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External landscape

When the OU was established in 1969, our central purpose was to provide access to higher education to enhance social mobility. More than 50 years later it could be argued that access to education is not enough. In 2022, to share in the benefits of our global society you need to be actively involved in research and innovation. With automation and artificial intelligence changing our lives and careers, we must offer wider access to research-informed opportunities created by being a part of the innovation process. Therefore, research is growing in importance as a contributor to the OU’s mission.

The external landscape is changing rapidly. Our research plan must respond to this pace of change and align with UK priorities and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The research plan has been informed by the challenges presented in reports, concordats and policies such as the UK Innovation Strategy, R&D People and Culture Strategy, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) EDI Strategy and many others highlighted throughout our plan.

This plan also responds to the challenges and opportunities created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the OU’s commitment to sustainability. An increase in remote working, awareness of the direct impact of research and associated travel on the environment, and societal changes precipitated by the pandemic and the urgency of action on climate change require new approaches to research. We aim to create new and equitable ways of collaborating that take advantage of the uptake of technology during the pandemic, and to directly focus on sustainability projects where the OU, with partners, can make a global contribution.