Call for Participation: Join the Open University Campaign!

As many of you know, following the Free Culture 2008 Conference, Students for Free Culture began the Open University Campaign – an initiative to increase collaboration, sharing, and openness at the level of higher education. With the academic year about to begin, we want to invite all interested parties to assist the with project; after all, we wouldn’t be very genuine if we didn’t do this in an open manner ourselves!


About the Open University Campaign

In October 2008, Students for Free Culture drafted and adopted the Wheeler Declaration which declared that:

“An open university is one in which:

1. The research produced is open access;
2. The course materials are open educational resources;
3. The university embraces free software and open standards;
4. The university’s patents are readily licensed for free software, essential medicine, and the public good;
5. The university’s network reflects the open nature of the Internet,

where “university” includes all parts of the community: students, faculty and administration.”

Out of this agreement has grown the Open University Campaign, of which a major goal is to produce objective, reliable indicators of individual universities’ levels of openness. A primary method through which this will be accomplished is through “report card” style profiles of leading institution of higher learning, similar to College Sustainability Report Cards. Students for Free Culture has already begun this work by defining principles of measurement, researching available resources, and developing surveys to be distributed to universities.

What Will the Open University Report Cards Entail?

Mirroring the Wheeler Declaration, the Open University Report Cards, as currently envisioned, will evaluate schools on five topics:

1. Open Access: Are faculty required to make their scholarship open access? Is the university press publish open access materials?
2. Open Educational Resources: Does the university create OERs? Does the university use OERs?
3. Free and Open Source Software and Standards: Does university computing use FOSS? Are students and faculty required to use proprietary software?
4. Intellectual Property: Is IP revenue transparent? Is IP used to promote innovation, or restrict knowledge?
5. Network Management: Is the network neutral? Is user privacy respected?

Establishing credible criteria under which schools will be assessed will be essential to creating a respected resource. For example, Which schools’ open access policies are currently lacking important criteria? Or, To what extent should a school actively support FOSS? The volunteers currently involved with the project are working through these questions on the wiki page, and we encourage you to join the conversation.

What the Open University Campaign Needs

In order to make this a successful endeavor, Students for Free Culture needs your involvement!

  • Are you a student who can research official university open access policies?
  • Are you passionate about FOSS and can develop a questionnaire for IT administrators about FOSS policy?
  • Are you statistically-inclined and can handle data on universities?
  • Are you a web developer who could create a public website for the Open University Report Cards?
  • Are you a graphic designer who could create posters to raise awareness on campuses?

In Closing…

The Open University Campaign recognizes that scholastic advancement occurs most readily in an environment of sharing, openness and collaboration. By providing a cross-index of leading universities, the project will add important comparative measurements to encourage increased academic openness. Our hope is that these resources will provide a platform from which openness activists can endeavor to improve the scholastic environment.

Join us by jumping into the wiki, signing up for the Open University mailing list, or emailing board (at) freeculture (dot) org with suggestions or questions!

Leave Yours +


  1. Pingback: Maciej Lewandowski (macieklew) 's status on Tuesday, 27-Oct-09 21:51:06 UTC -

  2. Pingback: software for students | SOFTWARE

  3. Pingback: Open University Report Cards «

  4. Thanks for your work on this very important topic. I’ve been doing some thinking of my own about building universities around the cultural practices of free and open source software. If you’re interested in the work my colleagues and I at Cognitive Policy Works are doing, check out this conference call where our staff discussed an open source model for building curricula:

    Open Source Education for the 21st Century


    Joe Brewer
    Director, Cognitive Policy Works

  5. Pingback: Glyn Moody (glynmoody) 's status on Friday, 30-Oct-09 09:05:14 UTC -

  6. owen

    you might want to change your name,


  7. Pingback: Aidan Delaney (balor) 's status on Friday, 30-Oct-09 10:24:47 UTC -

  8. Nick Sharratt

    Besides the desperate need of a name change before this gets going (as it’s already established in the UK and elsewhere) as already mentioned, there is another distinction I would make.

    Where IT is being used for the business of an institution there is often no choice – sorry, not practical affordable or existing choice except to use proprietry software. Many of the business management systems used in HE only exist in HE, have a very small market, and lack the general community which is vital for OSS to be practical. So, while an institution could initiate writing their own OSS solutions, unless many of them contributed, it would rapidly become unsustainable.

    I would extend that to software used for the business of the institution further too and include infrastructure, office products etc too – while OSS alternatives do exist, the skills to implement, support, and maintain tend to attract much higher salaries as they are less common in the Market place, thus making proprietry choices the only pragmatic ones for most institutions.

    However, this does not need to affect the teaching and learning activities or research conducted….although, often research relies on proprietry equipment and software too simply because that’s the only source available in some niche fields.

    Then there the openess of the Internet – which I hope wouldn’t include expectations to compromise security and resiliance in the drive for ‘open’ access? Clearly, one persons ‘openess’ is smothers opportunity to exploit…so systems need to be designed to protect themselves and the users, while also leaving things as open as practically possible. I just hope it’s realised just how un-‘open’ to some uses things have to be though.

    So, while this is an admirable aspiration and any compromises need to be justified when institutions take them, I’m not actually sure how practical it would be to get very close. We shall see I suppose.

    (type on phone so not spel chekd etc)

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  12. John Foregate

    I wonder if you realise that that Open University is one of the most respected brand names in the UK? It is one the country’s largest and best known universities (I’m a graduate), a leading producer of television documentaries, and a big contributor to Open Learning.
    It’s really confusing personally and for search engine use, to see the brand used by another Creative Commons organisation.

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  14. Hey y’all, we posted your call to action on Shareable Magazine here: I think it’s cool that you’re working to increase access to the knowledge generated by universities. For one thing, that’s a huge gift to those who can’t make it to college. How shareable of you!

  15. the idea is very good! Bit I am doybt the continuity this program.

    “an initiative to increase collaboration, sharing, and openness at the level of higher education”

  16. The Open University Campaign is something I haven’t heard of. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  17. If such an idea of Open University was initiated in my country i would surely be part of it and for sure i wold promote it to the others. So far all open projects that are on the web have been very successful, I am very confident that this will work for universities too.

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