Customer satisfaction

 Yet again the OU students have demonstrated their satisfaction with the OU. Surveys of OU graduates 1975 — 1989 indicate that over 70% felt that they derived ‘great’ or ‘enormous’ benefit from their time as students, that over 80% felt that it had had a good impact on them ‘as learners’ and ‘as a person’ and that more than 50% noted the beneficial effect on their careers and on them as ‘members of society’. Subsequently, OU students have presented their studies as an aid to the development of their self-esteem and their careers and as constructive within the development of familial relationships. They have noted dramatic changes to their beliefs, thoughts and tastes and have acknowledged their pleasure in learning. Many have concluded that their OU studies provided them with intellectual stimulation, confidence and ‘cultural capital’. Since their inception in 2005 the annual National Student Surveys have all shown that OU students rate the OU more highly than almost all other students rate their respective institutions.

This popularity among its students does not of itself distinguish the OU. Numerous graduates have recognised the positive impact of university on their lives. Perhaps the difference is that for many OU students their studies dramatically changed their trajectory. Their pride in the results came after a fall. Moreover, the OU offered not only the possibility of personal redemption but also enabled changes to occur within the lives of those around the principal learners. Adult learners embarking upon distance education tend to hold distinctive culturally and contextually dependent conceptions of learning, seeing it as critical thinking and as personal development, rather than being about increasing one’s knowledge. Just as it is said that it takes a village to raise a child, many OU students recognised that completion of an OU degree was a shared experience achieved when students extended their networks and also drew upon and strengthened the communities they inhabited. Graduation for such OU students was not the marking of an, apparently seamless, individual intellectual journey from school to degree but was the culmination of collective support and commitment from family, tutors, colleagues and friends. Students did not need to arrive at the OU assuming that a university education was a birthright determined by their class position, educational qualifications or age. While full-time young students were also bolstered through their studies, the whoops and cheers that can be heard at any OU graduation ceremony symbolise the collective transformations that the OU has helped to shape.

We are still collecting students’ stories and also those of OU staff. If you’d like to contribute, click here.

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