01 Mar 2012

OU begins consultation on cessation of direct employment of staff in Continental Europe

The Open University’s Council has decided in principle to cease direct employment of staff in Continental Europe, subject to a full and active consultation with the recognised trades union, the University and College Union (UCU). The decision will be confirmed at the Council meeting on Tuesday 17 July 2012, subject to a report on the outcomes of the consultation process.

This affects just over 100 OU staff and the consultation process will last for a minimum of three months effective from 1 March 2012. The OU will ensure that the different processes which apply in each country are followed as required. Staff affected will have the opportunity to discuss their individual situation.

Will Swann, Director, Students at The Open University said: “This decision has not been taken lightly. In the current higher education climate, the combination of regulatory, operational and financial reasons means that the present employment arrangements in Continental Europe are viewed as no longer sustainable. We recognise the major potential impact this will have on staff and we are committed to working supportively with them to achieve the University's objectives whilst seeking to mitigate the impact on individuals.

“The Open University employs approximately 100 of its 6,700 Associate Lecturers, and a small number of Academic-Related staff, in ten countries in Continental Europe. This arrangement is complex and expensive to manage, as is the requirement to run different payroll systems and contracts, with the associated legal, financial and professional advice and systems to support them. Currently, 90% of students outside the UK are supported by a tutor in another country. 70% are already supported by tutors in the UK.

“The Open University is not scaling down operations. We remain committed to recruiting and supporting students in Continental Europe now and in the future. Students should see no difference to the service they receive and no reduction in the support or qualifications available; there will still be face-to-face tutorials and residential schools where appropriate.

Students currently studying with a Continental Europe based tutor will complete their current module with the same tutor, and new and existing students can be confident that they will continue to enjoy the same quality of support throughout their studies with the OU.”

A number of OU programmes, notably the MBA, have an important international dimension. The OU is currently considering how to strengthen this in the design, development and delivery of these programmes. The OU will involve students, staff and alumni as part of this work.


Notes to editors
1. This decision was agreed in principle at the meeting of The Open University Council on Tuesday 28 February with the changes due to come into effect between 31 July and 31 October 2012 subject to confirmation of the decision following an active formal consultation.
2. OU media contact: Paula Feery – / 01908 652580 / 07540 668 963

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