How I became the Chair of the OU Students Association

As part of Trustees Week, join our Chair and Trustee, Allan Blake as he shares his experience at the Association & thanks our wonderful Trustees and volunteers.


Thank you for inviting me to say a few words during Trustees’ Week about my role as Chair of Trustees of the Open University Students Association.

Trustees’ Week, from 2-6 November 2020, is an annual event to showcase the great work of 1 million Trustees in the UK and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.

It’s also an opportunity for me as Chair of the Trustees to thank my fellow Trustees and all those who volunteer to assist the Open University Students Association in achieving its objectives. 

How did you become a Trustee for the Students Association?

Following retirement from aviation management, I joined an organisation called Reach that puts potential Trustees in touch with charities. Reach contacted me to say that the Students Association was interested and, after a thorough interview process, I became Chair of the Trustees in January 2020. 

Whilst my most recent career was in aviation management, based in the UK then SE Asia, I started off as a Lecturer in Law. I had a great time in higher education and really enjoy getting back in touch with the academic world and students through this new role as Chair of Trustees whilst playing a small part in assisting those pursuing academic progress.

The Trustees are responsible for the overall management and finances of the Association: there are individuals elected by the students, including the President and Deputy, plus three externally appointed Trustees of which I am one. We meet roughly once per quarter and as required, with a lot of work undertaken outside of formal meetings. I also have regular update meetings with the CEO, President and Deputy.

What are the biggest challenges?

I have only been Chair of the Students Association since January 2020 and what a year it has been! The immediate focus is ensuring our staff and volunteers are operating safely in the new environment, and continue to do so.

The main challenge, of course, is helping students with the big issues they confront, ensuring that the University understands their anxiety and concerns and develops appropriate remedial action – Module mark adjustments through scaling and subsequent student appeals / late module materials are two recent examples of issues we are still asking the University to address appropriately.

Another personal challenge for me that I didn’t expect is Chairing ‘Microsoft Teams’ Trustee meetings!! – it’s far harder online and I’m really grateful to my fellow Trustees for their patience with me. 

What is your greatest achievement in the role so far?

Well, it's not my achievement, it's down to the wonderfully adaptable staff of the Students Association – The Virtual Conference 2020. Just amazing.

Also, ensuring staff are safe during the pandemic whilst maintaining and even enhancing the service – an ongoing issue which develops the longer this state of affairs continues.

Goals for the future?

Representing students effectively/identifying & tackling the big issues that they are confronting on their behalf; assisting the OU and our student members in the delivery of an even more effective and enjoyable learning experience.

I would like to conclude by saying something about the great work that all our volunteer Student Trustees do. The Association is so fortunate in having such a collection of talent, expertise and knowledge as student Trustees: together with the external Trustees it’s as good as any Board I’ve been on in my career – they adopt a very thoughtful approach to the issues we confront and I’m always grateful for the huge personal commitment they make, their thoughts and input to our decisions. They are part of a huge army of volunteers including CEC members that the Students Association relies on and co-ordinates to support our activities and OU students. 

So finally, it’s very appropriate for me to thank you to our staff, Trustees, members of the CEC and every volunteer for their support in these difficult times.  Thank You & Stay Safe.

Find out more about our Board of Trustees on the Association website. 


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