Budgeting is not just something that interests the Chancellor as The Open University has discovered - its course in managing personal finance is pulling in higher numbers each time as tutors find more and more people want to get a handle on their money.
Take up of places on You & Your Money: Personal Finance in Context has increased year on year, say course leaders. The next start date in May is already drawing the biggest numbers so far, with a “significant proportion” of students aged in their early 20s.
Course creator and co-author Ian Fribbance, Associate Dean in Social Sciences at The Open University, says the popularity suggests young people who might once have put off looking at pensions, mortgages and the like, are now keen to get up to speed.
“People we are getting on the course feel they should know more. It has dawned on them that they need to know more and that it is only few people who actually know this stuff,” says Ian.
“Previously young people thought “life happens” and you can deal with things as and when, they were used to a climate where you could borrow money, house prices went up, that kind of thing. Now we’ve all been disabused of that notion – people are being made redundant, house prices are stagnant, the vast majority of people are facing a real terms cut in income, wages are static or falling, so real income is reduced. Historically this is very unusual so it is good to get better at planning, managing and budgeting.”
Among the former students is 37-year-old finance director Karma Almosawi, who did the course when she took over the finances at the computer company she runs with her husband, when they were in danger of falling into bankruptcy.
The mother-of-two said: “Whilst I had some gut feelings about finance I had no background knowledge. This course has really been incredibly invaluable as I’ve been able to ‘fill in the gaps’ and so much of it is relevant to the business as well as to us personally.
“It gave me the confidence to tackle things - overall our savings, budgets, salaries. As a result we’ve managed to clear our debts and make much more use of our savings.”
The course is also attracting school teachers who want to learn the theory and issues underpinning personal finance so that they can teach pupils at both A and AS level. It’s also a popular introductory course which students use as a precursor to studying recognised accountancy qualifications and to a degree in Financial Services.
The module – which includes a book and accompanying DVD-Rom - has been entirely updated, reflecting all the events of the financial crisis and the policies of the new coalition government. The 2011 enrolment numbers were the highest since the course began in 2006 and are now at more than 2,000 per annum, with approx. 1,100 at each entry date.
“I think that reflects the general high level of interest in finance, economics and money managing at the moment. Getting to grips with personal finance is more pressing than ever,” says Ian Fribbance.