Learn about The Open University

The Open University is a global leader in higher education able to reach every adult in the United Kingdom – and many others across the world.

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest university in the UK by student population and has a significant global reach through a network of alumni in over 157 countries, international partnerships and research. The OU is the only university to receive funding from, and operate in, all four nations of the UK.

In 1969 one ambition changed the world, giving anyone, anywhere the power to learn. Established by the Royal Charter (pdf 235kb) and globally recognised, The Open University has pioneered distance learning for over 50 years, delivering exceptional teaching and outstanding support to students across the UK and the world.

Our mission is to make learning accessible to all, and together we’ve already helped over 2 million students to realise their ambitions.


The Open University’s Strategy for 2022-2027

Our enduring mission

Open to people, places, methods and ideas

Our vision

Life-changing learning that enriches society

The values we live

Inclusive, innovative, responsive

Governance at the OU

The aim of governance at the University is to:

  • ensure that there is a fit between the University’s vision and mission and its performance;
  • ensure that the mission is translated into strategy, policies and plans that direct resources in an effective and accountable way; and
  • monitor the performance of the University against those planned strategies and operational targets.

The underpinning principles of good governance are openness, inclusivity, integrity and accountability. The University supports these principles in ensuring that:

  • decisions are taken with proper concern for the University’s reputation and standards and for the principles of academic freedom;
  • decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level in the structure;
  • membership of the governance bodies reflects the diversity of the University community;
  • information about the constitution and regular business of governance is readily accessible; and
  • members of governance bodies are not disadvantaged by location and distance.

The University’s governing body is the Council. It is particularly concerned with the University’s overall strategy, finances, property and staff, and is supported by a number of subcommittees. The Council has the ultimate authority within the OU, but it has to respect the views of the Senate in academic matters. Further information can be found on the Government Structure and Council Members pages.

The Senate is the academic authority of the University, responsible for academic strategy, policy, priorities and performance. Below it is a substructure consisting of policy committees and faculty or central academic unit (CAU) committees. These are shown in the OU Academic Governance Structure Chart (Pdf 116kb) and further information can be found on the Academic Structure page.