Horrocks was not behind all of OU’s problems

April 19, 2018

It takes me a little effort to write in justification of Peter Horrocks, who has resigned as vice-chancellor of The Open University, having criticised him in the past. But there are two things to say in his defence:

  • When he criticised OU academics for not teaching, he might not have been entirely wrong. When I was at the OU some years ago, there were relatively few academics who tutored the courses they wrote. Things may have changed, but as a colleague of mine wrote a couple of years ago: “I think that OU academics are to some extent unaffected by dropout rates on the modules they produce because they are too distant from the ‘coal-face’ to see the human impact. By the time the modules are running, the academics have had to move on to writing new courses, and it is the tutors who have to pick up the pieces.”
  • Horrocks inherited an institution that had been taken in the wrong direction by his predecessor, Martin Bean. Bean was from Microsoft; Horrocks was from the BBC World Service. Perhaps the OU council could choose the next vice-chancellor to be someone who knows something about distance education and how distance students learn.

Ormond Simpson
Previously senior lecturer in institutional research
The Open University


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