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Higher Education Minister praises the OU’s 50-year contribution to society

The Higher Education Minister, Sam Gyimah – responsible for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation in England – joined an online session with eight students from his office in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Led by Associate Lecturer and Senior Manager (ALSPD) at The Open University, Dr Anne Campbell, the students spoke of their backgrounds and the reasons they chose distance learning. They told the Minister of the hard work and dedication that part-time students needed if they were to succeed, as well the extensive support they received from staff and tutors at the OU throughout their courses.

Overcoming barriers to distance learning

Mr Gyimah asked what barriers to study they had experienced – and heard that increased fees and a lack of support from employers were major challenges to students who want to earn while they learn.

Minister Sam Gyimah views the MK-based Mars site

Minister Sam Gyimah went online with the OU

Following the experience of the personalised distance tutorial, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, Professor Nick Braithwaite, demonstrated the innovative technology and research, which underpins the OU’s teaching. The Minister was able to remotely operate a microscope in a laboratory, view the OU telescope in Tenerife, and see for himself the OU’s MK-based Mars environment. This included viewing images which OU Space Science Masters students downloaded during their collaborative exploration last year.

“A fantastic institution, which provides incredible opportunities for all”

Afterwards, Mr Gyimah said:

“The Open University is such a fantastic institution and provides incredible opportunities for people of all backgrounds to access higher education. In fact, one of the first things I did as Universities Minister was to declare my support for them and the important work they do.

“It was great to catch-up with students studying at The Open University, listen to their thoughts on part-time education, hear what they would do if they had my job for the day, and find out about some of the innovative ways they are able to work remotely.”

Mr Gyimah said he hoped the session would be the start of an ongoing dialogue with OU students. He assured them that the needs of part-time students were firmly in the UK Government’s mind as it conducted its review of Post-18 Education in England.

The OU has called for a return to some form of direct Government support for part-time students, who have been hard hit by the 2012 funding changes in England.

About Author

Rachel is Deputy Head of the Media Relations team. She is a skilled communicator with more than ten years’ experience in Public Relations. She holds a BA (Hons) Media Production from the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside. Rachel specialises in stories from the Faculty of Business and Law, students, academic research, BBC programmes, technology, innovation and skills. Rachel has three large dogs, two children and enjoys growing her own veg.

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