23 Feb 2015

OU awarded funds to build remote-access laboratories

An initiative of the OU and the Wolfson Foundation

An initiative of the OU and the Wolfson Foundation

£2.7m grant to build on award-winning work creating virtual laboratories and enabling students to carry out experiments by remote control

The Open University (OU) has been awarded a major grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching capital project to enable the creation of online laboratories that are available to students 24/7.

The OU has been awarded a total of £2.7m which will be divided between Science and Engineering and enable the creation of the ‘OpenSTEM Laboratory’. This will build on the successes of the Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory – which recently won the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding ICT achievement of the year’. This development directly addresses demands from employers and professional bodies for STEM graduates with appropriate skills and experience of working with industry standard analytical tools.

Students worldwide will be able to set up, and participate in an enhanced suite of remote-controlled experiments using best in breed remote access facilities and industry-standard tools. As well as the OU’s current STEM offer, the extended laboratories will support new undergraduate curriculum in electronics, instrumentation and control, and a new postgraduate module in space science. Students will gain distinctive, key employability skills, such as virtual team working to control remote environments, and novel applications of numeracy and IT, all highly relevant in today’s STEM working environments.

Tim Blackman, Acting Vice-Chancellor, said: "The OU already has a proud tradition of teaching STEM students in innovative ways. These online labs will help keep the University at the forefront of supported open learning in practical engineering and science for many years to come. This will not just benefit more employable graduates, but employers and industries facing national and international STEM skill shortages.”

Nick Braithwaite, Director of the OpenScience Laboratory, said: “This is a timely investment that builds on our recent introduction into the curriculum of robotic telescopes and remote controlled lab-based experiments. As the recent comet landing so clearly demonstrated – distance is no barrier to engagement with practical science.”

Anne De Roeck, Dean of Faculty, said: “This exciting development will further enrich the skills and experience of aspiring professional engineers, through remote access to industry-standard equipment and engineering practice, from wherever and whenever our students choose”

The HEFCE STEM teaching capital project is intended to ensure that higher education responds effectively to the increase in demand for STEM studies by developing facilities that will support an increased flow of highly employable graduates into industry.


Notes to editor

1. To read the full news report from HEFCE please visit:
2. To explore the Wolfson OpenScience Laboratory please visit:

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