Open University

Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Website: Founded: 1969 year Type of University:Public StudyQA ranking: 1674 pts. No. Students: 168212 Frgn. Students: 31210 No. Staff: 8000 Languages: English Phone: +443003035303
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About the University

The Open University (OU) is a public distance learning and research university, and one of the biggest universities in the UK for undergraduate education. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based throughout the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus; many of its courses (both undergraduate and postgraduate) can also be studied anywhere in the world. There are also a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48-hectare university campus where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1000 members of academic and research staff and over 2500 administrative, operational and support staff. The OU was established in 1969 and the first students enrolled in January 1971. The University administration is based at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, but has regional centres in each of its thirteen regions around the United Kingdom. It also has offices and regional examination centres in many other European countries. The university awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates or continuing education units.

With more than 160,000 students enrolled, including around 15,000 aged under 25 and more than .0,000 overseas students, it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom (and one of the largest in Europe) by student number, and qualifies as one of the world's largest universities. Since it was founded, more than 1.5 million students have studied its courses. It was rated top university in England and Wales for student satisfaction in the 2005, 2006 and 2012 United Kingdom government national student satisfaction survey, and second in the 2007 survey. Out of 132 universities and colleges, the OU was ranked 43rd (second quartile) in the Times Higher Education Table of Excellence in 2008, between the University of Reading and University of the Arts London; it was rated highly in Design, Art History, English, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Development Studies, Social Policy and Social Work and Sociology. It was ranked overall as a nationally top forty, and globally top five hundred university by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2011, as well as being ranked 247 for citations of its academics.

The Open University is also one of only three United Kingdom higher education institutions to gain accreditation in the United States of America by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an institutional accrediting agency, recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

  • Faculty of Arts

    The Arts Faculty was rated by a Times Higher Education survey as one of the best 100 institutions in the world for the study of the arts. While we're noted for the strength of our interdisciplinary approaches, our scholars of international standing also teach and research a very wide range of topics and themes in specific subject areas. These include art history; classical studies; creative writing; English; history; music; philosophy; and religious studies. The Faculty also has validated partnerships with several important institutions in the UK and other parts of the world. The head of the Faculty is the the Interim Executive Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Richard D. Brown.

    The Faculty consists of the following departments:

    • History of Crime and Policing
    • Cross-Cultural Identities
    • Digital Humanities
    • Empire and Postcolonial Studies
    • African and Asian Studies
    • Gender in the Humanities
    • Literature and Music
    • Material Cultures
    • Creative Writing
    • Book History

  • Faculty of Education and Language Studies

    The research powerhouse of the Faculty of Education and Language Studies is our multidisciplinaryCentre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET). Our emphasis is on outward-looking, collaborative research that impacts radically on learning practices, policies and public debates, in the UK and globally. As one of the UK’s largest and best-respected educational research centres we offer a stimulating environment for postgraduate research. In addition to MRes and PhD we run an innovative and highly regarded Doctorate in Education (EdD) programme for working education professionals. 

    The Faculty consists of the following departments:

    • Childhood Studies
    • Education Futures
    • Language and Literacies
    • Technology Enhanced Learning

  • Faculty of Health and Social Care

    Research in The Open University's Faculty of Health and Social Care is at the heart of our mission to transform lives through education and health and social care practice. We investigate challenges arising at different stages in the human life course. Our research underpins our world-class teaching.

    Seventy-three per cent of our social work and social policy research was assessed as deliering impact that is 'outstanding' or 'very considerable' in terms of its reach and significance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

    We are noted for our innovative and participative research methodologies, and our strong tradition of partnership with external organisations and of putting research into practice.

    Our postgraduate research students benefit from the opportunity to develop advanced, high-level and transferable skills, working on diverse national and international projects.

    The Faculty consists of the following departments:

    • Ageing and later life
    • Children, young people, parenthood and families
    • Death, dying and bereavement
    • Living with disability and long term conditions
    • Reproduction, sexualities and health

  • Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology

    The Open University’s Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology (MCT) is providing industry and society with the capabilities to meet tomorrow's challenges, through high-quality research in our core disciplines of Computing and Communications,  Engineering and Innovation, and Mathematics and Statistics.

    We focus on innovation in the real world: solving problems that are complex and challenging, and whose solutions require technological advances, behavioural transformation and enhancements in policy and practice. 

    At our heart is a commitment to interdisciplinary research, grounded in outward-looking, sustainable academic communities that engage fully with impactful teaching, research and scholarship and that maintain strong links with professional bodies and communities of practitioners.

    The breadth and excellence of the Faculty's research can be measured by its contribution to the Research Assessment Framework (REF) 2014. We contributed to nine Units of Assessment, with a very high proportion of our research receiving the highest assessments of world-leading or internationally excellent.

    The Faculty consists of the following departments: 

    • Computing and Communications
    • Engineering and Innovation
    • Mathematics and Statistics

  • Faculty of Science

    The Faculty of Science has a distinguished record of internationally leading research. It is one of Europe’s premier research centres in Planetary, Space and Astronomical Sciences, noted for its contribution to space missions such as ROSETTA.

    Our research is focused on successful groups in three departments: the Department of Physical Sciences, the department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems, and the department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences. The Faculty of Science also advances science education through eSTEeM, run jointly with the Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology.

    In the Research Excellence Framework 2014, we had one of the largest submissions to Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences placing us in the UK top 10 by research power ranking.  In addition, 100% of our research in Allied Health Professions, and more than three-quarters of our research in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, was assessed as delivering impacts that were 'outstanding' or 'very considerable' in terms of their reach and significance. Science faculty staff also made key contributions to the OU's Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, and to Education submissions.

    Our researchers enjoy state-of-the-art equipment, including world-leading analytical facilities and a comprehensive suite of biosciences laboratories, on the University’s 40 hectare campus.

    The Faculty consists of the following departments:

    • Physics, Planetary and Space science, and Astronomy
    • Biomedical, Analytical and Materials sciences
    • Environmental, Earth science, and Ecosystem science
    • Science education

  • Faculty of Social Sciences

    The Faculty of Social Sciences engages with some of today’s most significant social, political and ethical issues,  with an emphasis on creative, innovative, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research that has an impact on society.

    Our key research themes are citizenship, identities and governance; criminology; international development; human geography; social policy and sociocultural change.

    Our research culture fosters innovation and working across disciplinary boundaries. Our six academic departments: Economics; Geography; Politics and International Studies; Psychology; Social Policy and Criminology; and Sociology – benefit from collaboration in five centres of research excellence.

    The Faculty consists of the following departments:

    • Citizenship, identities and governance
    • Harm and evidence research
    • Innovation, knowledge and development
    • Open space - geographical and environmental research
    • Sociocultural change

  • Business School

    Research at The Open University Business School ranks amongst the highest in the UK for impact – 16th out of 101 in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

    Our research is informed by our unrivalled engagement with large numbers of practising managers, our wide exposure to international perspectives and our value-driven emphasis on responsible management and social responsibility.

    We have an international reputation for research in: social marketing; international management practice; power and control; strategic decision-making; surveillance; behavioural finance; public and third sector management; entrepreneurship; and scholarship and pedagogy.

    The Open University Business School is home to four specialist research centres and a vibrant research degrees programme.

    The School consists of the following departments:

    • Centre of Innovation in Teaching and Learning (InTeL)
    • The True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance (PUFin)
    • Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP)
    • Institute for Social Marketing at The Open University (ISM-Open)

  • Law School

    The Open University Law School is home to a number of research-active academics with a variety of research interests, including: neurolaw (neuroscience and the law); the law relating to religious freedom; law and theology; law and philosophy; access to justice; transitional justice; gender issues and gender-based violence; international law; trafficking in human beings; equality.

History of the University

The Open University was founded by the then serving Labour Party government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson, based on the vision of Michael Young (later Lord Young of Dartington). Planning commenced in 1965 under Minister of State for Education Jennie Lee, who established a model for the OU as one of widening access to the highest standards of scholarship in higher education, and set up a planning committee consisting of university vice-chancellors, educationalists and television broadcasters, chaired by Sir Peter Venables. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Assistant Director of Engineering at the time James Redmond, had obtained most of his qualifications at night school, and his natural enthusiasm for the project did much to overcome the technical difficulties of using television to broadcast teaching programmes.

When The Open University accepted its first students, in 1971, 25,000 people enrolled and 20,000 registered on a course - at a time when the total student population in the UK was only about 130,000. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s student numbers steadily increased. Science home experiment kits and late-night TV broadcasts became the stuff of Open University folklore. In time, new courses and subject areas were introduced; and as the importance of career development grew, professional training courses were offered alongside academic programmes. The first postgraduate degrees were introduced; a modest project for British nationals in Brussels expanded to attract students from every country in the European Union. In 1983 The Open University Business School - today the largest business school in Europe - opened its doors. Expansion continued during the 1990s, with new areas of study including law and modern languages; and the introduction of named degrees. The Open University is now a model for distance learning across the world.

By 2013, over 160,000 students were learning with The Open University – many of them accessing course materials on their smartphones and tablets, studying when and where it suits them best.

Why choose the OU

The Open University’s reputation is outstanding: we’re the world leaders in distance learning.

We’re renowned for a number of reasons:

  • The quality of our research: 50% of our research is ranked as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading;
  • Our history: We’ve been teaching students successfully for over forty years;
  • Our mission: We’re committed to making higher education open to all;
  • Our popularity: Approximately a quarter of a million people are currently studying with us, over 16,000 of whom live outside the UK, with 71% in full or part-time employment;
  • Our work with employers: More than 50,000 employers have so far sponsored staff to enrol on Open University courses;
  • Our thriving partnerships: This is especially true of our partnership with the BBC; there are 275 million views and listens of Open University programmes in the UK annually;
  • Our willingness to innovate: From late-night television broadcasts in the 1970s through to digital downloads today, we’re reputed for our innovation. Worldwide, there have been 65 million downloads of our offerings on iTunes U to date, and in one year alone OpenLearn attracted 5.2 million visitors (2012/13);
  • Our accreditation: our Business School is among the top business schools, being one of an elite group to have earned triple accreditation from the world's leading management accreditation associations for the MBA programme.
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