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Facts and figures

 The OU is the largest academic institution in the UK with 173,927 studentsSince the OU’s launch in 1969, more than 2 million people worldwide have achieved their learning goals by studying with us.

Our global reach

Open University students are not just in the UK. Most courses are available throughout Europe and some worldwide – and many more are available through our partnerships and accredited institutions.

  • Over 7,000 overseas students directly studying with the OU
  • Over 800,000 teachers who have benefitted from OU's TESSA project

Our students

There is no typical OU student. People of all ages and backgrounds study with us, for all sorts of reasons – to update their skills, get a qualification, boost their career, change direction, prove themselves, or keep mentally active.

  • 76% of directly-registered OU students work full or part-time during their studies
  • 23% of OU UK undergraduates live in the 25% most deprived areas
  • 34% of new OU undergraduates are under 25

We are the largest provider of higher education for people with disabilities:

  • 23,630 students with disabilities studied with us in 2015/16.

Our open admissions policy helps thousands of people who failed to achieve their potential earlier in life:

  • 31% of students had one A level or a lower qualification at entry

59 FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff on OU coursesOU students in the workplace

The qualities it takes to get an OU qualification are exactly what employers are looking for. They know that OU students are up for a challenge, understand how to prioritise and manage their time, and can see things through to the end.


The OU and digital media

  • OpenLearn, a free learning resources website from the OU, has had 50.4 million visits since its launch in 2006.
  • The OU’s extensive material on iTunes U has had 71.8 million downloads

Funding facts

Financial highlights from the academic year 2016/17 appear on the website.

Research facts

  • 72% of OU research submitted was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2014)
  • 158 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016/17

Did you know? Fascinating facts about the OU

  • The Open University was founded in 1969 and took its first 24,000 students in 1971.
  • The Archers, Brookside, Ever Decreasing Circles, Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart have all had OU students written into their plots.
  • One of actress Julie Walters’ first major film roles was portraying an OU student opposite Michael Caine in Educating Rita.
  • The OU is the largest provider of law graduates in the UK
  • The OU is one of a handful of universities to have won University Challenge twice, in 1985 and 1999, and is in joint third position in the all-time points list.
  • Well-known names who have tutored for the OU include former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, actress Glenda Jackson and broadcaster Anna Ford
  • In 2017 the OU held 29 degree ceremonies in towns and cities across the UK and Ireland.
  • The OU is the UK’s only university dedicated to distance learning
  • The OU has had a partnership with the BBC for over 40 years and co-produces up to 25 TV and radio series a year with the BBC. Recent examples include: Blue Planet 1 & 2, Britain's Great War, Airport Live, Wartime Farm, Stargazing Live, Coast, An Hour to Save Your Life, Bang Goes The Theory, More or Less, Thinking Allowed and The Bottom Line.

Details of data for all UK Higher Education institutions is published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.