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Five star review: first ever Uber-funded graduates celebrate Open University degrees

  • The first ever students to complete Open University (OU) degrees fully-funded by Uber are set to graduate – with the first ceremony taking place in London on Friday 22 September
  • Eleven students have received their results including first-class honours in law and business, with drivers completing their studies whilst working on Uber
  • More than 1,500 drivers have enrolled in paid OU courses so far since the Open University partnered with Uber in 2019 to provide free higher education courses to drivers

Eleven students across the UK have become the first to receive Open University (OU) degrees fully-funded by Uber, with the first graduation ceremony taking place in London on Friday 22 September.

Uber partnered with the OU in late 2019 to give eligible drivers, or a nominated member of their family, the opportunity to access higher education with their fees fully-funded by Uber.

Graduates studied a range of subjects including Business, Maths, Law and Psychology – with drivers fitting in their studies around working flexibly on the Uber platform.

Sanan Ahmed, moved to the UK from Pakistan twelve years ago. He is graduating today with a degree in Business Management. He previously had to stop studying for a degree but was able to resume his studies alongside work through the Uber-funded degree programme.

I never thought I would have a day in a graduation gown, going to a ceremony and celebrating with my friends and family – it’s a dream come true. Now I am applying to Masters courses and I want to get a job in IT. Once work takes over it can be really difficult to go back to studies, so without the Uber funding it would not have been possible. I would definitely encourage other drivers to do it too.”

Sanan Ahmed

Nosheen Abbas studied for a BA Honours in Business Management. She moved to the UK from Pakistan in 2016, where she gained a Masters in Business Administration and worked in a bank. Her husband drives for Uber which meant she was eligible for free OU tuition, fitting her studies around family life and her work.

When I came here I started from scratch. It’s me, my husband and my two daughters. My eldest is six years and the other one is recently born, premature at 26 weeks. So I’m staying with her at home, submitting my assignments, working on my degree, cooking food while my husband is doing work for Uber. Sponsoring as a family member to me was a golden opportunity. Now that I have a degree I can easily find a job. In the future, I want to create apps because it’s an IT world now: that’s the reason I have chosen this degree to do something bigger for the world.”

Nosheen Abbas

The programme was specifically designed to help those who were otherwise locked out of learning opportunities – part of the OU’s social remit to provide opportunities to many who previously thought higher education study in the UK was not accessible to them.

All drivers have access to courses on the OU’s free OpenLearn platform, with those in the Diamond tier – the top level in terms of the number of completed trips and service provided – receiving access to paid courses. These paid courses range from full undergraduate degrees to short courses such as microcredentials.

Uber’s driving population and subsequently their family members are a very diverse community. Around 75% of Uber drivers are first generation migrants to the UK. Their educational background is varied, but quite often they have already gained significant qualifications in their birth country but haven’t been unable to utilise those qualifications in the UK.

The Open University has a very large social remit. This manifests itself in provision of education for social good. The key flagship of that is OpenLearn, which is a website containing over 10,000 hours of free content and free resources available to all. We incorporated it into the overall offering of the Uber programme. It allows drivers to taste what an experience would be like with studying at the OU for free, and try it with no obligations.”

Simon Tindall
Director of Skills and Innovation at The Open University

We are extremely proud of all drivers graduating this year and we look forward to more success stories in the future. Each graduate has a unique story and their commitment to education while balancing their work and family lives is an inspiration. More than 100,000 UK drivers now earn on Uber every week, attracted by the unrivalled combination of flexibility and benefits we offer.”

Andrew Brem
General Manager of Uber UK

This article was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.