Open University in Milton Keynes jobs at risk ahead of ‘overhaul’

editorial image

The Open University, approaching its 50th year, is launching a radical overhaul to ‘ensure it is ready’ for the challenges of the next half century.

It is conducting a root and branch review of every aspect of its operations – from the experience of students to its teaching and research.

A major savings and reinvestment plan will ‘recreat’e the University.

However staff at the Open University are likely to face job losses as part of this saving plan.

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor of the OU said: “We want to transform the University into a world-leading institution.

“A revitalised and redesigned OU should be at the heart of the digital revolution by becoming a leading exponent of the use of digital technology for teaching and supporting students.

“The OU will still be the OU. We will retain our core mission of offering higher education to all, regardless of background or previous qualifications. But we will be delivering it in a different way, matching future needs to future technology.

“As we approach our 50th year, we intend to be disruptive and revolutionary again, to transform the life chances of tens of thousands of future learners.”

The proposals are in part a response to financial challenges facing The Open University.

Funding changes introduced since 2007 by successive UK governments have hit hard the number of part-time students entering higher education in England. Student numbers at the OU have fallen by almost a third in the past decade and that has had a significant impact on income.

At the same time, fixed costs have remained relatively static and in a changing market place competitors are “cherry picking” popular and profitable courses.

The transformation process will put the OU on a sustainable financial footing.

It is expected to achieve savings in the order of £100 million from the OU’s annual budget of around £420 million.

It is intended that more than half of that sum will be reinvested in building a University fit for the next 50 years.

All parts of the University’s operations are in scope. Among the issues to be tackled are duplication and inefficiency resulting from years of piecemeal development, a problem faced by most universities, courses on the curriculum which were once popular but which now struggle to cover costs and others which have never attracted many students; research costs which outstrip grant income.

Change on this scale will inevitably impact on staff because staff make up two-thirds of the OU’s operating costs.

The proposed transformation in teaching, research, IT systems and the running of the University will inevitably mean that the number and types of roles will change.

In coming years, fewer people will be needed overall. Detailed work will be carried out over the next six months to clarify the figures and the scale of change.