Open sesame across the pond

May 1, 1998

The Open University is opening its doors for business in the United States with the creation of the "Open University of the United States".

Sir John Daniel, vice-chancellor of the OU, said: "The new body will be accredited in the US. It will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the OU of the United Kingdom but be a totally separate legal entity."

The institution will offer US-accredited programmes that fit the American semester system. This is in contrast to the many other partnerships the OU has with universities around the world in which programmes are based on the requirements of UK institutions.

Corporate America's interest in OU management training courses has driven the initiative, and there is strong interest in it among US universities facing pressure to expand. One of these is Florida State University.

Sir John said: "FSU has to add tens of thousands of students over the next few years but the state authorities are not prepared to keep building new campuses."

The OU has also started holding talks with California State University, which boasts a student population of 350,000 spread around 23 campuses. The institution expects to add between 100,000 and 150,000 to its intake over the next ten years, and, as in Florida, the state authorities are not prepared to build new campuses.

By the end of this month, The Open University of the US should have been awarded a licence by the state of Delaware recognising it as a legal education institution. The institution also expects by then to have been accepted for "candidacy status" by the Middle States Colleges and Universities Commission, one of six regional accrediting bodies. This will be the first step towards full accreditation by the commission, which, Sir John said, is likely to take several years. Other accrediting bodies are also showing an interest.

Initially Sir John will be president of the new body, and some senior OU staff will hold positions in it. Gradually, however, more Americans will be hired to run it.

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