The story of the Open University



EDEN is running a series of five webinars this week as part of Open Education Week 2019. Today I attended the session on The story of the Open University in Europe and the world

Mark Brown chaired the session and the panel consisted of:

  • Liz Marr, The Open University, UK
  • Josep M. Duart, EDEN Vice-president for Research, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  • Sarah Guri-Rosenblit, EDEN Fellow, The Open University of Israel, Israel
  • Antonio Teixeira, EDEN Senior Fellow, Universidade Aberta, Portugal

The session focused on the following questions: 

  • What makes the Open University unique from other universities?
  • What major challenges have open universities faced over the past 10-years?
  • To what extent is the Open University still relevant in the digital-era?

In terms of the things that make Open Universities unique includes, that they are: primarily part-time, at a distance and open access. Daniel’s iron triangle in relation to distance institutions was referenced: cost, access and quality. The assumption is that increase in one point of the triangle leads to stresses in the other points. Other points included the fact that Open Universities operate at scale, are about social, digital and cultural inclusion, and that they need to be flexible and aim for transformation. Furthermore there needs to be a focus on lifelong learners.

Challenges Open Universities face include: identity crisis, competition from other provides, lack of public resources, the emergence of new forms of accreditation, the need to improve quality and retention rates and issues around quality assurance.

The final question focused on whether or not Open Universities were relevant in a digital age. Central to this was the need for clarity in terms of each institutions vision and mission, the increasing importance and need to support lifelong learning, the role of social justice as a distinctive feature and the need to lobby policy makers.

A number of used reports were cited during the session:






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