Vocational success is OU's open secret

October 20, 1995

In his article on Labour's online university (THES, October 13), Tony Tysome quotes Josh Hillham from the Institute of Public Policy Research as saying that the Open University has "a poor track record on vocational qualifications".

I can only assume that Mr Hillham has not visited the OU recently. The OU may be best known for its 97,000 undergraduate students, but its best-kept secret is that fact that it now has some 40,000 students following business school programmes or taking diplomas or one-off courses in areas like health and social welfare, technology and education, largely for purposes of educational development or professional updating. About 80,000 individuals and companies also purchase our vocational education self-study packs every year.

Three years ago the OU set up a vocational qualifications centre to support its growing interest in vocational education and training and to make explicit the links that are emerging from the work on National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications. This centre is at the leading edge of development work and is already working closely with NCVQ, SCOTVEC, DFEE and a range of industry lead bodies and major employers. Perhaps before the Institute of Public Policy Research gets too far into the planning of a new University for Industry, Mr Hillham should come to the vocational qualifications centre to discuss how Labour might build on the base that the OU has already established.

DENISE HEVEY Director, Vocational Qualifications Centre Open University

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