The Allama Iqbal Open University was established in 1974 with the main objectives of providing educational opportunities to masses and to those who cannot leave their homes and jobs. Fulfilling its commitment, the University has opened up educational opportunities for the working people and has provided access to the females at their doorsteps. The idea of Distance Education was first mooted in UK in late 60s by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson. The UK Open University was, thus established in 1969 and soon became a major institution of learning in UK. The popularity of Distance and Open Learning has, since then spread throughout the world as more than 70 Open Universities are currently operative around the world. The AIOU, established in 1974, was the second Open University in the world and first in Asia and Africa. As these past years of AIOU have proved, Distance Education has opened up new opportunities for millions, particularly women, and supplemented the efforts of the federal and provincial governments in a systematic way and that too without becoming a burden on their resources.

The idea of Distance Education assumed greater relevance and acceptance in Pakistan due to the factors of poverty and relative deprivation of women. The rate of literacy and access to higher education is much lower in the poorer classes, rural population, and female population of Pakistan. The AIOU, through its system of Distance Education has, thus, provided educational opportunities to these housebound girls as well as residents of rural areas. Professional and technical education in Pakistan is becoming very costly, especially in recent years, because of high fees of private sector in these fields. AIOU attempts to meet this challenge and to keep a window open for these classes by keeping the cost of education at minimum level and by creating a student assistance fund.