Our partnerships

UNISON works in partnership with a number of well-known organisations, networks, and programmes.

Open University

The Open University and UNISON partnership is based firmly on a shared goal – to widen access to education and training to extend learning opportunities to those who have previously been unable to access them. To achieve this goal, both partners bring their own unique contribution and style. We are able to offer a flexible programme of learning and skills development that will help you to realise your personal and professional goals. We have a very successful track record, with over 6,500 UNISON members having studied an accredited OU course since the partnership was established in 1997.

The UNISON/OU partnership website contains a wealth of information about how UNISON and the OU work together, easy access to free learning resources and advice, and guidance on progression to Open University study.

Visit the Open University/UNISON website

Find out about our Open University CPD workshops

Find out about our bursaries for Open University courses

Social Partnerships Network

UNISON, the Open University, and other partners in the Social Partnerships Network are working to create a more diverse higher education system.

The aim of the network is to advance the social inclusion agenda and develop ways of reaching out to potential adult learners. We are working together to develop strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners, supporting lifelong learning, social mobility, and workplace learning.

The network membership includes the Open University, WEA, unionlearn, NIACE, NEC, NCVO, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Learndirect and the Association of Colleges.

Find out more about the Social Partnerships Network

Workers’ Educational Association (WEA)

Founded in 1903, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity, and the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education.

UNISON and the WEA have a longstanding partnership dedicated to bringing free learning opportunities to adults from groups who have traditionally felt excluded from education or workplace training. WEA tutors teach many of our member learning courses (including Return to Learn and Women’s Lives) and workshops.

Visit the WEA website

National Extension College (NEC)

The National Extension College offers educational opportunities and second-chance learning for people for whom attending regular classes at a school or college would not be possible.

The NEC provides distance learning courses, including GCSEs and A levels, and qualifications in childcare and early years.

The NEC offers a 10% discount to UNISON members on all its courses.

Visit the NEC website


UNISON is working with E-Careers to offer members a range of online learning courses, ranging from accountancy and bookkeeping to web development. UNISON members are eligible for a 10% discount; quote ‘UNISON10’.

Visit the UNISON E-Careers website

NHS Social Partnership Forum (England)

We have worked closely with the NHS Social Partnership Forum (England) on the ‘Learning for Life’ campaign to raise awareness and encourage learning and skills development for all NHS staff.

Th campaign supports the role of union learning reps, and makes the business case for the benefits of workplace learning and the positive impact on patient care.

A campaign toolkit with supporting information, a model workplace learning agreement, resources, and case studies is available on the Social Partnership Forum website.

Visit the NHS Social Partnership Forum (England) website