The Open University Students Association is a Students Union within the definition of the Education Act 1994 and a registered charity (number 1144251). Our mission is to be the community and voice for all Open University students. We represent the interests of around 170,000 OU students, with most studying part-time and at great distance from the University’s campus in Milton Keynes.
Our charitable objects are the advancement of education of students of the Open University for the public benefit by:
- defending the principles of equal opportunity and of open access to the University regardless of academic qualifications or financial circumstances;
- promoting the interests and welfare of students at the Open University during their period of study and representing and supporting students;
- being the recognised representative channel between students and the Open University and any other external bodies;
- asserting that all students studying with the Open University have the right to have their views heard and acknowledged by the University;
- providing social, cultural and recreational activities and forums for discussions and debate for the personal development of its students.
We operate through a democratic governance structure, which includes students elected by their fellow students in our key leadership roles. This includes the President, who currently also acts as the Chair of the Board of Trustees. The President and elected Officers are part of our Central Executive Committee of student representatives who shape the policy and activities of the Students Association. The Board of Trustees acts to safeguard the Students Association, holding the ultimate decision making power in relation to the strategy, governance, staffing and finances of the Students Association. The Board of Trustees currently includes the President, two other elected student Officers, five directly-elected student Trustees and two external Trustees.
The Trustees and student representatives are supported by a team of 27 professional staff headed by our General Manager and based on the Open University’s campus in Milton Keynes. We have an annual expenditure of around £1.6million and more than 400 volunteers. In addition, we also operate a separate trading company OUSA (Services) Ltd, trading as the OU Students Shop which sells branded merchandise via a webstore and presence at key University events and a grant-giving trust (Open University Students Educational Trust, OUSET) which supports students in financial hardship to continue and complete their studies.
More information on our organisation including our Constitution, strategy and annual accounts is available on our website.
We provide a number of services to our students, including:
- Representing their voice inside the University and in the external world
- Offering support, including a Nightline service for out-of-hours listening, peer support, grants for students in financial hardship and fostering support for key groups of students including our disabled students group.
- Building an active student community, to tackle isolation which is a key issue for part-time and distance learners. This includes organising meet-ups, supporting and growing societies, developing the online community and operating student radio, magazine and virtual Freshers Fairs.
- Working in partnership with the Open University to improve and enhance the student experience and student success.
- Providing a range of volunteering opportunities, with more than 400 active volunteers at present.
- Carrying out research and consultations to better understand, represent and support our members.