Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Penultimate day at the OU

Yep, its finally here, time to leave ! I think this will be saddest I have ever been to leave a job, the OU is a marvellous institution, with some brilliant people, and in terms of ECM, Enteprise Architecture, eBusiness etc it is on the cusp of some serious change, which will make it an even more interesting place to work.

For those of you who are not British, or even if you are but you don't know any of the history of the distance learning University that has according to a recent study, one of the top, most recognisable brands in the UK check out the following pages at the OU web site:
  • About the OU - about the mission, ethos and history of the organisation
  • Studying at the OU - gateway to all the courses you can take in a huge range of subjects
  • Research at the OU - many think of University just in terms of teaching, but it has world class research groups too
  • OpenLearn - want to try out some courses for free ? OpenLearn has hundreds of OU course units which you can sign up for, all free. Forget MIT Open CourseWare, this is how it should be done... :-)
Of course its not all a bed of roses, the Open University suffers like the rest of the UK H.E. sector from a Government which appears to be making up policy on the fly ! When it was originally set up as the "University of the airwaves" in the early 1970's, it was heavily funded and subsidised. Although still in reciept of heavy central gov. grants, the system these days is very complex, and as we have seen recently, can change at the whim of Whitehall functionaries. Part of the issue has always been internal though, the tension between the academic side of things, the view of a university as a seat of learning, and the business side of things where we operate on a scale other UK universities can not contemplate, with hundreds of thousands of students, warehouses, call centres, data centres and a publishing operation more akin to Elsevier or Reed-McGraw. Personally, I side with the 'business people' but when it comes down to it, it is a University !

I got my BSc (Honours) in Computing from the OU before I came to work here. It took me seven years of working in my own time, weekends and evenings, and if it was not for the OU I would not be in the line of work I am now, I probably would not have had the eductional or work experience points required to get into Canada etc. Whilst working here, I continued to work in my own time to gain an MBA.

So, bottom line, its a great institution, I fervently hope it can embrace change and become a little more agile, but for the break it has given me and probably hundreds of thousands of others, I surely hope it goes onto be the world leading distance learning institution for a long time to come.

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