Milton Keynes-based Open University presented with special award by Queen Camilla

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is the highest national honour for further education
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The Open University has been presented with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize by Queen Camilla – the highest national award for further education.

The university’s Vice Chancellor Tim Blackman went to Buckingham Palace last week to receive the award at a special ceremony.

He was accompanied by Executive Dean of the STEM Faculty, Professor Nick Braithwaite.

Queen Camilla presented the award to Open University headsQueen Camilla presented the award to Open University heads
Queen Camilla presented the award to Open University heads

It was announced last November that the OU had been awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its OpenSTEM Labs initiative, online facilities that allow students from anywhere in the world to participate in authentic experimental work, acquiring real data interactively as if they were at a laboratory, observatory or field site location. Many of the activities are available 24/7.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are part of the national Honours system, recognising outstanding work by UK universities and colleges that demonstrate excellence, innovation and well-evidenced benefit for education, the economy and the wider world.

They challenge the traditional methods of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teaching and the need to be in a lab during specific hours by offering learning online where time and distance need not be a barrier. From virtual microscopes and wind tunnels on the OU’s Milton Keynes campus, to observatories in Tenerife, students have access to quality STEM facilities at the touch of a button.

Professor Tim Blackman said: “This is a tremendous honour for The Open University and the team responsible for the OpenSTEM labs. The award recognises our commitment to innovation and excellence in delivering quality distance learning for all. This is a very proud moment for the University.”

Professor Nick Braithwaite said: “By creating the OpenSTEM Labs as “an Internet of Laboratory Things” we have realised our vision for inclusive and accessible facilities for practical work in The Open University’s distance-learning setting. This award is a fitting tribute to the efforts of the team and we look forward to further developing OpenSTEM Labs in conjunction with our new OpenXR Studios, bringing the power of VR and AR to distance-learning.”

Sir Damon Buffini, Chair of Royal Anniversary Trust, said:

“The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education are granted every two years by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister following a rigorous and independent process of review carried out by The Royal Anniversary Trust, an independent charity.

In a letter congratulating this year’s winners, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote: “The UK has a long and proud history of research, discovery and excellence in education and training. I am delighted that the 2022-2024 winners are continuing that tradition. The sheer breadth and variety of the work is impressive. In health, robotics, space, engineering, sustainability, animal welfare, photonics, skills and training, the English wine industry and more, you are pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve.

Thanks to your ingenuity, your dedication, and your hard work we are making real progress in science, transforming public health, growing the economy, and improving and enriching people’s lives.”