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Celebrating 40 years of the Business School

Founded in 1983, the Open University Business School marks its 40th anniversary this year. In the past forty years, we have become part of an elite group of triple-accredited business schools worldwide, partnered with the likes of the BBC and MoneySavingExpert to reach new learner audiences, and delivered transformative education to over 100,000 students. Here, we take a look back on some of our highlights. 

Only 1% of Business Schools worldwide are triple-accredited like us

When it first opened its metaphorical doors in 1983, the OU Business School proudly welcomed 1,600 students. Since then, we have developed a vast community of students and alumni across the globe. In fact, we now have more than 108,000 alumni including over 28,000 MBA alumni located across more than 125 countries. 

Our strong social mission means that we are committed to providing education that is truly open to all, whilst delivering teaching and research excellence. So, we are proud to be part of an elite group of just 1% of business schools worldwide to hold the coveted ‘triple crown’ of accreditation, which is awarded by the world’s leading international management education associations, AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS*. 

We are a global leader in online flexible, research-led supported learning which means we research the impact of our teaching materials and how they are developed to continually optimise the students’ learning experience. We also do research that creates lasting impact on societies, and over the years we have been awarded accolades that reflect its high quality. In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment, 75% of our outputs were rated as internationally excellent (3*) or world leading (4*) and 92% of impact cases were assessed at 3* or 4*. 

 125. 86% of MBA alumni say they're achieved positive things in their career thanks to their studies. 108,000 alumni. 28,000 MBA alumni. Over 6,000 enrolled learners on OUBS and MoneySavingExpert's Academy of Money course. 92% of OUBS alumni report a positive experience with the OU. OUBS is part of business schools worldwide that are triple accredited in the top 1%. In the bottom right-hand corner is the Twitter hashtag #OUBS_40.

*The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).

High profile partnerships: MSE and the BBC

Following the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis forced financial pressure upon millions of households, and so we created a new course in partnership with MoneySavingExpert (MSE) designed to help the nation master their finances. Martin Upton, Senior Lecturer in Finance in the Business School, was the lead academic on MSE’s Academy of Money, which attracted thousands of people to enrol. Martin Lewis said of the course “education is a form of financial self-defence.” 

The OU’s longstanding partnership with the BBC has led to Business School academics consulting on many impactful and enlightening OU/BBC co-productions, including The Met, which provided insight into the Metropolitan Police in the face of complex cases, The Bottom Line featuring Evan Davis and a panel of experts discussing national and global business issues, and most recently Britain’s Housing Crisis: What Went Wrong, a critical look at how the UK found itself in the midst of a housing crisis. 

Successful alumni share their stories

Maximising success for our students is at the heart of all we do, so we are delighted that 86% of alumni say that their studies have helped them achieve positive things in their career.

Our former students, or alumni, regularly go on to achieve remarkable things, including Celia Morris, who became our inspirational Alumni of the Year winner in 2022. From a low-income, working-class background, by the age of 30, Celia was homeless, a single parent, and suffering from depression. But studies helped to turn her life around and succeed in an international career serving over 500 people. Celia said: “The MBA has changed my life. I would never have got where I am without the great opportunities that became available to me as a result of my Open University Business School studies.”

MBA alumna, Zoë André-Lawson, was amongst a small number of people to be honoured in AACSB’s 2023 Class of Influential Leaders, an initiative that recognises role models whose work inspires the next generation of business leaders. As a senior scientist for Johnson & Johnson, Zoë credited her OU MBA with giving her the skills, knowledge and confidence required for several of her career accomplishments. 

James Markey, an MBA student, won a cash prize of ten thousand euros in the Santander X Global Awards for his business UNI SIM, which designs haptic and virtual reality (VR) simulators that are revolutionising medical education. Founder James devised the idea for UNI SIM while he was studying with the Business School and he used the knowledge gained from his studies to initially write and submit his business plan to the OU’s Open Business Creators fund, a competition which gives OU students the opportunity to win a grant to kick start their entrepreneurial ideas.

Honouring memories and milestones

Behind the scenes with the camera crew in filming at the OU

Our forty year timeline highlights some significant milestones, including becoming the largest business school in Europe in 1989, receiving the Queen’s Award for Export in 1997, becoming a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact ‘Principles for Responsible Management Education’ (PRIME) in 2011 and winning the Business Partnership category in the Guardian University awards in 2017. 

To help us look back, we also asked graduates who embarked on our very first module, The Effective Manager, to share their memories and there were certainly significant differences to studying back in ’83! This ‘Class of 1983’ story highlights hand-written assignments, catching BBC2 tutorials on Sunday lunchtime, course material on VHS cassettes and how those with dial-up internet had the advantage.

Looking to the future

As well as reflecting back on the past four decades, we also cast our vision ahead, asking some of our alumni to share what they think might be the key issues for businesses in the next forty years. Artificial Intelligence (AI), sustainability and environmental issues, customer service, staff retention and evolving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) practices were amongst some of the areas that our alumni considered may change the course of business in the future. 

What truly sets us apart is our inclusiveness. What makes us exceptional is our open access, our phenomenal reach and our continuing and increasing focus on social justice, sustainability, and equity.

Milestones are worth marking and so we hope you will join us in celebrating forty years of the Open University Business School.”  

Professor Siv Vangen
Head of the Business School