Today’s Times carries a tribute to Asa Briggs in the ‘Lives Remembered’ section on page 55. Asa’s association with the OU was not in the obituary last week.
For an account of the relationship between Asa and the OU see the chapter by Daniel Weinbren in this book
Asa’s work is discussed here by the OU’s Professor of Social History and Asa himself.
Here is the URL to BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire site available for 30 days. It is about the first degrees awarded by The Open University in 1973. STARTS – 02:28:28 | ENDS – 02:33:04]
In 1960 work began on the Aswan High Dam. Built in Egypt with the support of the 800 Russian engineers it became an emblem of the Cold War as the West focused on saving the colossal 12th century BCE sandstone figures which were going to be submerged in a new lake unless action was taken. A film producer who had helped to found the company Ulster Television and expert scuba diver William MacQuitty (1905 –2004) proposed to save the temple by building a dam around the complex. This would be filled with clear, filtered water. Architect Jane Drew developed plans which imagined visitors taking a lift down from a restaurant at the top of the dam to curved pathways with circular windows and bubbles of glass. Encased in bubbles, tunnels, and shafts they would be able to view the temple structures which would be preserved by being under water.
MacQuitty went on to work with Queen’s University, Belfast to make an early example of late night adult education Midnight Oil while Jane Drew went on to design many of the buildings for the OU’s Walton Hall site. She was made an honorary Doctor of the University at the first degree ceremony.
OU Planning Committee and former Chancellor Asa Briggs has died http://intranet.open.ac.uk/ouintra/story.aspx?id=29918
For an account of his role at the OU see the chapter on his relationship with the OU in Miles Taylor, ‘The Age of Asa. Lord Briggs, Public Life and History in Britain since 1945′, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. The chapter is ‘Asa Briggs and the Opening Up of the Open University’.
‘The Open University. A history’ has had a few reviews. The review in the ‘International Journal of Lifelong Education’, is quoted on the Amazon site. There is also a review in ‘Welsh History Review’ which calls the book a ‘very substantial work’. The ‘Times Higher’ reported that it is “A fascinating history of the politics and passion that led to creation of the first ‘University of the Air’. Weinbren’s inspiring account reveals how the university with its open access policy became the UK’s biggest provider of part-time higher education, changing the lives of thousands that would otherwise have been denied the opportunity.”
The review, see here, by Tony Bates is also complementary. Tony says: ‘Weinbren has undertaken an extremely challenging task and met the challenge superbly. I hope you will enjoy the book as much as I have. More importantly, there are very important lessons to be drawn from this book about the nature of university education, equity, and government policy toward higher education.’
Some items of interest in a newly-digitalised source, the Radio Times 1923-2009. You can find plenty of old OU broadcasts, including the entry for the conferring of its first undergraduate and honorary degrees. Most universities hand out the certificates in their poshest hall or perhaps a local civic building. The OU did it live on BBC2 from the place where the programmes were made, Alexandra Palace. There was not a vast range of channels back on 23rd June 1973. To devote one of them to the award of degrees to 600 people in the Great Hall at Alexandra Palace was an interesting decision. In addition, the programme showed the award of honorary degrees, the installation of the second Chancellor (the first one having died) and some interviews with students. All this was presented by the man with those dulcet, calming tones, Richard Baker.
Here’s the archive site:
The Age of Asa (a book aboutLord Briggs including a chapter on his contribution to the OU) will be launched at midday on Thursday 4th December, at the Falmer campus, University of Sussex at which Asa and Susan Briggs will be present.
Forthcoming conference at the Institute of Historical Research, London on ‘The Utopian Universities: a fifty year retrospective’ (23-24 October 2014). It takes as its subject the ‘new’ universities of the 1960s – Sussex, East Anglia, York, Lancaster, Kent, Essex and Warwick. The programme is available at http://winterconference.history.ac.uk/
Since it was opened to students in 1971 The Open University’s structures and pedagogies have shifted the notion of public research. A ‘public’, Michael Warner argued, is formed when texts (in the broadest sense) circulate among strangers and enable those people, through those texts, to organize together and to have experiences in common. The OU’s dispatch of centrally-produced teaching materials to students - texts such as home experiment kits, correspondence materials, television broadcasts, and, latterly, web pages looks like top-down information dispersal. However, the OU has sought to support collaborative learning, the creation of ‘publics’. In the 1970s the OU’s first Professor of History, Arthur Marwick, noted that, ‘the emphasis throughout is not upon the teacher offering some kind of performance … but on encouraging the student to do the discussing, to develop the skills … We attempt, in our correspondence texts, not to purvey facts and opinions but to encourage the student to argue over and discuss various ideas’. The OU’s locally-based, part-time, Tutors, who support the OU’s learners, have long been urged not to concentrate only on imparting the canon of accepted knowledge. Rather they have motivated students to question the assumption that there was an accepted body of theoretical knowledge about which they need to learn. Read the rest of this entry »
If heaven is indeed a place on earth, I’d put money on it being an Open University graduation ceremony. There’s nothing quite so electrifying as watching families jump to their feet when mum, dad, or even great-gran takes to the stage. The years of juggled childcare, jobs and family finances melt away as the graduate beams down from the stage, amazed that their moment has come. And in the audience you see the cavalry: the proud partner who poured endless cups of tea, the parents who babysat, the children who hugged mum the morning of her exams and almost made her cry when they said: “We love you whatever”. This is the stuff that makes the Open University great.
So wrote Laura Mcinerney in the Guardian If you have interesting recollections of an OU graduation ceremony, please let us know.