The Open University was founded in September 1984 – Queen Beatrix conducted the official opening – when the first students enrolled.
However, the university has a prior history dating back to the beginning of the seventies. The term ‘lifelong learning’ was already used by Minister Marga Klompé during the government of 1967-1971, as a ‘contribution to the formation of conscious and responsible people’. The terms ‘second chance’ and ‘second pathway’ were introduced in 1971 and 1972 by the Ministry of Education. The term ‘second chance’ was well suited to the climate at that time when many adults had very little educational opportunities in their youth.
Preparation for the foundation
Following several reports/preliminary studies, memoranda and recommendations, in 1977 the former Minister of Education and Sciences, Van Kemenade, issued the policy ‘The Open University of the Netherlands’. This policy initiated a process of preparation that ultimately led to The Open University Act, which came into effect on 1 January 1985. By then the Open University had already been occupied with ‘taking up their quarters’ for almost three years. In 1981 the head office in Heerlen was established. The choice of Heerlen was one of the restructuring measures for the (devastating) closure of the mines in Limburg in 1965. Over the years, study centres have been established throughout the Netherlands and Belgium.
The Open University was established to provide scientific education to anyone with the required interest and capacity. The OU has a social responsibility to provide a second chance or second pathway to adults who have not previously had the opportunity to follow higher education. The Open University makes higher education accessible to many people through the absence of formal entry requirements, a great degree of freedom (place, time and pace) and a carefully developed teaching model for supervised self-study.
From the beginning, the Open University has attracted a large number of highly educated students who wish to update their knowledge. This market of continuous re-education and further education has become increasingly important.
On completion of the build-up phase, the innovative mission of the Open University, which it has been charged with since its inception, was tightened in 1995. The Open University is working hard - often with other universities, universities of applied sciences and profit and non-profit organisations - on the updating of training and education. The students of today and tomorrow are demanding new forms of learning. Self-study, online supervision and digital learning environments fit in with the new way of communicating. A busy job does not have to get in the way of obtaining a bachelor or master degree.