Open University reins in Tesco degree scheme
The Open University has called an end to the so-called Tesco Clubcard degrees, after three years during which students were able to pay for courses with loyalty card points.
The problem came to light when more than 600 students posted complaints on FaceBook saying the end of the scheme would put at risk their ability to finish their degree courses.
Tesco says it is in discussion with The Open University to find a solution, but neither party would comment further, although the Open University revealed to the BBC that it knocks off £20 of the course fee for every £5 Tesco voucher received.
The vouchers for fees scheme was introduced in February 2007, but now the university says it has had to “re-evaluate its budget” and restrict the deal to students in their first years, under a phased programme.
Existing students writing on the FaceBook site and in the OU’s online community pages complain that they had budgeted for their courses and now face a struggle to meet fees.
Some express anger at Tesco, complaining that they had changed their shopping habits and switched to the store’s credit card to earn extra points even though it is the OU that has cancelled the scheme.
It is understood that the OU is to make the following changes:
Until 31st May 2010, students can use the reward points to pay for any undergraduate level course that is open for registration.
This includes courses starting in October 2010 and February 2011, as long as registration is completed before 1st June 2010.
But after this time, students will only be able to pay for entry level courses (level one) in this way.
The university announced the changes on Monday.
A spokeswoman for the Open University told the BBC “The scheme has been very successful but in the current economic climate, the university has to re-evaluate its budgets”.
She added that the programme was set up to encourage new students to take courses, but that now 80% of those who paid with reward tokens were existing students.
There are currently 229,000 students enrolled on Open University Courses with a quarter (26%) receiving financial help with fees, the OU says.
Last year 16,000 courses were paid for with Tesco tokens, either fully or in part.