Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho was installed as the sixth Chancellor of The Open University at the Milton Keynes degree ceremony on 10th September 2014, succeeding Lord Puttnam who stepped down after seven years in the role.
Martha Lane Fox has built her career around the digital world, making her mark as one of the founders of the internationally recognised leisure and travel website, LastMinute.com.
From 2009 she served as the government’s UK Digital Champion, leading a drive to get more people and services engaged with the online world and in 2012 she launched a charity – Go ON UK – which aims to plug the digital skills gap among British adults. Following Martha’s Dimbleby Lecture in 2015, she founded and today runs the independent think tank Doteveryone.
Martha spoke of her passion for technology and learning during her inaugural speech: “I have tried my whole life to put technology at the heart of what I do – and open it up to as many people as possible. With lastminute.com we were battling to make people believe that the internet was going to exist - we fought to encourage people the internet was here to stay.
It set me on a journey which I carry on to this minute – trying to encourage people that technology can help them in their daily lives. I’ve seen again and again, the incredible impact that technology can have. That is why this university is so special – right at the heart of it is the idea that technology can help open up the world’s learning; to create a level playing field.
In addition to her work with the government, Martha is a non-executive board member of television company Channel 4 and retailer Marks & Spencer, as well as a patron for human rights charity Reprieve.
In 2013, recognising her contribution to charity and furthering technology Martha was awarded a CBE and become a life peer, making her the youngest woman ever to sit in the House of Lords (now she is the second youngest!).
Focussing on the achievements of other ground-breaking women at the OU she cited Jennie Lee as a heroine, quoting the OU founder: “Oh pioneers, here is a great independent university, which does not insult any man or any woman from any background, by offering them second best. Nothing but the best is good enough; you’re the best, go out and do even better.”
The primary role of the Pro-Chancellor is Chair of the OU's Council. The Pro-Chancellor is a member of the University's Finance, Governance and Nominations, Remuneration, and Strategic Planning and Resources Committees. Our current Pro-Chancellor, who took up the role on 1 January 2019, is Malcolm Sweeting.
Malcolm’s entire career has been spent at Clifford Chance LLP, one of the largest elite global law firms. At Clifford Chance, Malcolm was the youngest member of the firm’s council and was made a Senior Partner in 2010. Malcolm is also a member of the Government's BRI Expert Panel, the CBBC Advisory Board and the European Advisory Board of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. In addition, he is a Trustee for Hope and Homes for Children and a Speaker for Schools.
In commenting on how proud he is to be a part of The Open University in his role as Pro-Chancellor, he said:
The Open University is instantly recognised with great affection and great respect for its achievements. Almost everyone I speak to has a story to tell about the OU, and how it has inspired one of their family or friends to achieve their ambitions. As the OU celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it is with great pride that I take this wonderful opportunity to assist the OU to continue to change the lives of so many and to make such a profound and deep impact on society.