The Open University is marking its 50th year anniversary this month by telling its remarkable story through the power of photographs, in a collection released today. Former and current OU students, including a prisoner turned academic, a woman research pioneer in moon exploration and a soldier who studied in the field with waterproofed books, all feature in the new collection by renowned British photographer Chris Floyd.
Floyd’s photographs include a portrait of OU researcher, Hannah Sargeant, who is studying for her PhD in planetary science, with her research focused on the first mission to the south pole of the moon to extract water from moon matter – a revolutionary Space Agency mission that has never been done before.
Sargeant is breaking boundaries as one of the only women in the field of moon exploration, and credits the OU with her career progression:
“What The Open University has offered me is very unique – I’m able to do practical and potentially ground-breaking research in an institute that not only accepts, but encourages people who don’t fit an expected norm. My confidence in myself and my work has grown during my time at The Open University. I’m now a STEM ambassador and want to encourage more young people to join the space industry.”
“Every minute of hard work was worth it”
Another of Floyd’s photographs features Felix Asare-Donkoh. Felix joined the army after completing his A-levels, but felt he still wanted to continue his education.
Rather than leave the armed forces, Felix joined The Open University and gained his Bachelor of Engineering remotely while stationed overseas in Cyprus and the Falkland Islands. Asare-Donkoh took his education seriously, and even waterproofed his books so he could study in challenging conditions. He said of his experience:
“What I’ve achieved would have been impossible without the OU. The flexibility and support they offered me meant I didn’t have to choose between my career and my education, and the reality is, that because of that, I was able to get hands-on, practical experience in the armed forces that is incredibly relevant to my degree. It was tough at times, but every minute of hard work was worth it.”
“Our story changes lives”
The OU’s Vice Chancellor Mary Kellett said:
“We’ve come a long way since 1969. Our story is one that changes lives, pushes boundaries and challenges society to think differently about education. Our mission to be open to all, the way we teach, and our range of students are what makes the OU unique.
These photographs bring this to life brilliantly, with every image highlighting the reach, flexibility and diversity of the excellent education we offer and the tenacity and commitment of our students.”
Take a look at the new collection and a set of newly released archive images now at: www.50.open.ac.uk/photography
Main image: Open University graduate Tracy Thorpe
Guest Author: Carly Sumner
Carly Sumner is a Digital Content Officer in the Development Office at The Open University. She loves telling stories and has spent the past 10 years writing about everything from nappy bags to balance transfers. She holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Media Studies from Coventry University. When she’s not writing, Carly enjoys reading, sharing good food with great people, and all things colourful.