Open Eye: More than two million success stories

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The Independent Online
It is a remarkable fact that over the last thirty years more than two million people have successfully studied with the OU. It is fair to say that at the heart of this success are the tutors and tutor counsellors, spread across the UK and continental Europe.

In spite of varying background, academic skills and achievements, they share a commitment to high quality support for adult learners. Their primary role is supporting students at varying levels of academic achievement, recognising that every student is bringing in something valuable, and balancing criticism with constructive advice and encouragement.

There are currently more than 7,000 associate lecturers working as tutors and tutor counsellors, 41% of them women. More than 800 new associated lecturers started working for the OU in 1998, nearly 2,000 have worked for the OU for ten years and 116 received Long Service awards in 1998, which means that they had worked for the OU for a period of 25 years.

To become an associate lecturer, first and foremost you need to be a good communicator - students come from different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. Many lecturers have experience while others have not taught before, yet bring to the University their professional and academic skills and experience. Students on MBA programmes can be top-level executives working in multi-national firms, whereas others have had little previous experience of formal study. The OU spends around pounds 2million each year on training and professional development for associate lecturers, which is one of the reasons that working with the Open University is such a valuable experience.

The University is currently hoping to attract new associate lecturers for courses beginning between November 1999 and May 2000 in Arts, Education, Health and Social Welfare, English Law, Management, Mathematics and Computing, Modern Languages, Science, Social Sciences, including Psychology, Technology and Education technology which includes Lecturer Accreditation.

New courses for 2000 include An Introduction to Social Sciences: Understanding Social Change and two technology courses, You, your computer and the Net and Working with our Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future. There will be vacancies in all areas but in particular there is continuous strong demand for tutors in management and computing. Associate Lecturers are also recruited from elsewhere in the EU and Switzerland, where there is special demand in Management, Maths and Psychology.

For more information on becoming an Associate Lecturer, write to the Staff Support Team, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, quoting ref:XOE99; phone 01908 652453 or e-mail tut-wh@open.ac.uk, quoting the same reference. An application pack can also be accessed via our Web Site at http://www.open.ac.uk.

Chris Brown, tutor S330 (Oceanography) and tutor-counsellor S103 (Discovering science) started with the OU as a student in 1973 and graduated with a BA (Honours) in 1978:

"I prefer teaching adults. Going in to take a tutorial for the OU is very different from going into a classroom of 17-year-olds. That doesn't mean it's easier - in many ways it's harder because of the range of questions you can get asked. As an OU tutor, you have to be prepared for absolutely everything and anything. But it has shown me that the way to learn is really to teach. I've learned a lot about the subjects I'm teaching from the questions I've been asked, and I've also learned a lot about people and the way they develop.

"That's one of the most rewarding things for me. The OU has students who wouldn't have survived through any other university system and a lot whose horizons go no further than getting through the first year - and they've gone on to get degrees."

Roger Ali came to Britain from Trinidad to study sociology at the University of London. He works for Cambridgeshire County Council, where he runs community education schemes for ethnic minority and refugee groups and is a tutor-counsellor D103 (Society and Social Science: a foundation course):

"Coming from a Third World country where there is a high level of illiteracy has been an important motivation for me. Education is an avenue of social and economic mobility. My background is also something I bring to my teaching. The great asset of the OU is its equality of access and equality of outcome. We do not put academic barriers up, but recognise that every student is bringing in something valuable - be it vocational, life or education skills. I get tremendous satisfaction out of it."

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