The University, with the name of Peoples Open University, was established in June 1974 under an Act of the Parliament assented to on 22nd May 1974. It was the first institution of distance education in this region.
The University was renamed as Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) in 1977 on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of the birth of the great philosopher and national poet Allama Muhammad lqbal. It was after the establishment of the Open University in Pakistan that similar universities were established in the South Asian region.
The University is celebrating its Silver Jubilee to mark a point in its life when it has passed through initial years and has entered its maturity.
It signifies the will and commitment of the nation to the idea of lifelong education and at the same time pay tribute to all those who worked earnestly to make this pioneer institution a success including millions students who were able to educate or train themselves while remaining at their homes or places of work and making it the largest university of the country.
The philosophical foundation of the Allama Iqbal Open University lies in its ‘OPENNESS’. This University, as a unique institution in the country, reaches the doorsteps of those who wish to broaden their horizons of knowledge or upgrade their occupational skills while in conventional and formal system the students go to the University for studies. Moreover this is the only university whose jurisdiction covers the whole of Pakistan.
The distinction of AIOU also lies in the fact that its course offerings spread from illiterates to the higher levels of academic achievement ie Ph.D.
Another special feature of the AIOU to reach its students in their own homes and places of work through the use of modern technology of communication for reinforcement of the self instructional correspondence materials.
The use of appropriate media mix and latest electronic communication techniques allows an expert to reach student scattered throughout the country and abroad and even allow immediate feedback to students through the interactive facility, where available.
The University was established as a distance education institution with the purpose to:
Provide educational facilities to the people who cannot leave their homes and places of job;
Provide facilities to the masses for their educational uplift;
Provide facilities for the training of teachers; and
Provide education to all without any discrimination
The University has its 32 Regional Campuses and Centres throughout the country.
The AIOU, being an institution of distance education, uses multimedia approach in teaching. The main components of its teaching system are as follows:
1. Printed course-books: The learning package, includes the self-instructional course books;
2. Media programmes: Radio and television programmes specially prepared for various courses are broadcast. In some cases audio-cassettes form a part of the learning package, Non-broadcast materials are also used for certain courses.
3. Tutorials: Face to face tutorials are arranged at study centres and correspondence tuition where students are scattered thinly. Tutorials are compulsory where development of practical skills is involved. Workshops are also arranged, usually at the end of the semester, where necessary.
4. Assignments: Assignments are to be completed by the students for each course. They serve as a tool for teaching and continuous assessment. The assignments are evaluated by the tutor and necessary guidance in learning the relevant units is provided through remarks.
5. Final Examination: Final examination is held at the end of the semester as external examination at examination centres. The final examination usually carries 70 percent weight age.
The University has produced hundreds of credit and non-credit courses for various levels of learners and are sent to the students. The provision of the specially compiled instructional materials at postgraduate level are recent additions. The learning packages are not only being used by AIOU students but also those of formal system.
The University has till recently, been concentrating on programmes upto degree levels it is now increasing it programmes in the field of science and technology and at postgraduate level. It is collaborating with organisations like PAEC for its programmes in sciences. Student enrolment and the number of courses have been increasing every year at an average rate of ten percent.
The university had course enrolment of 9,07,834 during 1998-99. Hundreds of Thousands students have obtained certificates, diplomas and degrees. The programmes being offered are literacy, SSC, HSSC (Arts, Science, Home Economics, Family and Community Health), B.A., B.Sc. (Primary Eye Care), BBA, BBA (Hon), BLIS, BA Mass Communications, M.A., M.Sc., M. Phil and Ph.D. The system has proved its worth, viability and cost effectiveness.
The University offers at least two scholarships for higher studies abroad in addition to financing higher studies within the country. It is carrying out its development activities (construction, computerisation etc) from its own resources.
To commemorate the occasion Pakistan Post is issuing a commemorative postage stamps of Rs 5, 3 and 2 denomination on November 20, 1999.