OU director on high-profile trip to build international relationships to promote access to higher education
With the Indian government targeting for another 40 million university places by 2020, there is a great need for higher education development. The Open University (OU) is currently working to support this goal and make distance learning a large part of this. Along with Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks, Steve Hill the Director of External Engagement at The OU, is visiting India on February 16 to exchange a Memorandum of Understanding with Amity University, which will allow The OU to share its expertise and leadership in research, technology and innovation in distance education with a leading Indian institution.
Steve Hill, comments: "This important agreement is a further demonstration of The OU's on-going mission to develop distance learning capabilities both at home and abroad. We have always sought to bring the benefits of education to partners, economies and individuals by widening access to high-quality university education. The OU is continually seeking to respond to opportunities around the world, looking to share our leading expertise in distance learning with other countries.
"With more than 40 years of experience in combining technology and education, The OU is ideally placed to play a central role in sustaining development in innovative economies such as India's. Our vision at The OU is to continue helping build capacity in online and distance education to address global skills shortages, which will ultimately benefit societies and economies all around the world."
The visit is representative of the wider trend of internationalisation in British higher education, which now no longer just consists of foreign students coming to the UK for a limited period of time, but now sees British institutions establishing a presence abroad. According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in 2013, the value of UK education exports is in the region of £14.1 billion and it suggested a further £9.6 million came into the UK from Foreign Direct Investment  in education-related projects.
Given that the country has a large English-speaking population and holds long standing links with Britain, India can benefit from the sharing of British higher education knowledge and expertise. Distance learning already counts 3.5 million students in India and the sharing of knowledge and expertise with The OU will help India enhance this growing segment.
At home The OU works in partnership with UK businesses to provide training solutions that are aligned with business needs. These partnerships between the educational and the vocational sectors are designed to directly combat the skills gap that affects the productivity of the UK economy. It is this type of education that The OU believes will be of great value in India, a country which needs to train 500 million people in the next years to sustain its phenomenal economic growth, currently the fastest in the world at 7.6 per cent per annum.
The Open University provides internationally benchmarked degree courses that are capable of being scaled up to reach significant numbers of students. The organisation's iconic distance learning model places it in a unique position to provide accessible education to emerging economies. The MoU between The Open University and Amity University demonstrates the hunger for this expertise and approach to higher education, one which will continue to create value for Britain both at home and abroad.