15 Jun 2013

Former Director of Students receives MBE in Birthday Honours

Will Swann

Will Swann

Will Swann, The Open University (OU)’s recently retired Director of Students has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, it was announced today. Will, who retired from the OU in December last year after more than 35 years with the University, becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to higher education.

Will’s career at The Open University spans a lifetime of commitment beginning first as a student, then academic and later Dean and since 2004 as Director, Students where he had responsibility for more than 250,000 students in the UK and overseas.

Since 2004, Will led the University’s strategy and programme in widening participation – to promote and protect the needs of all students whatever their background. In this regard Will made a significant contribution to the achievement of national policy objectives designed to expand educational opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The improvements in the numbers of such students signing up to OU modules followed the development and implementation, under his direction, of a highly-focused approach not just for recruitment but for retention and attainment.

Will’s other achievements during this period include expanding the OU’s outreach service, development of services to the disabled and an enhancement of the University’s work within a prison setting. With the introduction of the new Higher Education funding environment in the UK, Will proposed the introduction of the Access to Success Route as a way of maintaining the University’s commitment to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This pathway provides a low-risk, low-cost route into Higher Education for students with low income or low self-esteem in studying at HE level.

Congratulating Will on his MBE, Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said: “Will is an exceptional individual who made an outstanding contribution to The Open University and its students during his 35 years with us. As both a friend and a colleague, I am delighted that he has been recognised with this richly deserved honour.”

On receiving his MBE Will said: “I am honoured and delighted by the award. In the eight years I was Director, Students at the OU, my role was to make it possible for our inspiring OU staff to their best for hundreds of thousands of students, and so to offer them opportunities that would otherwise be denied to them. It was a joy to be able to do that.”

About The Open University and Widening Participation:
• 12% of OU students are from ethic minorities
• 7% of OU students declare a disability
• 37% have 1 A Level or lower at entry
• 18,000 students have accessed higher education through our targeted access, taster and Openings programmes.
• The OU invested over £4 million to communicate the new loans system to mature and poorer prospective students.
• 71% of OU undergrads have no previous HE qualifications
• In the past five years, OU part-time enrolments for students ages 25 and over increased by more than 17%, compared to a 23% decrease at other institutions.

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