The Open University Reviews

Updated March 23, 2015
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3.6
34 Reviews
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The Open University Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean
Martin Bean
19 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1. It was a way of life.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Technical Project Officer in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Technical Project Officer in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University

    Pros

    Always felt part of a team that was doing something really worthwhile.

    Cons

    Pay not up to the level of private sector

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Trust your staff to get on with things their way, so long as it works.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  2. Working at the OU

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - PhD Student in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Current Employee - PhD Student in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I have been working at The Open University full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Excellent work/lab facilities, good team, grounds maintained to the highest standard, catering is excellent

    Cons

    location makes finding nearby accommodation difficult, despite the presence of excellent sports facilities, there are very few organised social sports. NO CASH MACHINE

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    build a gym, renovate both bars which are currently very shabby and get a cash machine, or at least make card payment limitless

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. The Open University as an employer

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate Lecturer in Coleraine, Northern Ireland (UK)
    Current Employee - Associate Lecturer in Coleraine, Northern Ireland (UK)

    I have been working at The Open University part-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    As most OU associate lecturers work alone from home, the university supports us with good staff development, regular contact with line managers and encouraging personal development. We are supported as we enhance our personal knowledge of specialist areas and maintain our professional standing through gaining further qualifications.

    Cons

    It an be slightly isolating, because we work from home and have personal contact with students only once/month - the rest of the contact being via electronic means. However, tutors have their own forums to discuss problems, which helps and I have easy contact with my line-manager. The turn around period for receiving, reading, assessing and commenting on essays is tight - 10 days. That might seem a lot but when I get 20-25 essays to mark within that timeframe, it can mean a few late nights.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The OU is going through a few structural changes at present and change is always unsettling for those at the lower end of the hierarchy. While we are kept well briefed about change and how it affects the role of tutor, so much change at one time can be rather a lot to take on-board, while continuing with my normal functions as a tutor.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. My dream job

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Media Relations in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Media Relations in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University

    Pros

    Enabling me the creative expression to utilise my talents in the latter part of my career. Management support.

    Cons

    none that I'm aware of

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. Positive people making a positive contribution to the future of the World's future economy.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate Lecturer in Cramlington, England (UK)
    Current Employee - Associate Lecturer in Cramlington, England (UK)

    I have been working at The Open University

    Pros

    The work can be long and laborious, but you get the support from your associate lecturer peers to help you along the way. The support staff are useful to bounce ideas and difficulties with students. The study material and supporting exercises are top quality and easy to follow.

    Cons

    You need to be well organized to fit in the deadline tasks (like marking and student group work) along with your main work. (I work full time for the NHS and only part time for the Open University like many Associate Lecturers. The first year of a new course is challenging as you need to keep abreast of the material ahead of the students - so feel you are putting in as many hours as the students in the first year of any course.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    There is a bit of a disjoint between what a lecturer sees of a course and what a student sees. This makes it difficult to point students in the right direction sometimes.There is a lot of information which is hidden away and is sometimes difficult to get your hands on for lecturers and students. In these circumstances you usually ask your peers - but students sometimes lack the confidence to ask.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 1 person found this helpful

    Comfortable place to work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Customer Relations and Enquiry Service in Nottingham, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Customer Relations and Enquiry Service in Nottingham, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Working at the OU is definitely steady, with predictable peaks. The office environment is clean and facilities are also of good standard. There are also great benefits to be enjoyed including studying free of charge.

    Cons

    The management needs a huge shake up. There is a feeling of being on a conveyor belt in terms of staff progression. I witnessed only people who had been there longer, regardless of skills, got promotions. This lead to many younger staff almost acknowledging they have no chance of progression if someone older, or with longer tenure was also applying. Internal staff almost always get management/supervisor jobs, with external interviews done just to 'tick the box.'

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    There needs to be more done to stimulate staff. Doing the same job every day doesn't have to be as boring as it sometimes was. Younger staff also have a say! Regardless of what is written on paper, across all centres, there is a feeling that younger staff have no chance to progress regardless of talent as long as someone with 'more experience' is applying - regardless of quality.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. Systematically out of context.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Postgraduate Researcher in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Postgraduate Researcher in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University

    Pros

    'Professional' facilities, competitive salary, no teaching requirements.

    Cons

    No teaching requirements, feels like living in a bubble (I was a social scientists), there is no postgraduate life.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Moving out from Milton Keynes-

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. I really loved The Open University before I worked for the company.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Administrative Assistant in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Former Employee - Administrative Assistant in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Holiday is generous and the company will support you financially to study towards an open degree.

    Cons

    Bullying culture, micro-management, not a lot of support and no opportunities for career progression. I worked very hard for four years and my performance always rated highly but my manager often shouted at me in front of the office, belittled me and humiliated me. My manager offered to apply for a re-grading for my role and then kept "forgetting" about it (over a year). I became ill and management was unkind and unsympathetic and forced me out of my role. This may have been specific to my small department but there wasn't anyone I felt I was able to talk to about it in the company at the time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Value your staff better.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful

    Largely still very fond of the OU and its mission and values, despite a truly awful employment experience.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - BDU Employee in Milton Keynes, England (UK)
    Former Employee - BDU Employee in Milton Keynes, England (UK)

    I worked at The Open University full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    The OU has a vast array of comprehensive policies - managed by central HR and Finance - which are designed to give a good work-life balance, promote equality and diversity, and encourage personal development and career progression.

    The main campus in Milton Keynes is large and well serviced in terms of free parking, on-site shop and bank sub-branch, and eateries; there are also leisure facilities, and many social clubs and associations open to both staff and students.

    The overall employment package is very good, including generous annual leave entitlement and extra Christmas closure days, pension scheme, supported and sponsored OU study, salary sacrifice for reduced cost childcare and cycle scheme, and so on.

    The overwhelming majority of staff are proud to be employed at the university, and are strongly committed and aligned to the mission and values of the OU, and the far-reaching impact it has.

    Cons

    The reality of many of the central policies is that they are implemented at unit level, and in the case of a unit like the Business Development Unit, this is extremely ineffectual, due to the extremely poor and old fashioned approach to management and leadership. This is pretty starkly reflected in the unit's results in the staff survey, and in terms of staff turnover, with the period from mid-2014 onwards seeing a very high number of resignations at all levels of the organisational hierarchy.

    There is a fundamental problem with the way that the unit is managed, and there have been examples where colleagues have been publicly - in open plan offices or large team meetings - belittled and humiliated as a means of exerting power and control; a bullying culture is rife. Any degree of autonomy seems to have been removed, with previously well-respected, responsible, accountable managers being undermined on even the simplest of decisions. There is a constant undercurrent of mistrust and it is implied that management do not have faith in the abilities and competencies of their teams, a specific example being sheep-dip training and development activities, which are patronising, and well below the level of a mostly very experienced and highly skilled staff body. There have also been comments to the effect that involvement with the trade union is generally frowned upon by management.

    Despite what is formally communicated to the unit staff, there is a very real threat that people will lose their jobs if they fail to hit unachievable targets for exponential growth, and there are known examples of people being performance managed out of the business when they have failed to achieve, despite having flagged these measures as being too aggressive, unachievable and unsustainable, especially in a rapidly declining marketplace; individuals are all too often made into scapegoats. The party line seems to be that targets are being met and that therefore, there is no problem however, there is seemingly little consideration for the cost in terms of impact on staff morale, sickness and turnover. The BDU and therefore, the wider OU has lost some amazing and talented individuals of late; an awful lot of skill and expertise has simply walked out of the door.

    The university is first and foremost there to service students, and so is not operationally capable of delivering true Business to Business value, often doing so in spite of itself. The OU machine is huge and diverse, and as such, there is a constant political struggle between units in terms of budget, resources, objectives etc, often creating a conflict of interests, and in many cases, results in a blame culture with a lack of ownership or accountability. Despite repeated flagging of these business blockers and the everyday challenges faced by operational level staff, management has failed to act on their positions of responsibility and influence in terms of breaking down barriers to enable and facilitate achievement.

    In my personal experience, when I asked for help and support, expressing that the pressure was manifesting as stress and seriously impacting my health, and explaining that I was working an unsustainable number of hours just to scrape the bare minimum of what was required of me, my concerns were dismissed; I was reminded that "the OU is a fantastic employer, and we get a generous amount of annual leave", therefore, the view was that I am afforded plenty of time to relax and I should just get on with it. This is just one example of when I have explicitly asked for help, but have been denied help and support, because management were either unwilling, unable or perhaps even both.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I think that a lot could be achieved if there were some serious investment into improving operational practices to be more conducive to delivering the scale and nature of growth that is required, for example, challenging the seeming lack of importance placed on the OU as a commercial venture, facilitating ways for business-to-business to be treated as a core activity rather than an add-on. There is also an urgent requirement to look seriously at the required growth, and conduct a full and proper, transparent market appraisal, to establish an evidence base on which to set targets and performance management goals.

    I also strongly feel that there should be an opportunity for staff to exercise a vote of 'no confidence' in management practice, and that due process should be followed thereafter, involving discussion and mediation between staff, management, HR and the relevant trade unions, to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  11. Lovely organisation with some great dedicated staff

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at The Open University

    Pros

    Flexible working
    Good work-life balance
    Family orientated
    Good pension scheme

    Cons

    Limited progression, Poor annual reviews

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    To value your staff more, to promote internally rather than externally

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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