The Open College of the Arts (OCA), an educational charity which widens access to creative arts education at undergraduate and graduate level, is introducing its first specialist honours degree in photography. It is one of only two higher education institutions in the UK offering a full honours degree programme in photography by distance learning, and the only honours photography degree in the country open to everyone, including those who have no formal qualifications and people serving a custodial sentence.
The aim of the course is for students to gain a broad and critical understanding of photography, equipping them both to seek work as a photographer or continue or change their employment in the field of photography, and to speak and write with intellectual confidence on emerging aspects of the photography discipline.
OCA students are not constrained by age limits or the traditional academic year as they are able to enrol at any time of year. There is no set time-limit during which they are required to complete the course. All OCA students can now apply for grants from Student Finance England, and equivalent bodies in other UK countries, to help fund their studies. Financial assistance, including OCA bursaries, may also be available, depending on a student’s individual circumstances.
All students working towards the BA Honours degree will take a total of seven modules, covering digital photographic practice, social commentary, creative concepts, understanding art and visual culture, the principles of photography, photographing landscape and photographing people. Assessment will be through a combination of marked assignments, including a portfolio of new images created by the student during the course, an individual learning log or blog, and a critical review or essay.
Individual study at home will be supplemented by peer debate through web forums moderated by tutors, blogs and optional practical workshops at venues around the country. All students will have access to the Victoria & Albert Museum image collection, the Bridgeman Education image library and Creative Commons on Flickr.
The course is being led by two practising photographers. Peter Haveland has an MA (Master of Arts) in the History of Visual Culture from Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently working on a survey and theoretical study of the phenomenon of roadside shrines in North Wales. Alan Whetton has worked freelance in the fields of theatre and buildings photography. He has an MA in Photography from Bradford Art College and is an Associate of the Royal Photography Society. Other tutors include Jose Navarro, Maggy Milner, Honey Salvadori and Geoff Taylor.
OCA Chief Executive Gareth Dent commented: “The higher education sector as a whole is facing its first significant funding cut since 1997 and university places will be at a premium for academic year 2010/11. OCA offers a different route into higher education for students with the desire and ambition to study for a creative arts subject, whether they are coming back into education after a long break, have no formal qualifications or are just finishing ‘A’ levels and struggle to find a university place in their chosen subject later in the summer.”
The new photography degree is the first step in a move towards specialism in creative arts degree subjects by OCA. Until now it has offered a BA Honours degree in creative arts covering a broad spectrum of subjects, including art history, composing music, creative writing, fine art, photography and textiles.
Today, OCA is also announcing a BA Honours degree in painting. These two undergraduate degrees will be followed early next year by OCA’s first master’s level course, an MA (Master of Arts) in Fine Art.
The photography and painting degree courses have been developed in partnership with Bucks New University, the validating higher education institution for all the OCA’s certificate, diploma and honours degree courses. Some 50,000 students have studied creative arts subjects at higher education level with OCA since it was founded in 1987.