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About the OU > Admin and governance > Formal Governance Structure

Formal Governance Structure

The Governance of the Open University

The Open University was established by charter on 23 April 1969.

The OU's Charter

The University is governed by three statutory bodies: the Council, the Senate and the General Assembly.


The University's main governing body is the Council, which is supported by a number of sub-committees. Council has a membership of 25 and includes representatives of the academic and research staff, associate lecturer and non-academic staff, students, and a number of external co-opted members. These external members, appointed for their experience and expertise, hold a majority of the membership places.

The Council has the ultimate authority within the OU, but it has to respect the views of the Senate in academic matters. It is particularly concerned with finances, property and staff matters.


The Senate is the academic authority of the University which, subject to the powers of the Council, is responsible for promoting the academic work of the University, both in teaching and research. It oversees the University’s academic management, including  curriculum and all aspects of quality and standards associated with the University as a degree-awarding body. Senate meetings concentrate on major issues of academic strategy, policy, priority and performance.

General Assembly

The third statutory body, the General Assembly, consists of elected representatives of the nations/regions together with representatives appointed by the Senate. It may express an opinion to the Senate on any matter affecting the work and interest of the University. It meets rarely and only if convened by the Central Consultative Committee in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor.

In accordance with best practice and the UK Corporate Governance Code, the terms of reference, explaining their role and the authority delegated to them by the Council, for the Membership (Nominations), Audit and Remuneration Committees are available below:

The OU Coat of Arms

OU Coat of Arms

The Open University's Coat of Arms which includes the motto 'Learn and Live'.