1.4 Ethos of the OU

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The OU’s mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential. Our vision is to reach more students with life-changing learning that meets their needs and enriches society. In achieving our mission, we are committed to, and are guided by, the enduring OU values of inclusivity, innovation and responsiveness.


  • We play a unique role in society, making higher education open to all
  • We promote social justice through the development of knowledge and skills.


  • We lead the learning revolution, placing innovation at the heart of our teaching and research
  • We continuously seek new and better ways to inspire and enable learning
  • We create world-class research and teaching.


  • We respond to the needs of individuals and employers and the communities in which they live and work
  • We are dedicated to supporting our students' learning success.

We work in partnership with national and local organisations to open up higher education to underrepresented groups, reaching out to potential students in their communities – and ensuring that, once on board, these students receive the support they need to succeed in their studies.

The OU is more than just a place of learning - it is a community. The OU student charter, developed jointly by the University and the OU Students Association, sets out our responsibilities to one another as members of the OU community.

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Addressing the AL Assembly* on 15th November 2019, the OU Vice-Chancellor, Tim Blackman, reasserted that the OU is a social movement as much as it is a university.

“We ripple out across British society and across the world in terms of what our mission is and what we’re about. So, we are a movement and we’re a movement for change.” With technology affecting every job, there is a need for lifelong learning.

While the traditional degree remains the university’s prime role, the OU needs to diversify to respond to changes in the labour market driven by every part of the world becoming a knowledge economy. The OU is unique among UK universities in having a responsibility in its charter to serve the educational well-being of the community at large.

“Humans are natural-born learners. We have evolved to learn, wired to learn. We need to learn as much as we need to breathe, eat, drink. It’s fundamental to our humanity.”

*The AL Assembly

The AL Assembly represents ALs, i.e. tutors, on appropriate university committees and groups. Through representation, tutors can be involved and consulted and can contribute to policy and strategy around enhancing the student experience.

Activity 1

You have now learned more about the OU, its students and its ethos.

Did anything surprise you? Has it changed your view about The Open University at all?

Post your thoughts to the discussion forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

1.3 Who are our students?

1.5 Who are our tutors?