Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Governance at The OU
  3. Speeches and statements

Speeches and statements


A selection of the Vice-Chancellor's speeches and statements, including conference appearances and university events.

The end of the fortress university

Durham University 22 November 2017

The Vice-Chancellor called for Universities to abandon their “fortress thinking” and awaken to the challenges of operating in a fully digital world.

In a public lecture at the University of Durham, Peter Horrocks warned that too many universities still function according to parameters established in medieval times. Arguing for greater cooperation – rather than competition – between institutions, and a system which responds to higher student expectations by letting them mix and match courses or modules from different universities.

His remarks re-emphasised many of the points made during his evidence session on The Economics of Higher, Further and Technical Education at the House of Lords earlier this month. 

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Fixing the broken market in part-time study

The OU speaks out 16 November 2017

Open University says part-time students ‘learning while earning’ need direct funding

Read more

European Association of Distance Teaching Universities’ Conference

Thursday 26 October 2017

The Vice-Chancellor delivered a thought-provoking speech on the future of open and distance universities.

Discussing the OU’s move from being a University of the Air, as championed by former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1960’s,  to today’s vision for the OU, as the University of the Cloud, the Vice-Chancellor welcomed delegates to the 30th anniversary conference taking place at the OU, Milton Keynes. 

He went on to explain how the OU plays a crucial role in helping employers and employees upskill and reskill in a thriving, digitally-enabled economy, before outlining how open and distance learning universities can adapt, change and challenge themselves for the next 50 years and beyond.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Policy Exchange Conference

Thursday 15 September 2016

The Vice-Chancellor delivered a hard-hitting speech looking at the question of What does the new Government mean for HE and FE?

He told delegates from across the HE and FE policy sector that Prime Minister Theresa May's stated mission to tackle social mobility and plans for an "Industrial Strategy" must embrace adult learning and especially the part-time sector.

His speech set out six new areas of "ask" for the Theresa May Government when examining improvements in education policy. They aim to ensure that that part-time degrees and degree apprenticeships have equal national importance alongside full-time degrees and within the wider apprenticeship arena. This, he stressed was vital to meet "present and future challenges".

Read (.pdf) his speech.

The Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) Annual Conference

Thursday 30 June 2016

The Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) held its annual conference at Queen’s University Belfast 29 June – 1 July.  The theme of the conference was “Widening participation within the context of economic and social change: engaging applicants and empowering students to create successful graduates.”

Peter Horrocks delivered a keynote speech in which he talked about social divisions, the impact of the referendum on higher education and the importance of lifetime learning.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Charter Day 2016 – a Revolution of Rising Expectations, The Open University 

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Open University’s Royal Charter was granted on 23 April 1969, bringing the University into official existence. As part of the events to mark and celebrate the day the Vice-Chancellor gave an address to an audience of staff, students and invited guests reflecting on the OU’s past and setting out his vision for the future.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) Annual Conference

Thursday 17 March 2016

The theme for this year’s conference was The Engaged University as a Public Good. In his keynote speech “Reflections of a Lifelong Learner”, Peter Horrocks spoke about his BBC career, what is a public good and the BBC as a source of learning. He compared his experience studying with the OU to when he studied at Cambridge. Exploring options open to the audience of adult learners, the Vice-Chancellor talked about Part-Time study, resources such as Badged Open Courses and MOOCs as a way to re-engage people with learning, and the role universities play in communities.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Widening Participation in UK Higher Education 2016

Thursday 4 February 2016

Peter Horrocks delivered a speech at the Widening Participation in UK Higher Education 2016 forum that explored how higher education institutions can tackle the challenges in widening participation and consider the new opportunities to improve social mobility.  Fellow speakers included Les Ebdon, Director, Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Founding and Future of The Open University | Michael Young Centenary Conference, The Barbican

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Peter Horrocks delivered his keynote address at the conference which celebrated the life and legacy of Michael Young (1915-2002). As a pioneering social scientist, political activist and social innovator, Michael Young's ideas on transformative education were influential in the creation of The Open University. The same values remain today at the institution, to help each and every student achieve their goals and realise their dreams.

Read (.pdf) of his speech.

Vice-Chancellor’s Inauguration Address

Thursday 1 October 2015

Peter Horrocks delivered his inaugural speech as Vice-Chancellor, at the Milton Keynes degree ceremony.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

UnionLearn Annual Conference: 'The Union Skills Advantage'

Monday 6 July 2015

In his speech at the Annual UnionLearn conference, Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks highlighted the decline in the number of people studying part-time and the need to abolish the “short sighted Equivalent and Lower Qualification (ELQ) restrictions and for the availability of loans for structured skills development that is below qualification level".

The UnionLearn conference brings together hundreds of union learning reps (ULRs) with partner organisations, including employers, learning providers, government departments and other interested parties. Its aim is to offer people involved in union-led learning the opportunity to hear about and discuss current issues and opportunities.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

The London Centre for Languages and Cultures Colloquium: ‘A Future for Languages in Schools?’

Friday 3 July 2015

Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks delivered a speech reflecting on the importance of teaching modern foreign languages. The aim of the Colloquium was to make plausible and actionable suggestions for the improvement of languages in schools, and of the relationships between schools, universities, and policy-makers.

Read (.pdf) his speech.

Charter Day 2015

Peter Horrocks, in his capacity as Vice-Chancellor Designate during his induction, gave a speech to all staff of The Open University on 23 April 2015. He used his first address since his appointment to make a direct appeal to politicians to tackle a decline in the number of people studying part time. Speaking at an event to mark the 46th anniversary of the OU receiving its Royal Charter, Mr Horrocks also gave his first impressions of the University, along with some insight into the areas he wishes to prioritise when he formally takes over in May.

Read (.pdf) and watch his speech.


Globalization of Higher Education Conference

Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean delivered a keynote speech at the Globalization of Higher Education Conference in Dallas, Texas, on 24 March 2014. Martin spoke alongside Hillary Clinton, former United States Senator and current Secretary of State; and Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.

Attendance at the conference was by invitation only. Attendees included leaders of top US and international universities as well as political leaders, cultural thought leaders, influencers in post-secondary education and dignitaries from the United States and around the world.

Read more about the conference and watch a short clip of Martin's speech.

UTS in London: 2014 Alumni Network Event

Martin Bean delivered a speech at the UTS 25th anniversary event for alumni. Over 300 alumni, from as far back as the 1960s up to 2013 graduates, mingled with fellow Australians in the grand hall at Australia House (also used as Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter films).

Visit the event website

University of London International Programmes Conference

MOOCS: What have we learnt, emerging themes and what next? Following an introduction by the Rt Hon David Willets MP, Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the OU, delivered the opening keynote at the conference to an audience of 180 senior managers and policy makers in higher education.

Keynote presentation (part 1) | Keynote presentation (part 2)

VC joins Hillary Clinton at international education conference

Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean's contribution to teaching and learning has been recognised at an international educational event. Martin was one of the top-billed speakers at the Learning 2013 conference in Florida, which also heard from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Described as a "major innovator in the field of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)", and "one of the global pioneers in the world of learning and scalable education", Martin received a Learning Leadership Award from conference host Elliott Masie.

The Vice-Chancellor also led two keynote sessions in front of almost 2,000 international education and business leaders, discussing how The Open University's innovating approach is being replicated around the world, laying out his vision for the future of education and describing how FutureLearn will take on the challenge of more established MOOC providers. Online reaction was extremely positive, with one CEO taking to Twitter to describe Martin's talk as 'fascinating'.

Other speakers at the prestigious event included American broadcaster Jane Pauley, Director of the US Government's Office of Education Technology Richard Culetta, and Star Trek actor George Takei, who gave a talk on the role of social media.

Legacy garden dedication

More than 100 guests joined Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean to dedicate the new Legacy Garden at he OU's headquarters in Milton Keynes in July. The Vice-Chancellor unveiled a plaque celebrating the thoughtfulness and generosity of those who remember the OU in their will.

Supporting the students of the future

Many of the OU’s legacy supporters choose to remember the OU in their will so they can give something back to their university and student community. Joan Popovic, who attended the dedication, believes she would never have become a specialist in Human Resources without the OU. “I feel so proud to have completed my degrees and to have gone on and had such a rewarding career. It’s for this reason I support the OU, in wanting to provide others with a similar opportunity to have the chance make so much more of themselves.”

Changing lives

If you would like to find out more about the Legacy Garden, the legacy plaques or would like to talk about leaving a gift to the OU in your will, please visit the Giving website, or contact Karen or Nicola in the Legacy Team on +44 (0)1908 659141 or at

London School of Economics Public Lecture: Reimagining Education

The Vice-Chancellor attended and gave a response to a public lecture entitled 'Reimagining Education' at the London School of Economics. The lecture was given by Salman Khan, Founder and Executive Director of the Khan Academy, a non-profit organisation on a mission to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” Salman shared his thoughts on what education could be like in the future and told the inspiring story of how the Khan Academy came to be. Rohan Silva, Senior Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister, chaired the lecture.

Queen Mary University Drapers’ Lecture

For the first time, the annual Drapers’ Lecture at Queen Mary University was combined with the annual Teaching and Learning Conference. Martin Bean delivered the lecture, entitled ‘MOOCs, Napster and the Tyranny of Conventional Wisdom: Where’s the Next Giant Leap for Higher Education?’ as the final conference address. He explored some of the big opportunities for education – and the biggest obstacles to progress – as technology advances and pedagogy evolves.