Sue Ball: A graduation ceremony is only the beginning for most students

The Open University's season of 29 awards ceremonies across the UK and in Dublin, Paris and Singapore will come to an end on 6 October at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Spotting the OU graduate isn't obvious as excited family groups rush through the doors. It's only at "robing", when the academic gown (Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate ) slides over the shoulders, that the graduate among each group emerges. Open University graduates do not have age in common. But what they do have is success.

OU life does not end with speeches and strawberry teas. A team from the Open University Alumni Relations Office supported by a group of enthusiastic graduate alumni volunteers will have talked with more than 3,500 graduates and their families of the total of 7,800 who attended ceremonies this year.

As a university which communicates primarily "at a distance" in a supported open learning environment, these events are a tangible expression of the Open University community. We met a young man in Belfast who started studying at 17 and was graduating at 24; a grandmother aged 78 in London receiving a Masters degree, having been forced to leave school at 13 because her father didn't believe girls should be educated; a 36-year-old Royal Naval Lieutenant Commander; a 46-year-old divorced mother of three training as a family mediator; a vicar and father of grown sons; and a 23-year-old graduating without the debts facing most of her friends.

Graduation offers the start of a new relationship with the university which lasts a lifetime. Following its key principle of openness the OU provides free membership to all graduates and all former students who have successfully completed an OU course. That's "two million and counting"! All are valued members of a vibrant worldwide learning community.

The Alumni Association provides regular communications (electronic and print), access to careers services and information resources, opportunities to meet OU academics and other alumni and join clubs and societies as well as specialist groups including those for law and MBAs. The Alumni Association's website at offers a news service, chatroom discussions and opinion polls as well as details of services to alumni.

We are particularly proud of the relationship with The Independent newspaper, offering a dedicated supplement for alumni each month for over four years.

We recognise that alumni make a vital contribution to the university by promoting study, becoming volunteers offering valuable time and skills (more than 12,000 are part of the OU Alumni Volunteer Programme) and supporting us financially with a donation or legacy. The university also benefits from students, alumni and staff who take out and use a variety of member benefits and quality services, ranging from an OU credit card to an online wineshop.

"Once an OU student, always an OU student" is how many of those we meet describe themselves. The evidence is in the large numbers of alumni each year who opt to return to study. Whichever way you choose to maintain your link with the Open University community, the Alumni Association is there for you. Why not join us?

Sue Ball is Director, Alumni Relations

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Reception Teacher - Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Gro...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam