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About the OU > The OU Explained > The OU's mission

The OU's mission

The Open University's mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

We promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Through academic research, pedagogic innovation and collaborative partnership we seek to be a world leader in the design, content and delivery of supported open learning.

How we deliver our mission

The OU was founded to open up higher education to all, regardless of their circumstances or where they live. We have students of all ages and backgrounds: school students wanting experience of university-level study, school leavers who choose to begin their careers while they study for a degree, people wanting to develop or update their skills, or change career entirely, and retired people wanting to explore new interests and keep mentally active.

The Open University’s Strategic Plan 2012-15 is the means by which we secure The Open University’s Mission and thrive as a University within the new Higher Education environment across the four nations of the UK and internationally.

We are committed to promoting equal opportunities for all and we monitor ourselves to make sure we live up to our ideals.

Equality and diversity website

Open to all: what we mean by open admissions

Nearly all of our undergraduate courses have no formal entry requirements, either prior qualifications or experience. We allow people who have missed out on education to fulfil their potential and achieve a university-level qualification.

We believe that it is the qualifications with which our students leave, rather than those with which they enter, that count.

Frequently asked questions on entry requirements 

Supporting students with disabilities

The OU has more disabled students than any other UK or European university: the flexible nature of OU study and our experience in harnessing technology to enable all our students means almost 12,500 people with a wide range of disablities - including mental health issues - study with us each year.

Services for Disabled Students

We have an Access Centre dedicated to ensuring that wherever possible our disabled students are provided with additional support to enable them to take part in every aspect of university life. Support can range from special computer software to sitting exams in their own home, having a personal assistant at day or residential school, and advice on available funding support.

Access Centre 

disabled student doing fieldwork

Access all areas

Services for disabled students include accessible materials, equipment loan schemes and special arrangements for tutorials, examinations and residential schools.

Widening participation in education

We have developed a range of ways to include people from under-represented groups in higher education. Working in partnership with locally-based organisations we are able to offer programmes that reach out to potential students in their communities. And we are also working to make sure that these students receive the support they need to succeed in their studies.

Widening participation

Our Openings courses are designed for people who may feel daunted by the idea of university-level study. This range of short courses aims to build confidence and study skills and prepare students for the challenge of our regular undergraduate courses.

Openings courses

Studying an Openings course with the OU led Ruth and Frances on to work towards a degree in social sciences.

Open access to the OU's learning materials

As part of our mission we are making an increasing amount of Open University teaching and learning resources available free of charge to anyone with access to the internet, no matter where in the world they live. Our four biggest open access schemes are:

The multi-award-winning website, OpenLearn, makes OU course material and other educational resources available free of charge to potential learners anywhere in the world. They don't need to register as students.


The OU was the first British university to join the iTunes University - iTunes U - and is now seeing more than 250,000 downloads of its material each week.

The Open University on iTunes U

Extracts from Open University broadcasts and teaching materials can be viewed on YouTube, along with videos on OU research and student life.

OUView on YouTube

More than 15,000 research publications are now freely available to view and consult via Open Research Online, one of the largest university research collections in the UK.

Open Research Online

Is the OU a real university?

Because we are not a residential university and the vast majority of our students study part-time for a degree we don't appear in most league tables. However, since 2005 The Open University has consistently been voted by our students into the top five universities for student satisfaction, topping the chart several times. In 2013 the OU achieved a satisfaction rating of 92 per cent.

Student survey results 2013

Our qualifications are recognised by academic institutions and professional bodies throughout the UK, Europe and the world.

Some of our partnerships with professional bodies

More than 30,000 employers - including over 75 per cent of FTSE companies - have chosen to sponsor their staff on OU programmes.

Organisations who have recently sponsored staff on Open University Business School modules





logo of the Queen's Anniversary Prizes

Open to places

In 2010 the OU won a Queen's Anniversary Prize for its teacher education project, TESSA, which now extends across nine African countries.