The Open University of the United Kingdom

Bissell, Christopher (2011). The Open University of the United Kingdom. In: Bainbridge, W. S. ed. Leadership in Science and Technology: A Reference Handbook, Volume 2. Sage.



The Open University of the United Kingdom was founded in 1969. It was a remarkable endeavour, designed to bring higher education to all (without any requirement for prior qualifications, or the obligation to attend lectures or classes), by offering a degree through distance learning equivalent in quality and status to that of a conventional university. At its inauguration its first Chancellor, Geoffrey Crowther famously characterised the new University as ‘open as to people, open as to places, open as to methods, and open as to ideas’. These principles remain in the mission statement of the University and have coloured its four decades of evolution.

This chapter does not attempt to analyse the leadership of the University over its forty-year history: it begins with political leadership in the conception of the University, then turns to organizational leadership during its inception, and concludes with some remarks about the University’s use of, and leadership in, technologies for teaching at a distance.

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