And what an anniversary! There’s been so much to celebrate: thousands of successful graduates, ground-breaking innovations in learning and teaching, and research that’s advanced the frontiers of what we know and understand.
Of course, I’m not a newcomer to the university. I served as the OU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Quality from 2011 to 2015 so it’s only fitting that I start my new role in OU Research Month, a month-long celebration of 50 years of research here, showcasing milestones from across the past five decades as well shining a spotlight on what’s yet to come, including a focus on our PhD students.
The vision for the OU has inspired millions of people. At the heart of that vision is being open to people, places, methods and ideas.
For me, being open isn’t just about our values. It’s a practical commitment to learning being enriched by the diversity of experience among our students and to an education that’s life transforming.
More than just a great university
The OU is a great University but it’s also a movement for a better world. The motto on our shield, Learn and Live, is a call to action; action in a fast-changing technological age.
I’m immensely proud of how we use technology to enable people to put their human abilities to better use - the ability to learn, to apply that learning and to enjoy it.
But technology brings threats too: new social divides, ethical and security concerns, and huge environmental challenges. We should and do take on these issues through our research and teaching, and by using multiple channels to promote informed action among our students and wider publics.
That’s why growth is a priority for me. Without growth we’ll be failing in our mission. And we can grow in a way that’s both inclusive and sustainable.
To do that we need to be the world’s experts at creating engaging courses with learning designs that work better than anyone else’s and a flexibility that fits around our learners’ lives.
‘We’re already changing lives’
More students will need support to make the right study choices, studying full or part time, at different levels, as apprentices or work or home-based students; whether returning to or continuing their education.
Our courses will increasingly be judged for the careers they enable and our ability to do that at scale, making optimal use of scarce expertise in ways other institutions can’t.
Our partnerships will matter more; with FutureLearn, the BBC, colleges and other universities, the public and private sectors, and governments in our four Nations and around the world. Together we can reach further.
Two million people have studied with The Open University in its history, each one of them part of our OU family. As a community, we’re already changing lives; for ourselves and our careers, for our society, and for our world. There is lots to be excited about, not least presiding over the Cardiff degree ceremony in November, where I relish the opportunity to talk to our newest graduates and hear their amazing stories.
To help celebrate the OU’s 50 years, and my first 50 days in post, you can follow my #OU50FirstDays on Twitter.