25 Jun 2009

£7.8 million grant for shared solutions to common problems in the higher education sector

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) today (24 June) welcomed the statement by the Prime Minister on the important role played by The Open University (OU). This coincides with an announcement by HEFCE of £7.8 million of funding to enhance the OU’s national role, and is part of the celebrations of the OU’s 40th anniversary.

HEFCE is awarding the OU funding from its Strategic Development Fund (SDF). The grant will enable universities to act collaboratively to improve student retention and deliver more flexible provision in the higher education (HE) sector.

The funding will be focused on three projects, all of which will be led by the OU with its national reach: Shared Returns, a regionally based student retention initiative; SCORE, a Support Centre for Open Resources in Education; and an Academic Partnership Hub which will move the sector towards more flexible education offerings.

HEFCE has been working with The Open University since 2005 to develop its role as a central resource for the HE sector, enabling the university to act as a catalyst for partnership and collaboration with other universities and colleges.

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said: ‘The success of distance learning, pioneered 40 years ago by the Open University, has been nothing short of a revolution for higher education. It has opened the doors to a whole new audience of students who have not only seen academic success but reaped the wider rewards learning brings.
‘An approach to higher education which emphasises accessibility and flexibility has put the UK at the forefront of e-learning and to build on this achievement with a new £20 million fund to support centres of excellence for online learning. I am also supporting the Open University with additional funding to further its role as a national leader, working with other institutions, to develop distance learning.’

Professor David Vincent, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at The Open University, said: ‘The landscape of higher education and the needs of today’s students are changing rapidly and in order to address these challenges, a collaborative approach is hugely important. Being open with resources and content has always been a part of the OU’s mission to widen participation in education. We are extremely excited by the potential that these projects present for the sector as a whole and, most importantly, for students.’

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Lord Mandelson said: ‘The Open University has been at the forefront of the distance learning revolution for the last 40 years and I am pleased that they will receive further funding to enhance the important national role they play, working collaboratively across the sector’.

‘The potential of communications technologies to extend the reach of our universities is one of the most exciting aspects of higher education today. This is why there will be up to £20 million in matched funding for our universities to build on their successes ensuring we remain a world leader and become the first choice across the world for in e-learning.’

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: ‘The Open University is a unique national asset, providing educational opportunities for people of all ages from across the country to study. HEFCE’s funding will enable the university to take significant steps in promoting its expertise and resources to develop its national role in the higher education sector. I congratulate the university on its 40 years of achievements and look forward to its continued and enhanced role.’


For further information contact Paula Feery / Kath Hardwick – 01908 652580 / 07901 515 891

Notes to editors

1. HEFCE will allocate around £196 million to the Open University for teaching and research in 2009-10.

2. The £20 million refers to the Open Learning Innovation fund announced on 23 June 2009.

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