ITS late-night broadcasts on BBC2 were for years the only exposure most young people ever had to the Open University.
But new figures show the institution has recorded a huge increase in the number of under-25s studying for qualifications, as young Scots try to avoid crippling levels of student debt.
Traditionally associated with older students, the OU has seen a 48 per cent increase in young Scots taking up courses in the past five years.
The figure came as a report from Bank of Scotland said 15 per cent of Scottish students do not have enough money to meet their monthly outgoings.
While Scottish students studying in their own country remain exempt from tuition fees, the cost of living remains a concern for many.
Last month, figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) showed there had been a 2 per cent fall in applications from Scots to Scottish universities.
In contrast to traditional institutions where undergraduates must attend lectures, the OU lets its students study in their own time, allowing them to hold down full-time jobs.
Though renowned for its late-night television broadcasts, it now uses a variety of methods for distance learning, including written and audio materials, the internet, disc-based software and programmes on DVD.
Students are supported by tutors through either face-to-face tutorials, telephone conversations and the internet.
Dr James Miller, director of the OU in Scotland, said: “Over the last five years, we have seen a 48 per cent increase in students under 25 studying in Scotland, which speaks volumes about the quality and flexibility of the courses we offer.
“We know that more young people are actively choosing to study with the OU as our flexible provision allows them to pursue their chosen career while gaining a degree.
“This has the double advantage for students of graduating with valuable work experience, as well as avoiding student debt through earning a salary whilst studying.”
According to Bank of Scotland’s Student Finance Report, published today, almost three-quarters of students in Scotland believe they will leave university with some debt, while almost 40 per cent expect that debt to be in excess of £10,000.
Jatin Patel, director of current accounts at Bank of Scotland, said: “With finances tight, many students turn to paid work to help cover their monthly outgoings. However, it is clear that even with extra income from employment, a lot of students are still struggling to make ends meet.” According to the report, students in Scotland survive with the lowest average incomes – 10 per cent lower than the UK average income of approximately £7,000 per student. However,Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, said: “Demand for places at Scotland’s universities continues to outstrip supply.”