05 Mar 2009

Best of the best: OU Vice-Chancellor UK’s most inspiring woman

Milton Keynes, Thursday 5 March 2009: Professor Brenda Gourley, Open University Vice-Chancellor was last night publicly lauded as one of the United Kingdom’s most inspiring women in the 2009 Women in Public Life awards.

Nominated by Milton Keynes MP, Mark Lancaster for her outstanding services to international education, Professor Gourley took out the title of the UK’s International Public Servant of the Year, and then followed up by taking out the top award of 2009 Outstanding Achiever.

Awarded to someone who demonstrates real achievement in the international arena, Professor Gourley’s commitment and drive to providing free and Open Educational Resources to developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa was deemed to be exceptional, and her enthusiasm for improving educational access and quality via online, flexible and open, supported learning placed her ahead of the other shortlisted nominees.

According to Professor Gourley, the awards are a mark of respect for the work and recognition of The Open University. “Receiving the overall award of 2009 Outstanding Achiever is also recognition of the value people place on the exceptional work of the OU,” she said, “and that is especially pleasing this year which is the 40th anniversary.

“The Open University is one of the UK’s most loved institutions and to have been a part of that success story I count as a privilege. To receive these awards is a bonus and I thank the judges and the voters for their acknowledgement of our work.”

Vice-Chancellor with The Open University since 2002, Professor Gourley has been integral in furthering its social justice mission on an international scale, in part fuelled by her personal motivation that education is a tool to help tackle inequality.

Professor Gourley joins the likes of former European Commissioners and Nigerian Honorary Commissioner of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation, in her title as 2009’s International Public Servant of the Year.

The overall award of Outstanding Achiever is awarded to a woman deemed to have achieved her full potential in her chosen career, and who inspires other around her to do likewise. Previous recipients include the Chief Executive of national domestic violence charity, Refuge and the Director-General of the UK Security Service.

The Women in Public Life Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate women leaders in society, while promoting the work of women in business, politics, public service and community leadership.

The winners were presented with their awards last night at the Commonwealth Club.

Photos and interview available on request.

Editor's Notes
The Dods & Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards celebrate women leaders in society and seek to recognise and promote the work of women in politics, business, the civil service and community leadership.

The Awards, which are now in their third year, aim to highlight the achievements of outstanding women role models amongst us.

As part of its remit to providing open education and raising its profile, The Open University is one of the world’s largest contributors to free and open educational content, through its award winning Open Learn service. Covering all educational disciplines in the university, Open Learn provides free access to materials ranging from undergraduate to postgraduate level.

Established in 2006, with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Open Learn has a full range of Open University subject areas from access to postgraduate level and has seen more than 2 million visitors since its launch.

Open Learn currently has more than 5400 learning hours of content available for the public to view online and for free, and more than 8100 hours of content available for reuse globally.

Additionally the OU has recently developed OUView, a dedicated YouTube channel and was one of the 3 UK and Irish universities involved in the ITunes U launch. Late last year, OU View had seen more than 30 000 hits, making it the most popular higher education channel in the UK and the sixth most popular higher education channel in the world (based on public stats available through You Tube). The University plans to also launch a YouTube Research Channel in 2009.

The OU was one of the first universities involved in the launch of the Apple iTunes U education channel. More than 2.3 million free items have been downloaded, and at least one new person visits the site every 45 seconds.

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