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Our strategic process and approach

Our strategic process

Our goals will only be achievable with effective implementation, which is a challenge in any large and complex organisation. The Open University is the largest university in the UK with around 10,000 employees, 200,000 students and millions more learners benefitting from our free courses and broadcasts[i]. Our mission has endured for more than fifty years: to provide a university education that is truly open to people, places, methods and ideas. By doing that, we improve lives on a scale that only technology-enabled learning can achieve with both value and quality, but a scale that we are increasingly learning how to personalise even better for each individual student.

This strategy sets out our plans for progressing this unique mission. Our aim over these five years is to bring flexible, high-quality university education to even more people, achieving even greater societal impact as a social movement and not just a university. The strategy is a call to action about our mission and values, and although it is a practical document setting out principles and priorities for unit and other plans across the University, it is not a detailed blueprint. This is because the OU is both large and devolved, with major academic and professional services units working in dynamic market and policy conditions. Their plans and targets are refreshed annually, guided by an annual strategic framework, which will be based on this strategy but evolve as planning and governance decisions are made each year.

This strategy was approved by the Council on 23 November 2021 to guide the next five years of the University’s planning. Implementation and alignment with it of other plans and business cases will be overseen by the University’s Planning Coordination Group, which reports to the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive. The Vice-Chancellor’s Executive has representation from all the University’s units and makes major operational decisions subject to the general control of the University’s Council, which is the executive governing body of the University, and to the powers of the Senate, which is responsible for the academic work of the University and its regulation.

Our strategic approach

We need to offer learning which is accessible, flexible, high quality, engaging and relevant. We need to work on dismantling barriers our students and potential students face, whether discrimination, wrong turns, disability or hardship. We want to partner with organisations that share our mission and values and make the case to governments and employers for policies and funding that help achieve this mission.

To ensure every student achieves the success that they work for, we will build on our outstanding quality of course design, teaching and support to students. Our scholarship will be critical to helping students learn with ever better methods and technologies, and our research will take our students, research users and the wider public to the frontiers of human knowledge in the search to resolve some of our greatest societal challenges.

The following sections address each of these goals and enablers, setting out actions we foresee as needed over the next five years. While our goals and enablers will stay the same, we will regularly review our actions to ensure that they are being implemented successfully and remain relevant and appropriate to our goals.


[i] The term ‘learner’ is used to refer to the many people who study or view the University’s open resources without registering as a student on a course. Many learners later become students, and many are both learners and students.