To inspire learners from diverse backgrounds to achieve their ambitions, The Open University has commissioned a set of stunning portraits by British Pakistani photographer Inzajeano Latif to capture the perspective of Black and South Asian distance learning students in the UK.
The images showcase four Open University students, pictured in their own homes where they study, and capture the pride, ambition and reality of their distance learning journey in an authentic way.
- Joe, 23 from Essex: a pharmacy assistant who is studying to become a psychologist
- Candace, 25 from Cardiff: a part-time customer services worker who has a media internship and is studying Business Management and Marketing
- Halima, 26 from Birmingham: who has set up a care agency and is studying for a degree in International Studies
- Ali, 27 from Falkirk: an organic geochemistry technician who secured employment in a university following his Open University degree course
Inzajeano said: “I’m proud to have worked with The Open University by capturing the authentic distance learning experience in the UK. Representation in front of and behind the camera is important to me as i’ve dedicated my career to unearthing places and faces that are all too often invisible. This campaign showcases students from diverse backgrounds, in their own study spaces, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of flexible learning for all.”
The photographs are launched in partnership with Alamy, the world’s most diverse stock library, who are also working with The Open University to increase diversity and inclusion in stock images by encouraging submissions that reflect life from the perspective of Black and South Asian students in the UK. The portraits aim to inspire the development of an ongoing legacy collection that can be used by other organisations in their marketing materials.
“We found that too few relatable stock images portraying Black and South Asian students are available to purchase from image websites and we want to create a collection that would provide a legacy, open to all institutions and organisations to find more authentic images to use in their marketing materials,” commented Melissa Thermidor, Programme Director at The Open University.
The legacy collection of stock images will be available via Alamy.
We asked the students to describe their individual journeys
Like many South Asian students, Halima felt huge pressure to achieve a degree at a traditional university but found that The Open University better suited her ambitions.
“I’ve been able to mould my studies around my real life which I feel has helped me and it’s made me a lot more confident than I would have been if I went to a brick university,” says Halima.
Through attending The Open University, she was able to finance her studies upfront and has been able to set up her own business, travel and get married, things she feels would have been hindered by a traditional degree.
“The Open University has showed me education never stops, as long as you’re growing you could still study. You could still learn something new and I think with The Open University I will continue my studies, I’d like a PhD one day.”
Ali also appreciated the financial and lifestyle flexibility The Open University allowed him.
Ali transferred his credits from a modern apprenticeship to a degree with The Open University while keeping his full-time job as a chemistry lab technician.
Ali has finished his studies and secured a job as an Organic Geochemistry Technician and is currently working on research papers he hopes to have published. He was delighted to support the photography initiative:
“People from my community do have that sort of hesitancy because they prefer going to, physical universities, but hopefully things will change. Especially after COVID you know everything is online and most universities went online anyway, so a lot of people had to do everything remotely, so they now have understanding that things can be done differently as well.”
Candace chose The Open University due to its flexibility and affordability options, having already left home and had a career for six years.
“It’s significantly more affordable than red brick universities, and the convenience of being able to work full time alongside studying and the application process was just so easy.”
Joe already had a career within the NHS as a pharmacy assistant, and although he knew he wanted to study psychology he didn’t want to have to give up his job. He searched for a university that offered him flexibility and was accredited by the British Psychological Society. The Open University ticked all the boxes and Joe was encouraged to enrol by his father, who knew of colleagues who had taken this route.
Joe commented about his involvement in this initiative:
“Hopefully people will look at me and relate and think if he can do it, I can do it. If they can see someone that’s like them it can change their life.”