Northern Ireland news

The Open University begins 50th anniversary celebrations

John D'Arcy from the OU with Lord Mayor of Belfast, Deirdre Hargey

THE Open University (OU) is celebrating awarding more than 21,000 qualifications to people in Northern Ireland over the last 50 years.

The OU flew in the face of established higher education when founded in 1969, by challenging the traditional concept of who could access university.

Then Prime Minister Harold Wilson and arts minister Jennie Lee created the institution founded on the principle of being open to all.

From 24,000 students in its first intake, there are now more than 174,000 people studying with the OU, making it one of the largest higher education providers in Europe.

There are currently more than 3,700 OU students in the north.

About one in four lack the qualifications to get into traditional university, but can excel by studying with the OU.

The OU said the flexible, distance-learning method of teaching enabled people to juggle their jobs and domestic responsibilities alongside their studies.

National Director of The Open University in Ireland, John D'Arcy said 50 years on, the world was a different place from where institutions started.

"Our founding principles continue to drive everything that we do - to be open to people, places, methods and ideas," he said.

"In 2019 we are undertaking a year-long programme of activities and events to inspire pride in The Open University, what we do and how we help people transform their lives through higher education."

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