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About the OU > The OU Explained > Facts and figures

Facts and figures

The Open University in facts and figures

Since the OU's launch in 1969 almost 1.8 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 240,000 students
  •     close to 7,000 tutors
  •     more than 1,100 full-time academic staff
  •     more than 3,500 support staff

The UK university that is also European and worldwide

Open University students are not just in the UK. Most courses are available throughout Europe and some are available worldwide directly from the OU. Many more courses are available through our partnerships and accredited institutions. There are currently:

  • In 2011/12 16,125 students studied directly with the University overseas and more than 37,000 students on validated programmes
  • The Open University has 15 curriculum partnerships established in 23 countries

The OU outside the UK

Who are the OU’s students?

Our students come from the widest possible range of backgrounds. We have students who are in their teens, including some Year 12 and 13 school students who are studying OU courses alongside A-levels. We have students in their 90s - and all ages in between.

  •  The average age of new undergraduate OU students is 31
  •  Only 9% of our new students are over 50
  •  27% of new OU undergraduates are under 25 this year (19,982 students)
  •  Over 31,000 students are under 25

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

  •     More than 17,000 people with disabilities studied with us in 2011/12.

We are opening up opportunities for lower-income groups. Our open admissions policy helps thousands of people who failed to achieve their potential earlier in life:

  •     45% of students had one A level or lower qualification at entry

Thousands of people, who might not have been able to study because of work or family commitments, are able to study part-time with us:

  •     Over 71% of OU students work full or part-time during their studies


What are our students studying?

  • The OU offers 473 undergraduate modules, 60 CPD modules and 146 post-grad modules
  • 15,726 OU students are studying at postgraduate level
  • 22,722 OU MBA graduates active in 91 countries
  • 80 of the FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff on OU courses
  • 62% study vocational or professional courses
  • 89% of part-time students study to further their career aims

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 2010/11 the OU attracted more than £17.5m in external research income
  • Around 22,000 research publications are freely available to view and consult via Open Research Online which is one of the largest and fastest growing research collections in the UK
  • Since it went live in 2006, ORO has had more than 2.2 million visits
  • The University’s Open Research Online (ORO) repository ranks 8th among UK HEIs in terms of deposits and activity according to the Registry of Open Access Repositories

Some things you may not know about The Open University

  • The Open University took its first 24,000 students in 1971. Since then, almost 1.8 million people have taken an OU course
  • Each year 400,000 packs of academic learning materials are sent out to students from our distribution centre
  • 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
  • Among well-known names who have tutored for the OU are former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, actress Glenda Jackson and broadcaster Anna Ford
  • In 2012 the OU held 24 degree ceremonies in 15 different locations including Dublin, Glasgow, London and Versailles.
  • Since 1969, the OU has taught more than 1,794,500 students (2010/11)
  • The OU is the UK’s only university dedicated to distance learning
  • The Open University is the highest rated university for overall student satisfaction in the 2012 National Student Survey and has been consistently in the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey since it 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; Empire, The Secret History of Our Streets, Bang Goes the Theory, Frozen Planet, Our Crime, Divine Women
  • In April 2012 the OU became the first university in Europe to reach more than one million subscriptions through its 52 courses on the new iTunes U App since its launch in January 2012
  • The OU’s extensive material on iTunes U has had 56 million downloads
  • 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 800 videos that have received 11.2 million views by 6.2 million visitors.



Lenny Henry

Meet the alumni

Our students come from all sorts of backgrounds and circumstances, and include many in the public eye. Among better-known alumni of the OU are comedian and actor Lenny Henry (pictured), musicians Joan Armatrading and Micky Dolenz, actresses Julie Christie, Sheila Hancock and Sophie Ward, and football managers Craig Brown and Dave Sexton.

Open University Alumni Relations