1.2 What is the OU?

The OU is the UK’s largest academic institution. Its royal charter was granted on 23 April 1969 and the OU celebrated its 50th birthday in 2019.

For the past fifty years, we’ve empowered over two million students across 157 countries to transform their lives through learning.

The OU main campus is in Milton Keynes and around 1200 full-time academics are based there.

Watch this video in which Ann guides you through an overview of the structure, history and achievements of The Open University.

Download this video clip.Video player: nc4487_alstem_2020_vid100b.mp4
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Hello. I'm Ann, a staff tutor here at the OU. Before I became a staff tutor, I was a tutor for more than 20 years.
--are our plans for a university of the air designed to provide an opportunity for those who, for one reason or another, have not been able to take advantages of higher education.
The OU is the UK's largest academic institution. In those 50 years, over 2 million students from 157 countries transformed their lives. We empowered them through the learning we taught them.
I think once you start the Open University, that's it. It hooks you in. Education seems like grab me, and that's it-- right, and then we go.
Around 1,200 full-time academics work here. At the heart of the OU's teaching are its faculties, schools, and institutes. We produce high-quality courses underpinned by research of international excellence.
Schools belong to faculties. The STEM schools are School of Computing and Communications; School of Mathematics and Statistics; School of Engineering and Innovation; School of Environment, Earth, and Ecosystem Sciences; School of Physical Sciences; School of Life, Health, and Chemical Sciences. But we have institutes as well. And here are the three that have regular link to STEM's work known as IET, called CREET, KMI.
IET was established in 1970 to understand how we can help people learn and is a leading European research institute in the field of innovative education. KMI is a multidisciplinary R&D lab that has been at the forefront of innovation for the past 20 years. Established in 2004, CREET is an internationally-recognised interdisciplinary centre of excellence for educational research.
As well as the main campus in Milton Keynes, we have offices in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.
Here in Wales, our STEM associate lecturers work with the compound semiconductor industry and in particular facilitating access of FE colleges to resources in our OpenSTEM Labs. STEM's also represented with the Welsh government's Cross-Party Group on STEM and is regularly exhibited at the annual Science of the Senate Event.
We also present hands-on activities at the OpenScience Laboratory and OpenLearn at science festivals in Merthyr and Swansea.
With strong links with schools, colleges, and universities across the island of Ireland, the Open University plays a strong role in knowledge transfer and knowledge creation through our groundbreaking research across the whole of the UK. We work closely with the Northern Ireland Science Festival, and we're proud to be members of the Northern Ireland science industry panel, MATRIX.
At the Open University in Scotland, we have over 160 academic, academic-related, and support staff working in our office in Edinburgh. We also have over 460 tutors who live all across Scotland, some of whom might also work in business, in industry, or for other HDIs or colleges.
We also have student recruitment and support centres in Manchester and Nottingham.
The Student Recruitment Support Centre in Manchester is a very important part of the Open University. We support students in different ways. We have a community of practise that's there to support students, either at the beginning of their learning journey or while they're actually on the modules. And we help them with retention, progression, and qualification, giving them advice, information, advice, and guidance on the way. We also have a career service that supports the students as well during that journey.
Open to all, open to everyone, and open to you.
It's no exaggeration to say the OU changed my life.
It took me six years to get my honours degree in English literature.
Come on!
Six years of not watching telly after Eastenders not reading a book without filling it with sticky notes. Basically, the average OU student doesn't get out that much.
My daughter said straightaway, oh, you're doing so well. You can't give up now. You've got to go for a master's. But I'm having a bit of a breather for the moment.
I'm achieving the fact that I'm in remission and the fact that I'm now a graduate. So I the OU's done a big favour for me.
Well, I've only had this wheelchair in a week, so I'm a bit worried that I might crash, so.
175,000 students around four weeks of graduations, the OU educates on an industrial scale.
I used to read a lot in prison. And I started becoming inquiring about myself. You know, why was I different from everyone else, you know.
I started going over to the education classes. And he said, why don't you do an Open University? You know, you've got the time. And I had lots of time on my hands. And I thought, here I am sitting in with a pen. My life previously, I'd be sitting with a gun.
You know, it was that bizarre. And I thought, what am I doing? You know, I can't really be a student. And there I was. Someone had given me, like, really full marks for my assignment.
And it was such a buzz. It was better than robbing banks. It was a buzzing after, knowing that I could do it, not just some posh kid. It would liberate me from crime, because I knew I could do something else.
50 years ago, we were a disruptor in the sector. We started the movement around distance learning.
We need to embed lifelong learning in everything we think about. You know, you're not ever going to go now to a job and that's just going to be the end of it. You're going to have to continue to reinvent your skills.
I come from a technology background, and I see this all the time. You are going to have to understand the world as it moves around you in ways that we didn't necessarily think was so important 30 or 40, or even 50 years ago. So the fact that the OU is dedicated to helping people navigate that journey, to encouraging learning, and to doing it on a part-time basis with support, it just puts it to my mind the absolute heart of how we should think about training citizens, young people, old people, whatever it might be.
The OU is an exciting institution. And our tutors are hugely important.
And we want some contact with those of you who want to be part of our mission. This course will give you an insight into what it means to be an OU tutor and the qualities that make a good tutor. We hope, after reflection, that you will feel inspired to want to join us.
And we look forward to receiving applications from those of you wanting to continue this marvellous OU story.
End transcript
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At the heart of the OU’s teaching are its faculties, schools and institutes, producing high-quality courses underpinned by research of international excellence.


The faculties are:

  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL).

Schools belong to faculties.

STEM schools

The STEM schools are:

  • School of Computing and Communications
  • School of Mathematics and Statistics
  • School of Engineering and Innovation
  • School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
  • School of Physical Sciences
  • School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences.

There are several institutes.


The institutes include:

  • The Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
  • The Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
  • The Knowledge Media Institute (KMi).

IET was established in 1970 to understand how we can help people learn and is a leading European research institute in the field of innovative education. It is part of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS).

Established in 2004, CREET is an internationally recognised interdisciplinary centre of excellence for educational research. It is part of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS).

KMi is a multidisciplinary R&D lab that has been at the forefront of innovation for the past 20 years. It is part of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

1.3 Who are our students?