The Open University (OU) is a world leader in modern distance learning, the pioneer of teaching and learning methods that enable people to achieve their career and life goals studying at times and places to suit them. The OU is the largest academic institution in the UK, in terms of student numbers.

The OU is also an important research university being ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions for research power. The School of Physical Sciences is one of the largest academic departments within the OU STEM Faculty, with about 150 staff and postgraduate students, and in the 2014 exercise 72% of its outputs were classed as "internationally excellent" or "world leading".