10 Oct 2012

Education can get Britain growing, says OU Vice-Chancellor

Education is the key to getting Britain's economy growing again, The Open University's Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean has said.

Speaking to senior political figures from the three main parties during the conference season, he stressed the need for employers and employees to up-skill and re-skill so that British businesses can face the challenges of the 21st century.

Martin Bean said: "In building the economy, we can't afford to wait up to a decade for today's children to complete years of school, university and training. We need to see a shift from traditional, classroom-based programmes to alternatives that integrate learning into the workplace.

"Part-time online study with The Open University allows today's workers to 'earn while they learn', bringing immediate benefits to their workplace. Some employers have asked me what happens if they educate a worker only to see them leave, but surely the bigger question is what will happen if you don't educate your staff and they stay?"

Top companies have already embraced the OU's unique model of flexible and online working, with 80% of FTSE 100 companies sponsoring staff on Open University (OU) courses. The OU's open access model ensures that skills and training are accessible for everyone - 20% of the OU's newest undergraduates come from the UK's 25% most disadvantaged communities.

It was a message that resounded with delegates at all three party conferences:

• At the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton the Vice-Chancellor debated the role of Higher Education with Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable and an audience of senior figures from the worlds of business and education at an event hosted by CentreForum;
• At the Labour conference in Manchester, the Vice-Chancellor joined Shadow Higher Education Minister Shabana Mahmood and former Secretary of State for Education Lord Adonis in a roundtable hosted by Progress;
• And at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, the Vice-Chancellor spoke alongside Education Minister Liz Truss at a fringe event organised by the Centre for Social Justice.

Notes to editors
- More than 71% of Open University students work during their studies
- Almost 23,000 OU MBA graduates are active in 91 countries
- 89% of part-time students study to further their career aims
- 45% of OU students have one A-level or less
- 18,000 students have accessed higher education through the OU's targeted access, taster and Openings programmes
- The Open University has outperformed all other universities to be highest rated in overall student satisfaction in the National Students Survey 2012, and has been in the top three since the survey began in 2005.
- The Open University is working with Capgemini to fill the skills gap, as fewer students are now taking A-level courses in IT. The Higher Apprentice Programme enables Capgemini trainees to study Open University courses during working hours. They commit to a five-year period, and can graduate with a BSc in Computing and IT at the end.
- The success of the scheme is based on employees not leaving the workplace to study, and the OU offers a clear synergy between what students do in their workplace and what they study on the course. Assignments can cover both work-based and course-based objectives.

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