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Trade union members across Scotland are learning in their workplaces through union partnerships with The Open University in Scotland.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) is the national trade union centre in Scotland. With affiliated unions throughout Scotland, the STUC represents over 540,000 trade unionists.

Scottish Union Learning (SUL) is part of the STUC. It supports trade unions in accessing skills and lifelong learning opportunities for their members.

Our partnership with the STUC and SUL has been in place for over 10 years. It enables us to offer group-based higher education in the workplace to union members.

Typically the participants are new to university-level study. We provide workshop-based courses, individual modules and routes on to degrees. Through this work we have developed a powerful employer-union-university partnership.


Adults and young children pictured outdoors with a parachute

EIS - Educational Institute of Scotland

Wellbeing champions from across Scotland engaged in a reflective course, developed with the OU and focussed on wellbeing activities supported during the pandemic. Participants used an appreciative inquiry approach to future plan. 

A football hitting a goal net

PFA Scotland - Professional Footballers' Association

Our partnership work with PFA Scotland includes supporting their members in identifying their learning needs whether they wish to study whilst playing or are looking for a second career after football. 

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry

Transport Salaried Staffs' Association

Aspiring managers from a range of Highlands and Islands' workplaces including ferries, schools and the police force completed Certificates in Higher Education Open through the OU's partnership with Scottish Union Learning. 

HM Prison Service flag

Prison Officers' Association  

Prison Officers at Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) Perth and HMP Polmont have honed their writing skills with an 'Essay and Report Writing Skills' course. Creative writing workshops were also held for prison staff in Perth and Edinburgh - including officers, social workers and administrative staff.

Scottish Government building

Public and Commercial Services Union 

Public and Commercial Services Union members work predominantly in UK government departments and public bodies. A bespoke 'Employability Skills' course was delivered to members of the Public and Commercial Services Union across Scotland, as well as 'Effective Communications' and 'Writings Skills for Business' courses at the Registers of Scotland.

UNISON building


UNISON's members work predominantly in public services, including local government, education and health. A learning agreement between the OU and UNISON benefits workers across the UK's public services. For example, OU dementia care and mental health workshops for UNISON members working in local councils and the NHS.

Meet our union learners

What is studying with The Open University like? Find out more in these first-hand accounts from learners:

Tommy Breslin

Tommy Breslin

Tommy Breslin is a Senior Development Officer for Scottish Union Learning within the Scottish Trades Union Congress. He was promoted from a Development Officer role to the Senior role after doing a range of short OU accredited courses - known as microcredentials - in online teaching. Tommy has supported unions transition their programmes to online. 

Open University graduate Brian Ronald

Brian Ronald

Brian Ronald is Application Specialist / Project Manager for the Aerospace Digital Visualisation Suite in South Ayrshire. While an Engineering Inspector and Lead Union Learning Representative with Unite the Union at Rolls-Royce, he graduated with an OU Bachelor of Science Open degree. Brian is a Scottish Trades Union Congress union learning award winner.

Pauline McColgan

Pauline McColgan

Pauline McColgan is a project worker at teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS). She has used new digital skills gained through online teaching microcredentials, including on accessibility and inclusive learning, to support EIS members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The OU, EIS and Scottish Union Learning have collaborated to develop a course.

Michael Conroy

Michael Conroy

Michael Conroy is a Learning Organiser for Unite the Union, working mainly with construction sector members. Wanting to know more about engaging, interactive online courses, and creating peer support networks, he did an OU microcredential in online teaching. Passionate about lifelong learning, Michael is now studying a management microcredential.