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Professor Ian Fribbance

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a Professor of Economics Education and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS), the largest faculty of its kind in Europe with over 60,000 students. I have been in this role and a member of the OU's Vice Chancellor's Executive since summer 2016, and  the role means I have overall responsibility for the staff, students, budget and academic policy and performance of the Faculty. The Faculty has been extremely successful in recent years, achieving a doubling of new student numbers from 2016/17 to 2021/22.   I have 30 years experience in Higher Education, 19 of those being at The Open University.  I was previously Deputy/Associate Dean with responsibility for teaching & learning, and I continue to work on teaching and learning-related areas in both practice and in my research and scholarship.  I have been awarded a prestigious HEA National Teaching Fellowship, hold an Open University Teaching Award, and have been elevated to Advance HE Principal Fellow staus, as well as having been shortlisted for a Times Higher Widening Particpation of the Year award. .

I have a track record in teaching innovation, especially in a distance and online learning context, as well as around widening participation, including introducing the teaching of financial capability into HE and introducing using social media and live online conferencing to build academic communities at distance. I have had a wide-range of executive-level responsibilties for the university, including chairing multiple groups and committees, and led the OU’s 'More Students Qualifying' and 'Future Student Experience' programmes.  I am now leading on the University's 'Foundations' programme, looking at modernising production, as well as pre-University external relationship work including with the FE sector and schools, our collaboration with National Extension College, and discussions around an Open School.  I have also recently led the negotiations and organisational effort to agree the acquisition for the University and FASS of our new partners at the Open College of the Arts.

I have also represented The Open University in many media programmes and education forums, including appearing before Parliamentary committees and speaking up for access to Higher Education in deprived and coastal communtiies.

Research interests

My economics-related research interests were previously focused on applying economics to current public policy issues, particularly in the areas of personal finance and financial education and I was involved in knowledge exchange and employer engagement activity in the area of finance and financial education in particular.  I also have an ongoing interest in the area of the education of economics, and making the subject accessible to new groups of students. This fed into my interest in developing and chairing the innovative module You and your money: personal finance in context (DB123), which was a tremendous success with over 30,000 students during its lifetime.  it has now been replaced by a successor module of the same name. The drive to deliver financial educaion garnered lots of media attention. The course has put financial capability education in H.E. into the spotlight.  In more recent years, in line with my management role around teaching and learning, I have begun presenting and publishing on some of our successful teaching initiatives such as the Social Sciences Facebook page at HEA Teaching Excellence and other conferences,and the development of live online student conferencing, which is now mainstream at the OU. 

Teaching interests

I chaired the production of the innovative financial education course You and your money: personal finance in context (DB123), which was studied by c. 30.000 students since it launched back in 2006.  The module opened up the study of 'financial capability' at university level, and helped to re-invigorate the interests of University students in the study of Economics. The course text, 'Personal Finance' achieved an Open University co-publication record. An OpenLearn for personal finance wasdeveloped, along with links to many external organisations. The book and course contributed to many major national debates around the education of 'financial capability' involving government ministers. DB123 was sponsored and endorsed by the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), and the finance they provided was used for widening participation projects across the UK. That widening participation work was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education 'Widening Participation Initiative of the Year' award in 2009. The module was also supported by the Eranda Foundation and I was able to obtain support from Richard Delbridge Foundation for a student prize and PhD Studentship around financial capability. I was also a member of the module team for Personal investment in an uncertain world (DB234) and also led the development and approval of the new Foundation Degree in Financial Services which was launched by Lord Myners.

I have a particular specialism in teaching at Level 1. In addition to my work around DB123, I was an active member of the DD100/101/121 Module Teams, particularly looking after all the Economics-related components and assignments. I subsequently worked on Introducing the social sciences (DD101) for which I wrote a chapter on economic growth, happiness and the environment. In the past I also worked on the module teams for Level 2 economics. As a Staff Tutor, I played a major role in the presentation of the Faculty's courses in the London Region, including the appointment, development and support of Associate Lecturers; the development of tutorial programmes, and a range of other regional and support activities. I have a particular interest in helping to connenct the work of the central OU into the Nations. I have also worked as an OU Associate Lecturer teaching D216 and DB123/DB125 over the past 18 years in the London Region.

I am currently Executive Dean in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences and continue to take a strategic and scholarly interest in all our teaching practices and innovations and supporting our Staff tutor and Associate Lecturer community. 


The use of Facebook to build a community for distance learning students: a case study from The Open University (2016-10)
Callaghan, George and Fribbance, Ian
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 31(3) (pp. 260-272)

From despair to somewhere: activating students in a distance learning environment (2015-01)
Foley, Karen; Middleton, Dave and Fribbance, Ian
Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 9(1) (pp. 18-32)

Facebook and Informal Learning (2018-06-28)
Callaghan, George and Fribbance, Ian
In: Callaghan, George; Baxter, Jacqueline and McAvoy, Jean eds. Creativity & Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy (pp. 81-102)
ISBN : 978-3-319-78297-3 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Student Connections: Livestreaming and Creating Community via an Annual Student Conference (2018)
Foley, Karen and Fribbance, Ian
In: Baxter, Jacqueline; Callaghan, George and McAvoy, Jean eds. Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy (pp. 169-189)
ISBN : 978-3-319-78297-3 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan