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On 1 July 1990 John Daniel succeeded John Horlock as Open University Vice-Chancellor. This was to...

The OU in the 1990s: a brief history

By 1990 the financial crisis that had beset The Open University in the 1980s had been abated and the decade saw expansion on several fronts. By 1990 over 100,000 people have been awarded a degree by the Open University, with well over one million people taking courses in total.

The following timeline is reproduced courtesy of The Open University Archive.

1990: John Daniel appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor of the Open University

1990: The OU celebrates its 100,000th graduate

1990: OU’s first European satellite broadcast, The PlaNet Programme, via the European Space Agency’s new Olympud direct broadcast satellite.

1990: OU celebrates its 21st birthday. More than 20,000 tons of study material has been sent to students by the OU since 1969

1990: A British OU study centre is opened, based at the Dutch Open University

By 1990, 700 students are registered with the OU, based in European countries, including Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.

1990: The OU announces that it will start to run courses in modern languages

1990: The Open University welcomes the expansion of Leicester Polytechnic (later known as De Montford University) into Milton Keynes – in partnership with the OU and Milton Keynes College

1990: Harold Wilson visits the OU and a building is named in his honour

1991: A Training and Development Centre for OU staff is opened in Cofferidge Close, Stony Stratford

1991: The Open University secures the freehold of the Walton Hall site

1992: The first 211 MBAs (Master of Business Administration) are awarded by the Open University Business School

1992: The Open University launches a nationwide service to validate the degrees of other academic institutions – Open University Validation Services

1992: The Open University starts to offer BSc degrees in addition to the BA awards

1992: OU programmes offered throughout western Europe for the first time and attracted several thousand students

1992: The OU Library offers barcoded reader tickets for the first time, with a networked system to check loans and renew books

1993: The Open University launches a degree programme in Singapore

1993: The Open University holds its first degree ceremony outside the UK, in Brussels

1993: The Mathematics Faculty changes its name to become Mathematics and Computing

1994: OU’s first office in mainland Europe opens in Brussels

1994: Betty Boothroyd, Speaker of the House of Commons, is announced as the next Chancellor of the Open University.

1994: The Open University celebrates it’s 25th anniversary. On 23 April, Charter Day, a ball held at Walton Hall was broadcast live on BBC2

1994: OU signs an agreement to provide management education courses to managers in Bulgaria

1995: KMi, the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute, is founded to create and study future technologies for the benefit of Open University students, staff, industrial sponsors, as well as local and global learning communities

1996: Over 20,000 overseas students now studying with the OU

1996: The University Library expands its role to include Library provision to students, including an inter-library loans and remote enquiry service

1996: The Rights Department within Publishing Services assumes responsibility for contracting and licensing all programme content for production undertaken by the Open University Production Centre. For the first time this gave the University control over all its intellectual property rights from the moment of creation through to the final delivery to students or exploitation in the marketplace

1996: The Open University wins the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education for the OU Post Graduate Certificate of Education

1997: Open University Worldwide is formed through a merger of Open University Educational Enterprises with the University’s other offices for international activity

1998: the 25th anniversary of the University's first degree ceremony and the conferment of the university's 200,000th graduate.

1998: The University launches its first law course, presented through the Open University Business School

1998: Announcement of the creation of the Open University of the United States

Expansion continued to be the keyword for the university during the 1990s. New areas of study included English law (in association with the College of Law), modern languages and expanded programmes in most other faculties and schools. The introduction of named degrees - by which students are able to study a prescribed programme of courses - added to the range of programmes on offer. The range was boosted further with the expansion in undergraduate certificates and diplomas, which also allowed subject-specific profiles within degrees.