The Open University

Why we've signed the Manifesto

"We were delighted to become a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement. Engagement has always been an integral part of our open learning mission, putting people at the heart of everything we value. Becoming a signatory to the NCCPE Manifesto gave us an opportunity to re-state this commitment, exploring how these principles could become embedded within our academic culture, incorporating the perspectives of stakeholders, user communities, students and members of the public.

We remain committed to creating the conditions where high-quality engagement can flourish and where excellence is recognised and valued. In embedding the principles, values and reflective practices of engagement within The Open University, we want to ensure that our academic work has relevance in wider society, embracing an ‘ecology of openness’ aligned with our long-standing mission to promote social justice."

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary Kellett, The Open University

Our approach to public engagement

The Open University’s vision for engagement involves a uniquely extended community, internationally, nationally and across the UK’s devolved nations. Academics, stakeholders, students, end-users and members of the public are encouraged to engage through rigorous, responsive and responsible ways of working, mixing methods of participation and modes of communication to deliver excellence in the planning for, enactment and assessment of open and engaged practices.

Engagement has always been integral to the Open University’s social justice mission, putting people at the heart of everything we value and do. We are committed to increasing fairness in knowing through open and engaged practices where academics meaningfully interact with stakeholders, students, end-users and members of the public to:

  • promote responsible and responsive innovation;
  • embrace fair and equitable practices in exchanging data, information and knowledge;
  • inspire our uniquely extended community to deliver excellence;
  • work with ‘publics’ over any or all stages of a research process, from issue formulation, the production or co-creation of new knowledge, to knowledge evaluation and dissemination;
  • influence the shaping and framing of the Open University’s teaching, research and knowledge exchange activities within the context of social and economic needs whether at local, regional, national, international or global levels.

Our public engagement hallmark

Open University researchers have engaged with Age UK Milton Keynes, Carers MK and Samsung UK to explore how wearable activity monitoring technologies can improve caring, and active and healthy ageing.

Through this engaged research programme we have collectively explored practices of self-monitoring and self-management of health in alleviating social isolation and loneliness, and in caring. Our findings show that activity monitors encourage behaviour change towards healthier lifestyles.

Co-developed, evidence-based strategies for older people and carers have integrated activity monitors in their daily routines, and our research is being used by charities and policy makers to support rehabilitation in communities, e.g. Milton Keynes Community Cardio-pulmonary Group, and in addressing loneliness in later life. We have shared our findings with relevant stakeholders, including the OU’s policy networks in the devolved nations.

Through a complementary collaboration with Samsung UK, we sensitised them to the design requirements of older people and carers. As a result, Samsung has redesigned their ACTIVAGE app to strengthen support for relationships between carers and those being cared for. This app has been launched across Europe as part of an EU-funded project.

A research collaboration that began in Milton Keynes is having a positive effect far beyond this locality.

 Pandora Kenyon.

Research participants and collaborators from Age UK Milton Keynes. Credit: Pandora Kenyon.

Our public engagement talking point

"Openness should not just be a strategy or marketing ploy. It is in embodied in every aspect of the university and the people who work, study and engage with us. At the Open University we’re always redefining what open means in theory and in practice to provide genuine equality of opportunity as people seek to learn and live. We see openness as a term that is as relevant today as it was when the Open University was founded. In the current context openness has additional interpretations, which we have embraced, including: OpenLearn, FutureLearn, open practice, open box courses, and engaged research. Our challenge to the wider education sector is to embrace the different interpretations of open, and how they benefit learners and society more broadly."

Professor Martin Weller, Director of the OER Hub, The Open University

Our public engagement people

"International development is characterised by huge, complex and inter-connected challenges. These realities mean that research has to engage with many different publics as well as policy-makers and other actors who influence these processes.

My research focuses on the development challenges facing Africa, and starts from the recognition that while Africa has been subject to external influence for decades Africans themselves are the shapers of their own development. Take migration. I have worked with migrant groups at both ‘ends’ of the migration journey from villages in West Africa through to Milton Keynes. In Ghana I was on the board of an NGO, working to enhance meaningful participation of local people in projects that might prevent them having to migrate for work. In Africa, as elsewhere, media reporting on migration often stirs up (usually negative) emotions among citizens. I am working with African migration organisations to train journalists to conduct fair and informed reporting. In Milton Keynes I was part of a team that worked with the Council and migrant groups to understand how the city’s unique design shapes cross-cultural exchanges. We’re also co-developing affordable and accessible training courses for civil society organisations in the global South to strengthen their capacities for self-management."

Professor Giles Mohan, Director of the Strategic Research Area in International Development and Inclusive Innovation


Professor Richard Holliman, Professor of Engaged Research