Minister To See How Open University Opens Doors To Study

January 18, 2002

The Open University will play host to Margaret Hodge, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education, briefing her on the latest OU initiatives to broaden the range of people taking up university study. The Minister will hear how the university continues to encourage people of all

backgrounds to study – reflecting the Government’s aspiration to widen participation in higher education – during a visit to the OU’s Walton Hall headquarters on the afternoon of Monday, January 21.

She will meet senior staff from the OU, including Vice-Chancellor Professor

Brenda Gourley, and will hear how the number of young people studying with the

university has almost doubled in five years.

The university’s efforts to bring new learners into higher education will be

profiled as Professor Gourley announces that the number of places on the university’s

Openings programme of short introductory courses will be almost doubled in 2002.

More than 9,000 places will be offered this year; the figure for 2001 was just

over 5,000. The programme, which is co-ordinated by the university’s Centre

for Widening Participation, offers people the opportunity to try Open University

supported study, to develop their study skills and to get a taste of their chosen


The university’s work in supporting disabled students will also be highlighted;

the Minister will be shown the recently-launched Access Bus, a vehicle equipped

with educational technology to help disabled students. It will travel to the

homes of students and potential students so their needs can be assessed.

Representatives of the Open University Students Association (OUSA) will also

meet the Minister, who has welcomed the opportunity to visit the university.

She said: "The Government has called for the higher education sector to

embrace the changing student cohort, to develop strategic partnerships and to

develop greater links with communities.

"I know the Open University has always shared these same goals. The university’s

continuing success is helping us meet those targets, which is great news for

all those seeking the opportunities and benefits that higher education brings.

I welcome the chance to discuss with Open University staff possible futures

that will help to take those opportunities to more people, whatever their circumstances,

in the future."

Professor Geoff Peters, the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Strategy, Planning

and Partnerships), said of the visit: "The Open University is proud of

its track record in assisting the delivery of the public policy agenda. It has

always been an engine of change, unlocking higher education for people from

all walks of life and bringing the highest quality of learning to many thousands

of students. We are looking forward to sharing with the Minister the university’s

plans to continue this work."

Following her visit to the university, the Minister will go on to officially

launch the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting course at Learn MK. It is

one of the first courses established by Learn MK, the joint Open University

and De Montfort University project that aims to encourage people across Milton

Keynes to take up learning opportunities. She will unveil a plaque and meet

students and representatives during her visit to the Learn MK headquarters at

the Green Building, Hammerwood Gate, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes. From there,

she will visit the Leadenhall campus of Milton Keynes College at Woughton to

discuss links between higher and further education with senior staff there.

The number of undergraduate students aged 18 to 25 at

the Open University has risen from 5,894 in 1996/97 to 11,360 in 2000/01

– about the total number of students at many other UK universities.


Neil Coaten

Open University Media Relations

01908 652580