Open University VC resigns amid doubts

The Vice-Chancellor of the Open University (OU), Peter Horrocks, resigned last Friday following a vote of no confidence passed by his staff.

Staff had been opposing plans to reduce the number of lecturers the university employs and the courses it offers. Horrocks will hand responsibility to an acting Vice-Chancellor but will remain as an employee of the Open University for another three months as a consultant.

He said that “the university faces a challenge that is unprecedented.”

Members of the OU said that Horrocks’ position was untenable, after he was reported saying that the Open University had been able “to get away with not teaching for decades”.

Horrocks later apologised for the comments but had previously angered staff by revealing his plans to cut courses and reduce staff numbers by offering voluntary redundancy. Staff morale plummeted.

On these proposals, lecturers said they will “destroy the OU as we know it” and reduce it to “a digital content provider”.

The Open University is currently one of the biggest universities in the UK for undergraduate education. It allows students to study from anywhere in the country, offering many courses online.

On Thursday 5 April an emergency meeting was called. Horrocks attended the first part of the meeting but left as it continued into the evening. During this meeting, his resignation was demanded by the University of College Lecturers union.

After this meeting, a motion was passed saying: “This general meeting has no confidence in our current ViceChancellor, or in his plans and intentions for the future of our university.

“On the basis of recent events, he has shown that he does not understand the university’s teaching model, nor the importance of the OU’s research base. We believe the best way of avoiding damage to the public image of the OU is for the VC to step down as soon as possible. We therefore call upon the ViceChancellor to resign.”

Lydia Richards, a regional UCU officer, said: “Staff made it quite clear that the Vice-Chancellor had to go and we are pleased he has finally got that message.”


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January 2022
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