Where: Milton Keynes
Scale: The largest academic institution in the UK
Some of the most impactful social innovations occur when a societal injustice coincides with rapid, enabling technological advances. The habitual exclusion of the working classes from higher education and the growing capabilities of communication technologies enabled the Open University to invent a successful model for distance learning.
20,000 students registered for courses in the OU’s first intake in 1971 – a remarkable figure, given the national student population at the time was only 130,000. From its fabled late night BBC broadcasts, through the era of home video to modern e-learning, it has adapted to survive and attract new students.
With alumni ranging from MPs to football managers, the OU’s diverse student body continues to grow, with the institution gaining relevance as a flexible, affordable alternative in an increasingly competitive modern university landscape.
Throughout educational reforms and technological revolutions, the Open University remains in the top five for student satisfaction, with over 200,000 students presently taking courses.