Managers and Moocs at root of OU’s woes

February 26, 2015

The University and College Union branch at the Open University is extremely concerned about the deficit and falling student numbers reported in Times Higher Education (“OU’s numbers dive 28% as pool of part-timers dries up”, News, 19 February).

The tuition fees regime in England has caused considerable difficulties for universities, particularly leaders in part-time study such as the OU. However, we want to know how the institution has such a large unexpected deficit when it was always aware of falling student numbers.

We need to be told what the impact will be on the institution’s resources. Last year, for example, the university closed one of its nine English regional offices and produced an unconvincing business case after the decision had been taken. We are not prepared to see more poorly planned cuts disguised as reactions to this news.

Local UCU members feel that the current leadership has failed to listen to staff and that decision-making at the institution has become corporate rather than collegial. We hope the new vice-chancellor will take the opportunity of his appointment to rebuild trust with staff.

Pauline Collins
President, University and College Union the Open University

 

The problems of recruitment and funding at the Open University made for dismal reading for the thousands of people who love the institution and what it has done for so many students over the past 45 years.

Some of the reasons for the funding problem are beyond the OU’s control, but a few of us are deeply worried that the focus and expenditure on massive open online courses and FutureLearn have diverted the senior management’s attention from the OU’s main task of providing an education for its registered students. It now appears that the OU’s graduation rate is about 13 per cent, compared with an average graduation rate for full-time UK universities of about 80 per cent.

It is to be hoped that the funding problems will not affect the support to students that is urgently needed to overcome this “distance education deficit”, as it is being called.

Ormond Simpson
Visiting fellow, Centre for Distance Education, University of London International Programmes
Former senior lecturer, the OU Institute of Educational Technology

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest