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Third and voluntary sectors

Committed to widening access, we have developed learning partnerships with a number of third sector organisations. Working with trusted partners, we can engage with people who may not otherwise consider themselves learners and offer ‘new learning in familiar spaces’.

We are also well placed to support learning and organisational development within charities and voluntary groups, supporting skills development. We are also able to share our expertise in supported distance learning to help organisations produce and use open education resources.

Carers and carers' organisations

Caring Counts

Working with carers and carers organisations, like the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance (SYCSA), Carers Trust Scotland (previously The Princess Royal Trust for Carers) and local Carers Centres, we have co-created an open educational resource, Caring Counts.

  • An online reflection and planning course
  • Uses real carers’ life experiences and reflections to help them identify skills gained from their caring role
  • Helps carers begin to explore options for their future

Lesley Bryce

I think that you definitely lose confidence if you have to give up a career, for whatever reason. Being a carer can be isolating too. 

As time goes on, you can start to feel that there are no other opportunities available. This course proved that this is not the case.

Reflection helps you realise your potential which can get lost in our caring role.

Lesley Bryce, Access Course Student

Lesley Bryce from Dumfries is a carer for her disabled son. Working through a reflection course with the support of Dumfries and Galloway Carers Centre, her story and caring experiences, plus those of others, became the basis for the online course.

Upon completion, Lesley did an Open University Access course. Reflecting on the skills she had developed through her caring role, as well as successfully completing the Access course, gave Lesley the confidence to continue studying. She is now doing a Business Studies degree with her local university.

Carer Aware at University 

Working in partnership with Carers Trust Scotland, we developed the free online module Carer Aware at University, for staff at all universities in Scotland, to help improve support for students who are also carers.

Open Learning Champions

We run workshops for potential Champions

  • who may come from third sector organisations, community learning and development, libraries or colleges
  • ​model is based on a trusted relationship, like between support worker / carer
  • ​workshop explores use of The OU’s free open educational resources to engage those they support in learning 

Using Open Pathways to Higher Education, learners can plan their own learning journey from informal to formal study, if they wish. The role of the Champion may vary from facilitating groups to 1:1 support or signposting to resources.

Click here for an evaluation report of the pilot which took place in 2015 in Dumfries and Shetland. The latest edition of the Open Learning Champions Newsletter is also available online.

Fiona Barr is a carer support worker with the Dumfries and Galloway Carers Centre and facilitated the Caring Counts course as part of the Open Learning Champions pilot. Covering rural Wigtownshire, Fiona encouraged carers to take up the opportunity for online learning and felt that the course was a real benefit to them.

Fiona BarrI now feel more confident promoting the course and supporting carers through it. It helped us all brush up on our computer skills and reflection as well. The course has been invaluable for carers but it’s been an opportunity for me too.

The short courses in Open Pathways are going to be great...We can use things like the autism quiz to start discussions with groups.

Fiona Barr, Open Learning Champion

Carer-friendly employer project

Career positive employer in Scotland logoWe are working in partnership with VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian) and Carer Positive – the Scottish award for carer friendly employers - on a three year project to help employers in Edinburgh become more carer friendly. We are delivering workshops on Caring Counts in the Workplace, an open educational resource for managers who support carers at work, and promoting Caring Counts for carers who balance work with caring responsibilities.



Ewan Aitken, Pictured at a joint OU-Cyrenians event with (L-R) Amy Hutton and Kerrie Walker of the Cyrenians and Dr Rod Earle of The OUWe are working with Cyrenians, a charity that helps to transform the lives of people who are often on the margins of society, to help them to upskill their workforce in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

We are also partnering with them, through a series of knowledge exchange events aimed at professionals and members of the public, on topics such as mental health and social support, social isolation and loneliness in older people, and barriers to employment for ex-prisoners.

Our partnership with The Open University has been a gift to Cyrenians way beyond monetary values. To be in partnership with an organisation of such standing across the globe yet to find it so flexible and people focused is a rare opportunity and one we have been glad to grasp tightly with both hands.

What makes this work is shared values, commitment to social justice and a passion for people. Cyrenians know we will be better able to serve those we journey with because of the partnership we have with The OU.

Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians CEO (Pictured at a joint OU-Cyrenians event above right, on far left of image, with (L-R) Amy Hutton and Kerrie Walker of the Cyrenians and Dr Rod Earle of The OU)


Parkinson's UK and Dyslexia Scotland

Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) was a cross-sector project led by The Open University in Scotland. As part of its focus on widening participation in education and informal education, OEPS worked in collaboration with Parkinson's UK to develop a suite of online courses. Understanding Parkinson's for health and social care staff launched in May 2016, and two further courses will be available in autumn 2017. The ‘Understanding Parkinson’s’ course was a finalist at the Scottish Charity Awards 2017 in the Demonstrating Digital category.

OEPS also worked in collaboration with Dyslexia Scotland and Education Scotland to develop a suite of online courses which support the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit (a free resource which guides users through a child-centred approach to inclusive practice, literacy difficulties and dyslexia). The first course Introduction to dyslexia and inclusive practice launched in March 2017, the second course ‘Supporting dyslexia and inclusive practice’ will be available in autumn 2017 and the final course ‘Dyslexia identification and support’ will be available in early 2018.

All of these courses are exemplars of open educational resources: free to access, use and reuse, within certain parameters. The courses are hosted on OpenLearn Create, the innovative leading platform for free educational projects supported by The Open University.

Read the OEPS Final Report

Third Sector Internships Scotland

The Open University in Scotland led the way in establishing the Third Sector Internships Scotland (TSIS) scheme with Queen Margaret University and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Running from 2010-2015 and funded by the Scottish Funding Council, this enabled students from all Scottish universities - regardless of their economic circumstances - the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations through completing paid, supported internships.

This was a unique example of Higher Education Institutions working in partnership with each other and third sector groups to:

  • enhance student employability
  • create nationwide impact and local level change

Organisations across Scotland ran internships, from Dumfries to Dingwall, benefitting not just the students and the organisations, but local communities nationwide.

Read the TSIS final report.

Contact us

For more information on:

- our projects with carers and carers'    organisations;
- Open Learning Champions;
- open education

contact Learning Partnerships Officer Gill Ryan.

For enquiries about:

third-sector partnerships, contact Partnerships Manager Diane Cooper.

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