Explore Themes

Improving the student experience 1992-2001

(page 1 of 3)

Written by the Students Association Digital Exhibition project team

Skip to description
Open University student
Image : Check out your student charter
Date: 1995
Open University Student
Image : Student charter pledges ten day response
Date: 1995

The Introduction of the Student Charter

The Student Charter is the foundation stone on which the OU community is built and was introduced as part of the partnership between the Association and the University. The Charter illustrates our shared values and what we can expect from each other. 

The Charter, which is reviewed every year to ensure it reflects current needs and challenges, is the responsibility of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and is taken very seriously by the University and the Students Association, who are fully committed to its implementation. 

Development of the first Charter was well underway by the mid-1990s, following a wide consultation of student and tutor representatives; University administrators, tutors, counsellors and the Students Association spent 18 months drafting the Charter, which was first shared with The Open University community in December 1995, when it was distributed alongside the latest issue of Sesame. 

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the time, Richard Lewis, noted that it was the Students Association who first asked for a charter, and that he believed it was good news for the whole University. He told Sesame, “I’m delighted that the University community has so effectively produced a document which we can all support. The Student Charter demonstrates the OU’s commitment to ensuring that students get a good service and that is seen as a matter of right and not as a favour.” 

As it does to this day, the Charter aimed to explain to students the standards they can expect from the University in all its dealings with them, with sections on access, admissions, finance, the learning experience and academic support, as well as representation and quality assurance. The University committed staff to “courtesy, timeliness, efficiency and confidentiality” in all contacts with students, including a pledge that students on taught courses could expect the OU to dispatch teaching materials in time for students to study them according to the course calendar and to return TMAs within four weeks of the cut-off date. 

Pro-Vice Chancellor Richard Lewis went on to say, “The OU has always been committed to high standards of service, and to sorting out problems quickly for our students where things go wrong. Sadly, students do not always let us know in time, because they are not sure what to expect or whom to contact, or because they think we may not want to listen to a complaint. With over 136,000 students there is always a chance something may go wrong. 

This Charter is about engaging with our students to ensure the best quality service possible within resource constraints. It will not only help us to help individual students but will encourage feedback so we know how we are doing and can go on doing it better and better.” 

To this day, the Charter states that the University actively supports the Students Association to continue doing what it has done for 50 years, and was doing when it first requested the introduction of the Student Charter, and that is to foster a vibrant student community and to promote student interests. 

Improving the student experience 1992-2001 (page 1 of 3)