New OU vice chancellor (from Microsoft)

19th January 2009

Martin Bean, Open University (OU) Vice Chancellor designate, gave a talk at the OU Milton Keynes on Monday. On appointment he had said:

martin-beanIt is an honour to have been selected as the next Vice-Chancellor of The Open University. It is a unique and amazing institution that has changed the lives of millions through its commitment to furthering social justice and to making higher education and educational opportunity accessible to all. I look forward to combining my passion for education and technology to lead The Open University over the coming years, as we continue to provide innovative and high quality distance education solutions to meet the needs of the 21st Century.

His speech on Monday was inspiring, self-deprecating and (judging by reactions in the hall and afterwards) a successful Hello to all the people he’ll be working with when he starts. Key points for me and quotes (in no particular order) were:

  • economic prosperity is underpinned by education at all levels
  • the recession will put incredible pressure on governments to look at the skill-levels we have
  • in an increasingly flat world, the skills agenda will be on every policy agenda
  • 21st century skills need to be modelled and developed
  • education will become more people-centred and not technocentric
  • higher education needs to be personalised, engaging, student-centred and relevant
  • higher education is more important then ever, yet there are simply not enough seats
  • the distance education market will continue to grow rapidly (it’s currently growing at a 25-55% compound growth rate) and continue to innovate
  • the public sector is tremendously important
  • innovation happens through people, processes, technology and environment
  • in managing the challenges, it is important that the OU continues to be responsive, effective and efficient (that is, allocating our resources to have the most impact)
  • the importance of scale and quality (in what the OU delivers) – although both of those things don’t normally go together, the OU has done it once – and we’ve got to do it again
  • he believes in communities of learning
  • the OU will need multi-broadcasting partners
  • the OU needs to be very deliberate and very creative, have the right business models and know how we will measure value
  • although the OU is not a business, it has to act like a business
  • he is a firm believer in interoperability
  • the OU has to be able to speed up innovation
  • not least (in my view) his forthright self-deprecating humorous style and obvious determination to take charge of the OU’s future.
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