Like any university, the OU needs to focus on recruitment. But it is wrong to suggest that it does so at the expense of good advice to students. We are not complacent and we acknowledge that we can always improve; indeed, we have just embarked on an ambitious programme to reshape the OU for its second 50 years.
At the heart of that initiative is a determination to put the interests and support of students at the centre of all we do. But the OU must move with the times. There is growing competition in distance learning just as the number of part-time students shrinks and central funding settlements tighten. The OU must respond to these challenges while staying true to its founding principles.
Perhaps the most important principle is that of equal access to all, regardless of previous academic success, a driver of social mobility through the past five decades. In 2015-16, nearly a quarter of our students came from the UK’s most deprived areas, and three-quarters had no previous higher education qualification. We continue to make a real difference to people’s lives.
It may be tempting in challenging times to hark back to a mythical golden age in higher education, but that does little to address the real issues with which the OU and all other universities are grappling.
Director of external engagement
The Open University