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About us

The Open University and UNISON partnership is based firmly on a shared goal – to widen access to education and training to extend learning opportunities to those who have previously been unable to access them. To achieve this goal, both partners bring their own unique contribution and style.

UNISON brings:

  • the capacity to negotiate learning agreements with employers in a variety of public sector workplaces across the UK
  • 3,500+ active UNISON Learning Representatives (ULRs) who are able to actively promote, organise and support learning in the workplace
  • a network of Regional Education Officers and Learning and Development Organisers who can guide you through our learning opportunities
  • the power to speak for over 1.3 million public service workers.

The Open University brings:

  • a wide range of high quality modules and qualifications, which are vocationally relevant and delivered through the OU’s famous method of supported open learning
  • 40+ years of educational expertise and professional advice provided by a UK-wide network of staff with local and sector-specific knowledge
  • a wealth of freely available learning materials that enable you to have a go at learning before you commit to study an accredited module
  • a range of unaccredited courses, and modules and qualifications presented at different levels, meaning you can start where you like and progress as far as you want to go
  • a credit transfer service to allow you to pick up your studies where you left off.

Together, we are committed to ensuring lifelong learning is a right, not a privilege and we are able to offer a flexible programme of learning and skills development that will help you to realise your personal and professional goals.

We have a very successful track record with over 6,500 UNISON members having studied an accredited OU course since the partnership was established in 1997.

In 2010 we were named the Times Higher Education’s Widening Participation Initiative of the Year for our innovative projects in Northern Ireland and Wales that have seen thousands of members study an OU Openings course, level 1 studies in health and social care and the OU’s pre-registration nursing programme.

In addition to this, thousands more members have benefited by attending a range of continuing professional development workshops and seminars which we’ve held across the UK on topics ranging from end of life care to managing workplace stress. This unique model for delivering workplace learning, known as FlexiLearn, has opened the door to learning for thousands of members who otherwise wouldn’t have had the confidence to give it a go.

Further information

Are you interested in studying but not sure where to start or what topic to choose? Then visit The Open University website for everything you need to know about the courses, modules and qualifications we offer, see Study at the OU.

Get a feel for what studying with the OU is like by sampling some of the freely available materials on OpenLearn.

Find out more about Britain and Europe’s largest trade sector union for public sector workers, visit UNISON.

Find out more about learning within UNISON and how they can support you either in your own studies or in your role as a workplace learning ambassador at UNISON’s Learning and Organising Services website.