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University units, subsidiaries and associated organisations

Academic Units

At the heart of the OU's teaching are its faculties and institutes producing high quality courses underpinned by research of international excellence:

These Central Academic Units (CAUs) are each headed by a dean or director, who normally serves for 5 years. He or she chairs the faculty board, which manages the unit’s affairs. The Dean/Director represents the faculty/institute both within the University and externally, will provide academic and business leadership within the faculty/institute, and act as an intermediary between the faculty/institute and the wider University in the development and deployment of strategy and policy.

Administrative and Other Units

As well as the academic units, there are also a number of administrative units managed by the University Secretary, and other support Units, such as Library Services, Academic Services, and Academic Centres, managed by other members of VCE.

The hierarchical relationships between and roles and responsibilities of individuals and units are illustrated on the OU Academic Governance Structure Chart (pdf 92kb).

Subsidiaries and Associated Organisations

The University has a number of associated organisations, of which the OU Students Association (OUSA) is the most prominent.  It has also established a number of subsidiaries, primarily for reasons of tax efficiency and legal protection.  The range of subsidiary undertakings are illustrated in the Associated Bodies Chart (pdf 56kb) and further details are provided below:


The Open College of the Arts

The Open College of the Arts is a company limited by guarantee, wholly owned by The Open University and is a registered charity. The object of the Open College of the Arts (OCA) is to promote and provide education and training in the field of creative arts industries and crafts. It is governed by a Board appointed by the University and reports to the University’s Council.

Open University Worldwide Limited

Open University Worldwide Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary which manages the University’s international and commercial trading activities.  It is governed by a Board appointed by the University and reports to the University’s Finance Committee.

OUSBA logo

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA)

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Limited a wholly-owned subsidiary company established to collect, on behalf of the University, fees and payments from individual students and customers.  Its activities are governed by the Consumer Credit Act.  It is governed by a Board appointed by the University and reports to the University’s Finance Committee.

Dormant Related/Subsidiary Undertakings

  • Open University Business School Limited
  • Open University Bookhire Limited
  • Open University Educational Enterprises Limited
  • Open University International Limited
  • Open University Worldwide Learning Limited
  • Open University Worldwide (USA) Incorporated
  • Open University Environmental Body Limited
  • Open University Worldwide Incorporated

Associated Organisations

The Open University Students Association

OUSA LogoThe Open University Students Association (OUSA) is an unincorporated charity.  Its function is to support student representation and not, as many student unions do, to provide facilities and entertainment for campus-based students.  It is theoretically independent of the University, but its existence derives from the University’s Charter (pdf 235kb) and is prescribed by Ordinance (pdf 124kb).  Under legislation introduced in 1994 to protect freedom of speech in student unions, the constitution of OUSA has to be approved by the OU Council and it has to submit an annual report and audited consolidated accounts to the Council.

Every student who is registered with the Open University is automatically a member of The Open University Students Association (OUSA), and current membership stands in excess of 200,000.

In addition to the variety of services provided by OUSA, the Association represents the interests of its members through its representation on University committees.  Appointed by OUSA, the student representatives are full members of the committees on which they sit, and, as such, are able to take an active role in the decision-making process of the University.