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Factfile: The Open College of the Arts

Launched 1987

Vital statistics 3,500 students enrolled on 15 courses; 300 tutors, including 130 based in their own "studios"

Student profile Age: under 45 (35 per cent), 46-65 (52 per cent), over 65 (12 per cent). Sex: 75 per cent female. Previous qualifications: graduate (35 per cent), post-graduate (19 per cent), sub-degree (29 per cent), nothing post-school (17 per cent). School teachers (7 per cent)

Financial backing The OCA is a non-profit-making charitable trust and relies on handouts from a range of sources, including the J Paul Getty Jr, Calouste Gulbenkian and Paul Hamlyn foundations

Fees: Typically Pounds 275 for a nine-month course

Catch phrase "Something you have always wanted to do"

Guru Lord Young of Dartington, previously Michael Young, author of the l945 Labour manifesto, founder of the Consumers Association, and one of the creative forces behind the Open University and the University of the Third Age

Not to be confused with Lord Young of Graffham, the former Tory Cabinet minister, patron of the similarly-styled Open College

Open College? So what's the difference? The Open College uses distance- learning techniques to teach vocational skills. The OCA does the same thing, but teaches its students to become creative artists.

The OCA is modelled on the Open University, to which it is affiliated, and most of its courses are accredited by Thames Valley University So it's possible to go on to do a degree after taking an OCA course? Yes, but most students don't. Ninety per cent give one of their main reasons for study as "personal development". However, a quarter hope to use their study to develop a new career

You mean they are really frustrated writers and painters and want to be famous? Probably. Others hope to become designers, photographers, singers or composers. But most of them do it for fun

Influences John Ruskin, William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement, Workers' Educational Association

Philosophy An artist is not a special kind of person, but every person is a special kind of artist

Most likely to say The arts are for everyone

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