Facts & figures

Since the OU’s launch in 1969, 1.85 million people worldwide have achieved their learning goals by studying with us.

The OU is the largest academic institution in the UK, in terms of student numbers. It has:

  • more than 200,000 students
  • nearly 6,400 tutors
  • more than 1,100 full-time academic staff
  • more than 3,500 support staff

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.

  • In 2012/13, 13,227 students studied directly with the University overseas and more than 31,500 students on validated programmes
  • The Open University has 15 curriculum partnerships established in 23 countries

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, keep mentally active.

  • Over 73% of OU students work full or part-time during their studies
  • The average age of new undergraduate OU students is 29
  • Only 9% of our new students are over 50
  • 30% of new OU undergraduates are under 25
  • Over 26,500 students are under 25

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

  • More than 20,000 people with disabilities studied with us in 2012/13.

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

  • 42% of students had one A level or a lower qualification at entry

What our students study

  • We offer 408 undergraduate modules, 162 postgraduate modules, 15 overseas versions and 15 curriculum partnerships
  • 12,717 OU students are studying at postgraduate level
  • 22,722 OU MBA graduates active in 91 countries

OU 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.

  • 80% of FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff on OU courses
  • 77% of our students are studying to increase their career or employment prospects
  • 30,000 UK employers including NHS, John Lewis and 02 have used the OU to develop their staff

The OU and digital media

  • In April 2012 the OU became the first university in Europe to reach more than one million subscriptions through the new iTunes U App (launched in January 2012).
  • The OU’s extensive material on iTunes U has had 66 million downloads by nearly 10 million visitors (February 2014).
  • OpenLearn, a free learning resources website from the OU, has had 23 million visits since its launch in 2006. The site averages 400,000 unique visitors a month and has around 11,000 hours of learning materials including 8,000 hours taken from our undergraduate and postgraduate modules.
  • The OU is YouTube EDU’s largest UK university channel with 1,600 videos that have received 21 million views by 10.8 million visitors (February 2014).

Funding facts

Financial highlights from the academic year 2012/13 appear in the annual report.

Research facts

  • In the UK’s last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions
  • 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent or above, with 14% being world leading
  • In 2012/13 the OU attracted more than £14.7m in research grants and contracts
  • Around 26,000 research publications are recorded on Open Research Online (ORO), one of the largest and fastest-growing research collections in the UK. 25% of these are Open Access
  • Since July 2008, there have been more than 2.2 million downloads of Open Access content from ORO
  • ORO ranks 6th among UK HEIs, and 49th in the world, in terms of deposits and activity (Ranking Web of Repositories)

Did you know? 10 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 2014 the OU will hold 28 degree ceremonies in 15 different locations including Dublin, Glasgow, London and Versailles.
  • The OU is the UK’s only university dedicated to distance learning
  • The Open University was the highest rated university for overall student satisfaction in the 2012 National Student Survey, and has been consistently in the top five UK universities for student satisfaction since the survey began in 2005
  • 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: Britain's Great War, Airport Live, Wartime Farm, Stargazing Live, Coast, An Hour to Save Your LifeBang Goes The TheoryMore or LessThinking Allowed and The Bottom Line.

More like this

Teaching & learning

How OU-style open learning works, from course development through to delivery to our students.


How The Open University partners with the BBC, other education institutions and employers worldwide, and how to collaborate with us.

The OU story

The story of The Open University from early political thinkers through to our 40th anniversary in 2009 and beyond.

Facts & figures

Statistics and information on OU students, alumni, honorary graduates, courses and programmes, staff, funding, disability and employment.