Open Eye: Letter: Alumnus: it's Latin for 'All welcome'

Letter From The Editor
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The Independent Online
Exactly who, we were asked the other day, do we consider "an alumnus" of the OU, and precisely what is The OU Link?

Disregarding the fact that the word appears in various forms and genders (alumni, alumna, alumnae, I think) and that in this case the Americans might be right to reduce it to just alum, we take an almost literal translation in that it means pupil; most universities presume, wrongly, that it means graduate. Our revised definition is that it includes any student who has successfully completed one OU course.

Moving forward there are diplomates (nice word? discuss) and achievers of certificates, then, eventually, graduates - many of whom, at the OU, are already students again. It's like perpetual motion in higher education.

That's the Alumni Association. You don't need to join it - you automatically become a member - but it is really helpful if you keep in touch with us by registering on the website, or remembering to inform us of any change of circumstance or address. Running alongside - and not in competition - there are the Graduates' Association, the Business School Association and associate membership (once you're a non-student) of OUSA. These require a small annual membership fee.

The OU Link covers the wider OU community, and embraces staff, former staff, students, trustees, graduates - friends in fact - of the University. The OU Link is open to anyone who cares, and, especially if you include the many thousands of viewers who switch on to our programmes every night, runs easily into six figures.

Open Eye is produced primarily for the Alumni Association, but is obviously also intended for any and all members of The Link.

I appreciate that it isn't always easy to remember which is the first Thursday of every month, but it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem for anyone with a diary.

For those unlucky people who try to buy it, and still miss it, edited extracts from Open Eye appear on the website towards the middle of each month. It is accessed from the Signpost page - it's a new sign... called Open Eye.

All graduates on our database will shortly be receiving a special edition of Open Eye, free and through the post, which will theoretically be The Best Of the last 12 issues - although, because it's so difficult to choose the best, most of it will doubtless be new.

Another new sign is Campus Bookshop - we have done a deal with Amazon, now the world's biggest bookseller (I guess bookstore would be a misnomer for an on-line service). There are discounts on some books of up to 40 per cent, and in addition to that, they share the profit with the OU Foundation. Truly amazin' (sorry).

You can trace books by subject, author or title, so - for me at least - it beats searching hopelessly in high street stores who stock only sure- fire winners and employ people who say: "Treasure Island? Is that a classic? Do you know the name of the author?"

We have another new affiliation, this time with an insurance company, CGU. One member wrote to Open Eye last month to tell us that she had managed to reduce her home insurance premium by a third - not bad, considering that, once again, the OUF gets a benefit. That's in Member Services, on the website.

And let's not forget the OU Visa Card - which has so far contributed pounds 1.4million to the Foundation as payments based on sign-ups and card usage. Call 0800-161-162 quoting ref: 2679 for an application form

For those who have missed the news, we have organised a series of dinners, for graduates, graduands, and their partners and guests, in most parts of the country, plus Singapore, Brussels and California (you can go to any, or indeed as many, as you please). Details of these are also under Member Services.

As is our unique car number plate, with the OU shield signifying membership of the OU Alumni Association. They cost only pounds 11.75 and can be ordered by post from the Alumni Office (address on page 2) or by phone on 01908 653815.

Then there's the Internet Service Provider for a pound a month. I appreciate that some providers are now free, but ours is dead simple to set up (it doesn't need continuous calls to a premium-rate helpline), and also with this server, you access at local rates, from almost anywhere in the world. Plus, you get an e-mail address as your.name@ouvip. To get a start-up disk for this, just phone: 0870 6070797.

Another new member service is a discount (just show your Alumni Association membership card) from Ede and Ravenscroft, the royal robemakers and tailors who fitted you with a gown for your Graduation Ceremony. They can kit you out for real life, too, with bespoke or ready-made tailoring - but it is only one discount per member.

And we are negotiating with an hotel chain to get fixed discounts for members in most parts of the country.

We are currently up-dating our Careers Centre on the website in an effort to attract more advertiser - and also to encourage more people to post their CVs so that prospective employers can scan them. There is already an employment agency on the site specialising in jobs in IT, but so far there have been few takers, possibly suggesting that all OU alumni are happy with their lot?

We are improving our on-line discussion and chat area and linking it with FirstClass (remember FC?) in an effort to make it more attractive. Incidentally, you may not know that there is a useful option under more on the Discussion Area which allows you to have all new discussion items mailed directly to your e-mail address. This saves your logging-on to check for messages, but it doesn't clear them until you want to do that.

The website currently averages around 1,000 hits a day (31,500 a month) - which isn't bad. But there's always plenty of room for more.

Have a happy holiday.

Our e-mail address is alum@open.ac.uk;

The website is at www.openlink.org

You can call us at any time.

Revel Barker

Director of Alumni Relations

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