Climbing up a mountain - Widening Participation

‘We wouldn’t be able to do it without the OU’

“Three quarters of widening participation students say that without the Open University, they would not have been able to attend higher education at all”

That was one of many stark messages delivered by Peter Horrocks, the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, during his speech at the Widening Participation in UK Higher Education forum today (4 February).

Joined by fellow speakers including Les Ebdon, Director, Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute, the VC went on to explain the critical role the OU plays in supporting those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Half of all part-time students from low participation areas study with the Open University. And around one in five of our new students is from a low-income area. In total, thirteen per cent of all students from low participation areas are studying with the Open University. No other institution has more than three per cent.”

Turning his focus to the rapidly changing political and financial landscape, Peter drew attention to the announcement in the autumn statement that the Student Opportunity Fund is going to be cut by fifty per cent over the next parliament.

“It seems possible that these cuts could have a disproportionate impact on part-time students, in what is already a declining market, unless the policy decisions are taken."

“At The Open University, the Student Opportunity Fund has been a vital part of our widening participation work, and has underpinned many of the initiatives I described for you before. It’s funded the development of our curriculum materials. It’s paid for our support for students with disabilities. And it’s helped subsidise or even waive fees for those on the lowest incomes".

“In short, it’s made higher education accessible and affordable for many who thought it would always be beyond their reach.”

Peter’s full speech can be found on the Speeches and statements website