Points earned through Tesco‘s Clubcard loyalty scheme can now be applied to fees at the Open University. (The Guardian, OU press release). While I have my doubts about the privacy aspects of loyalty cards, not to mention the planning-related activities of Tesco and other supermarkets, this is an interesting, fun and useful development.
If part-time and distance learning activities need to be supported by fees (noting, of course, that the OU has many, elaborate systems of financial support), then simplifying the methods of ‘payment’ is a significant change that the OU or other institutions can make. It is not to say that higher education should be funded through consumerism – of course, that would be silly and a little controversial. However, recognising that millions of people do collect supermarket ‘points’, the question is “why not?” They may wish to engage in Open University study and pay through private loans, or through drawing pictures and selling them, or whatever – it’s a personal choice. In the absence of a universal, free system of part-time higher education, this has the potential to ease the financial position of some potential students. I won’t say that I’m comfortable with Tesco profiting from this – but I do think that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Do you?