenwoodfield 5 April 2016 at 9:00 pm

    There are many web based courses, lectures etc. out there at present but many lack evaluation or accreditation. If a university was starting to develop web based distance learning courses from scratch I dont think they would look like the oca “folder of exercises” based approach with only tutors marking assignments. However the oca model is cheap as they have limited the tutor support and input from teaching and tutorials. I am wondering in the future if the UCA will want to offer a more enriched learning experience at a higher cost? There is probably is a place in the market for degree route with more input/resource/support than the oca csn offer but not the high overheads of a B&M course.

    I am hoping the discussions will enhance the oca so more students feel able to move from the popular level 1 courses all the way through to finish the degree.


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