Former Digital Champion looks to further integrate digital learning to the UK’s largest learning institution
The Open University has announced that Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, better known as digital business pioneer Martha Lane-Fox, is to be its new Chancellor.
“I have seen how technology can transform the way we do things – from shopping to socialising to studying,” Lane-Fox said. “The Open University has an astonishing track-record of using of new and emerging technologies to make higher education available to all people around the world. Its ethos of inclusion and access is something I respect hugely.
“I am extremely excited about this appointment and can’t wait to start meeting students.”
The appointment was approved today at a joint meeting of the University’s governing bodies, with Lane Fox succeeding Lord Puttnam as Chancellor, who is stepping down after more than seven years in the role. The Chancellor is the public face of the university, acting as an ambassador with supporters around the world and attending degree ceremonies. She will be formally installed in the post later this year and will take up her duties from September.
“Just like the OU, Martha has always been a tireless advocate for all things digital, constantly working to unleash the incredible power of technology to transform and improve the way we live, work and study,” vice-chancellor of The Open University, Martin Bean, said.“I would like to thank Lord Puttnam for his years of hard work and loyalty and look forward to welcoming Martha into this important role.”
The Open University is the largest academic institution in the UK having taught more than 1.8 million students since it began in 1969. It currently has more than 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.
Over the past few years, the Open University has committed greatly to developing technology in order to increase access to education around the world. Its ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which have recorded more than 60 million downloads.
This goes alongside its long-standing relationship with the BBC which dates back to the 1970’s, under which the two bodies develop educational programs including recent hits Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.
Martha Lane Fox built her career as one of the founders of pioneering travel marketplace LastMinute.com and for more than four years she served as the government’s UK Digital Champion, leading a drive to get more people and services engaged with the online world, as well as leading a review of the government’s online services.
In 2012 she launched Go ON UK, a charity which aims to plug the digital skills gap among the 4.5 million British adults that lack basic online literacy thanks to support from businesses and the government. Last year she joined the House of Lords and recently led a debate on the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web.
In addition to her work with the government, Baroness Lane-Fox has served on the boards of Channel 4 and Marks & Spencer and is patron of several charities.
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