Facts & figures
Since the OU’s launch in 1969, 1.89 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:
- Around 200,000 students
- nearly 6,000 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 2013/14, 10, 191 students studied directly with the University overseas and more than 32,000 students on validated programmes
- The Open University has 20 curriculum partnerships established in 23 countries
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.
- Over 75% 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
We are the largest provider of higher education for people with disabilities:
- More than 20,000 people with disabilities studied with us in 2013/14.
Our open admissions policy helps thousands of people who failed to achieve their potential earlier in life:
- 39% of students had one A level or a lower qualification at entry
What our students study
- We offer 374 undergraduate modules, 159 postgraduate modules, 44 overseas versions and 20 curriculum partnerships
- 13,574 OU students are studying at postgraduate level
- 24,900 MBA graduates in 128 countries since The Open University Business School launched the programme in 1989
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.
- 88% of FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff on OU courses
The OU and digital media
- OpenLearn, a free learning resources website from the OU, has had 33.7 million visits since its launch in 2006. The site averages 350,000 unique visitors a month and has around 11,000 hours of learning materials including 8,000 hours taken from our undergraduate and postgraduate modules.
- 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 68 million downloads by over 10 million visitors.
- The OU’s YouTube channel, OULearn, has generated 27m video views of its educational videos since launch in 2008.
Financial highlights from the academic year 2013/14 appear in the annual report.
- The UK’s latest Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF 2014) places The Open University in the top third of UK higher education institutions by ‘research power’ ranking
- 72% of OU research submitted was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent
- In 2013/14 the OU received more than £16.8m in external research grants and contracts income
- Over 27,000 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 3.2 million downloads of Open Access content from ORO
- ORO ranks 6th among UK institutional and subject repositories, and 53rd 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 2015 the OU will hold degree ceremonies in 13 towns and cities across the UK and Ireland.
- The OU is the UK’s only university dedicated to distance learning
- The Open University is rated one of the best in the UK for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey. The OU is one of only four UK universities to have consistently achieved more than 90% in the survey’s history
- 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 Life, Bang Goes The Theory, More or Less, Thinking Allowed and The Bottom Line.
More like this
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 story of The Open University from early political thinkers through to our 40th anniversary in 2009 and beyond.
Statistics and information on OU students, alumni, honorary graduates, courses and programmes, staff, funding, disability and employment.