29 Aug 2013

Cyclist completes incredible challenge visiting 52 European capitals whilst studying for an OU degree on two wheels

Cyclist Steven Primrose-Smith

Cyclist Steven Primrose-Smith

An Open University student has completed an epic cycle ride to 52 European cities – covering more than 35,000km – while studying for his OU degree and raising money for charity. Steven Primrose-Smith set off on his mammoth ride in 2011, armed with a Kindle and a laptop to carry out his OU studies towards a BSc in Mathematics and a Diploma in Physical Sciences.

Covering up to 200km a day, Steven met up with over 50 fellow OU students along the way – sharing experiences and study tips as well as getting valuable local knowledge on the cities he was visiting.

Speaking on his return to his home town of Port St Mary in the Isle of Man, Steven Primrose-Smith said:

“While planning and carrying out a trip like this requires commitment and good time management, the same can be said of anyone studying with the OU and I have an enormous amount of respect for all its students.

"This journey has been an incredible experience, not only because I have been able to raise money for charities which are close to my heart, but I have met some amazing people along the way, many of whom are taking advantage of the unique way the OU allows you to fit your studies around your life – whether you’re working full time, a parent or carrying out an international bike ride!”

The three charities Steven raised money for on his journey are: OUSET (Open University Students Educational Trust), Action for Animals and Blood Pressure UK. Blood Pressure UK is particularly close to Steven’s heart as he suffers from extremely high blood pressure that caused him to have a brain haemorrhage in 2009.

Steven named himself the UniCyclist and on 20 August finally completed his two-year cycle ride.

He accessed the majority of his study materials through a Kindle which had all the necessary OU materials downloaded on it before he started his journey.

From wild camping in Scandinavia to an Open University residential in Majorca, Steven always kept his followers up to date through his blog describing the highs and lows of being a student on the move and the challenge of travelling across Europe on a bike.

After the time spent in Majorca, Steven said, “In a year when I've cycled through 17 countries, seen the glories of Paris, Berlin and Prague, eaten delicious food and met dozens of lovely people, the two weeks at the OU residential [school] were probably the best two weeks of all”.

Steven is already in the process of planning more cycling adventures for the future. His motto is now “Whatever you want to do – Just do it.”

Notes to editors

For further information on Blood Pressure UK and Know Your Numbers Week set up by Blood Pressure UK, from 16th to 22nd September', go to: BPUK twitter @BloodPress_UK and Facebook

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas.

The OU is rated the top university for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2010/11 it had a 93% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 26.7 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 60 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

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