Open University – An education partner to Icelandic industry

The Open University is a non-academic department of Reykjavik University (RU) founded in 2006 that provides programmes and courses for executives, specialists and managers from industry who would like to improve their work performance and strengthen their skills. The courses and programmes, especially in the fields of technology, business and law, are practically oriented, based on case studies and entail close relations with industry.

The Open University also provides courses and programmes which are customised to the needs of a particular company, their duration varies from three-hour courses to two-semester programmes and the teaching staff come from both academia and business. Over 400 courses are provided annually, with 15 to 20 participants per course. The number of participants in the lifelong learning programmes is comparable or even exceed number of regular participants enrolled in bachelors and masters’ programmes.

The courses take place within the building of RU, meaning that physical resources (material, equipment and facilities) already exist for the day-to-day operation of the university and there has been no need for further investments. Participation in the Open University programmes is mostly financed by companies since they see the importance of educating their directors and staff, an important factor to raise their job satisfaction and keep good employees for longer time within the companies.

There is an emphasis on that the programmes and courses provided match the needs of both the individuals who would attend them as well as the companies, institutions and parts of society they would be serving. Therefore, the curriculum is constantly being updated to provide a relevant offer. This is a collaboration between RU academics departments and industry. Cooperation with the key clients (individual participants and companies) requires proper marketing, communication, networking and development activities.

The strategy of the university has three pillars – education, research and connection with industry – which can contribute to economic growth. However, the motivation for the cooperation in the open university programmes comes from companies that would like to increase its human capital as well as professionals that seek to expand particular knowledge areas.

As a reaction to this needs the RU Open University has established a large number of extensive courses in cooperation with companies and institutions with the aim of improving the performance and skills of employees (Annual Report of RU, 2014). This way, RU achieves closer connection with industry and provides continuous education.

One of the objectives underpinned by RU Open University is their strong belief that university-business cooperation is “key for the economic environment and competitiveness of nations”, therefore also the training and education they offer is designed based on current industry needs.