Corps Security meets The Open University challenge

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU is rated in the top ten of UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, since the survey began in 2005. In 2013/14 it had a 91% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star the highest ratings available and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

Headquartered at Walton Hall, a 110-acre site in Milton Keynes, the site comprises 63 individual buildings and blocks that provide offices, laboratories, lecture halls, sports and social areas for over 4,000 staff. There are also and twelve regional and national administrative centres and two warehouse locations.

The Open University recognises the importance of having a high quality security operation in place and, for the last seven years Corps Security has been charged with making sure that all of these environments are safe and secure.

Corps Security’s regional operations director, Nigel Horne, explains, ‘The security operation at Walton Hall comprises a mix of manned guarding and surveillance technology. The manned guarding team consists of 16 core staff and seven relief personnel, with four officers on each shift. We ensure that all of those deployed understand the specific requirements necessary for carrying out their duties on this unique site, which include door locking/unlocking and car park management.

There is an extensive road layout on site, with public rights of access on certain parts of it. While open access to this large and complex site is seen as an essential ingredient of academic life and a positive attribute, this policy does have a certain level of risk attached to it. As such, all officers are given Operation Fairway training and a five day on-site awareness course. Sensitive questioning, recognising hostile reconnaissance, post room threats and even sign language training is also delivered to enhance vigilance, while experts from Corps Security also carry out regular ‘train the trainer’ style modules to supervisors and team leaders.

As well as manned guarding services, Corps Security now supplies The Open University with remote intruder detection, access control and fire alarm monitoring services via its state-of-the-art Corps Monitoring Centre (CMC). This Glasgow based facility utilises only the very latest high specification technology and its credentials include National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Gold accreditation alongside BS 8418 and ISO 9001:2008 certifications.

Corps Security’s reputation for excellence is based on its ability to continually innovate to exceed its customers’ expectations. Nigel Horne comments, ‘Security is often viewed as an intangible service, so we have developed a system where it is possible to accurately measure our performance and clearly identify any areas that need addressing. At The Open University we have developed a system to define a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide a comprehensive set of quantitative and qualitative data. To encourage a strict regime of continuous service review and appraisal, regular meetings take place where we analyse achievements against agreed standards and look at where improvements could be made.’

This KPI assessment analyses everything from training and incident reporting to management visits and even the appearance and communications skills of officers. Scores are allocated using a simple 1-4 marking scheme where 1 (0 per cent) is poor and 4 (100 per cent) is excellent. The target for Corps Security is to score 3 or 4 and this has been done so, on average, 98.25% of the time in the last rolling 12 month period.

Asked to describe the secret behind the success of the working relationship between Corps Security and The Open University, Nigel Horne replies,’It can be encapsulated in one word: partnership. Both parties demonstrate a willingness to work together in a way that encourages open channels of communication. This means that any necessary changes can be put into effect quickly to achieve common goals and objectives.’

This view is shared by Mary Legge, Head of Operations, Estates at The Open University, who concludes, Corps Security provide an excellent service across all our sites and are an exemplar of how a manned guarding team should operate. They are an invaluable part of our operation and the positive feedback I receive from staff, students and visitors underscores how highly valued they are.

For further information please contact Corps Security on 0800 0286 303 or E: info@corpssecurity.co.uk

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