Partnerships for a Changing HE Environment

One of the Open University’s UK ( longest international partnerships is with the Arab Open University (AOU) based across the Middle East (



AOU is a Partner Institution of the OU, delivering OU Validated Awards. The collaboration goes back to 2002 when the AOU was set up to improve access to higher and continuing education, irrespective of age, gender, income, geographical location and employment across the Arab region. The AOU’s social mission is closely aligned with the OU’s, and through this collaboration, the OU has been able to promote its mission to widen access in education on a global scale.

The OU and AOU work in partnership in many ways, namely by providing courses, collaborating on new curriculum, validating programmes and sharing their expertise to help other blended learning ventures become a reality. Although based in the Middle East, as a partner of the OU in the UK, the AOU adheres to the British Equality Act of April 2010, which is interpreted and applied within the legal framework of each AOU country.

The AOU thus commits itself to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, religion, gender, disability, age, social or economic class. The AOU operates in nine sovereign states, namely Kuwait (where the AOU headquarters are also based), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan and most recently Palestine which was established in September 2018. The OU validates three under-graduate programmes and four post-graduate programmes, offered by the Faculties of Business Studies, Computer Studies, Language Studies and the Faculty of Education Studies, all of which encompass a modern curriculum and follow a UK equivalent examination structure.

For those qualifications which are validated by the OU, successful students will receive a degree awarded by both the Arab OU and The Open University. Validated awards are of the same standard as other UK awards at the same level. Through its Royal Charter, The Open University (OU) is able to validate the programmes of institutions that do not have their own degree awarding powers, or alternatively that wish to offer OU awards.

This activity, established in 1992, is managed by Open University Validation Partnerships (OUVP). Over 45,000 students are currently studying on a programme validated by the OU, of which nearly 30,000 are AOU students. Given the AOU operates in a region which sees an unprecedented number of refugees and has refugees studying at AOU, this partnership model points to the value of building or strengthening strategic partnerships and leveraging potential synergies among Higher Education institutions for open and inclusive education.

Partnerships among HE institutions are increasingly important and reinforce how important it is to adopt a practical and forward-looking approach on refugee issues across the globe.