The OU has won a national award for its work adapting to the Covid crisis by ensuring it swiftly maintained degree validation and other related operations via remote engagement.
The majority of Open University Validations Partnerships (OUVP) with 40 partners are historically conducted face to face. But when the pandemic restrictions took effect, rapid agility and significant amendment of processes were essential to maintain business as usual.
Now the OU’s achievements in this regard have been recognised by the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) – the umbrella organisation for those working in the UK’s higher education strategy and planning. From a large field of submissions, the HESPA Covid Response Award was jointly awarded to the OU and the University of Leicester.
Dr Suzanna Tomassi, Deputy Director (Partnerships – Quality & Relationships) said:
“This award is a testament to the hard work that the OUVP team and OU academic colleagues have invested throughout the pandemic to support our partners. It means a lot to us and acknowledges all the hard work.”
Ensuring quality and maintaining the OU’s high standards
The OU partners with institutions at home and abroad who do not have degree-awarding powers but who wish to offer OU validated awards alongside their own.
Validation involves the OU team assessing the institution and specific programmes of study or modules, which are developed and delivered by another higher education establishment. They ensure it adheres to OU standards, including aspects such as quality and student experience.
The OUVP team developed a three-tier model with all activity conducted on-line with partners across the world.
To date, the OUVP has completed virtually over 150 Exam results review Boards, 42 Programme Validations/ Revalidations and 10 Institutional Reviews and Partner Approvals/Reapprovals.
Agile and inventive in challenging times when pandemic hit
All UK universities engaged in partnership work had to shift their activities from face-to-face interactions to online events as pandemic restrictions took effect, but the high number of OU partners and validated programmes presented a much greater challenge.
The opportunity was also taken to utilise the significant quantity of data held by OUVP and the HESPA award also acknowledged the detailed analysis conducted and the proactive sharing of lessons learnt with other institutions.
An additional benefit was a significant reduction in the amount of travelling by staff and hence reduced carbon footprint, directly supporting the OU sustainability targets. The intention is to implement a hybrid solution in future with a mix of physical and online events to minimise the negative aspects of travelling whilst also ensuring provision of quality support to our partner organisations.
Lorna Swinyard-Jordan, Director of Special Projects, said:
“The OU response to the pandemic has delivered significant benefits especially greater agility and improved sustainability, which will be retained as we ‘”return to normal”. Moving forward, a hybrid model will be adopted to maximise the benefits of remote working but also allow the face-to-face interaction, which is essential for building strong, effective relationships with partners.”