Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

50 objects for 50 years. Number 1. The Royal Charter

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Today 23 April 2018, is the anniversary of the granting of a Royal Charter to the Open University. A year hence it will be the 50thanniversary of the Open University. To mark that half century, we will be writing about 50 objects which have made the OU. You are invited to make proposals for your favourites. Maybe it was the first parcel you received with OU materials or the gown you wore to your OU graduation. Perhaps it was the coffee that your partner brought you at midnight as you struggled to complete a TMA.

 

This week the object is the Royal Charter. Written by the OU’s Planning Committee it provided the OU with a bulwark of respectability against its detractors andunified the OU into a single legal entity. It unites learners and staff, indicates that this is an institution of quality and it frames how we address, construct and bolster communities. It reminds us of how the OU has united strangers and supported co-operation between learners.

 

Higher Education institutions do not require Charters in order to confer degrees or to operate. Many have not got Charters and some were only granted Charters after they opened. The University of Essex admitted its first students in 1964 and was granted a Royal Charter in 1965. The University of Keele was founded in 1949 and only received its Charter in 1962. The BBC has a Charter, but it has to be renewed every decade. The incorporation by a Royal Charter (alterable onlyby the agreement of The Queen in Council) gave considerable status to the OU when it was an institution without any students, which was to be based in many sites, which was of unproven popularity with the electorate and which was distained by many MPs. The OU’S Royal Charter proclaims respectability, community, outreach.

 

Although it was not clear in 1963, when Harold Wilson called for a university of the air, that there would be a new university with its own charter, the idea gained ground as Wilson’s rough notes were expanded and the OU was planned. One reason for a Charter might have been to prevent the Open University’s enemies closing it down when the Labour government lost power, as it did a few months after the Charter was granted. William van Straubenzee, the Conservative junior minister for higher education in the 1970–74 government, was reported as saying of the OU ‘I would have slit its throat if I could’. He blamed the outgoing Labour education minister Ted Short for some ‘nifty, last-moment work with the charter that made the OU unkillable’.

 

On 23 April 1969, two days after a human first walked on the moon, the Royal Charter of The Open University was granted. The Charter stated that ‘the objects of the University shall be the advancement and dissemination of learning and knowledge by teaching and research by a diversity of means such as broadcasting and technological devices appropriate to higher education, by correspondence, tuition, residential courses and seminars and in other relevant ways’.

 

The OU’s Charter was based on that of Warwick University, opened in 1965. In its emphasis on openness, the OU echoed the motto of another new university, Lancaster (opened 1964): Patet omnibus veritas (Truth lies open to all). The first stated objective about the need to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge, was similar to statements in the charters of other universities of the 1960s. York’s focus was on enabling ‘students to obtain the advantages of University education’; Lancaster wanted to use the ‘influence of its corporate life’; and the University of Warwick has almost identical wording to these two.

 

The OU’s Charter contained an additional objective: ‘to promote the educational well-being of the community generally’. It was this obligation to the wider community that led to the development in the 1970s of the ‘Continuing Education’ programme with courses such as P911 ‘The first years of life’ and P912 ‘the pre-school child’.It is this same obligation within the charter that informs continued University collaboration with the BBC on current popular programmes such as Child of our time, Coast and Civilisations.

 

The Charter set out the regulation of the university. There would be a Council, ‘the executive governing body of the university’, a Senate and a non-executive general assembly, ‘the organ through which the feeling of a corporate institution would be generated’. The university also had its own regional organisation. At first it was It was intended that the General Assembly, representative of both students and staff, would elect representatives to the Council and Senate through regional assemblies. Changes to the Charter have been suggested. These are difficult to make and have led to lively debates.

 

The Charter did not grant the OU autonomy, the university’s finances were subject of close government scrutiny from the beginning. It was forbidden to carry over income from one year to another unless the expenditure was for the development of teaching materials. The OU could not accumulate reserves, nor own property against which it could borrow money and it was subject to annual review.

 

The Charter obliged the university ‘to make provision for research’. However, when the OU sought to make provision for postgraduates it was derided by Rhodes Boyson, a head teacher who was to become a Conservative MP in 1974. He argued that the OU only wanted to do this ‘because it expects that no one will accept its degrees as worthy of postgraduate extension’. Despite the difficulties and scepticism, research played an important role at the OU from the beginning. Steven Rose, the OU’s first professor of biology, established the Brain Research Group which was importance in the development of the new field of neuroscience. He recalled that, when offered a post at the OU ‘made it very clear at the start that I wouldn’t go unless there were research facilities … this was going to be a university like any other university’. He received funding from the Medical Research Council, ‘so from the very beginning … we’d actually got research going’. The OU awarded its first PhD in 1972.

 

Since the first Charter the OU has launched its own Student Charter.

 

Doreen Massey, 1944-2016

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Some of the obituaries of the late OU Professor. Here is the OU. Here is Hilary Wainwright and the Guardian

 

 

Stuart Hall film

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Today, 6th September, the British Film Institute will release the new documentary ‘The Stuart Hall Project’ in cinemas across the UK. The film covers Stuart Hall’s connections with the Open University as an emeritus professor and charts the journey of Professor Stuart Hall, following his theories and the changing politics and culture of Britain over the last few decades and was highly acclaimed at this year’s Sundance and Sheffield Documentary festivals. Here is a link to the trailer: http://youtu.be/MA-og9_-Yro and you can find more information on our release page about the film: http://bit.ly/1dcQIXY.

University of the Air speech: 50th anniversary

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

On 8th September Harold Wilson then the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition, gave a speech to launch the Labour Party’s  pre-election campaign in Scotland. A packed rally of supporters heard his idea for ‘a new educational trust … a University of the Air … to cater for a wide variety of potential students [including] technologists who perhaps left school at sixteen’. There was a report in The Times, about this scheme for a University of the air’. The Guardian provided a report on page 1, the text of the speech on page 2 and an approving editorial headed ‘Higher education outside the Walls’ which said the plan was ‘good and welcome’. (more…)

Former AL notes significance of OU

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South and Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth is a former Editor of History Today and a former Open University tutor. He mentioned the OU in a recent speech, made to mark the re-opening of Ruskin College, which recently moved to a new location in Oxford. Below is an extract: (more…)

Open to satire?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Should a public figure or institution be brave enough to wish, with the poet Robert Burns, ‘to see oursels as ithers see us’, the cartoonist’s art is likely to remind them of another adage: be careful what you wish for. 

The British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent provides a window onto the ways in which people and organisations have been portrayed through the ages.  As a national institution, The Open University hasn’t evaded capture by the caricaturist’s ink.  This group of cartoons evokes an evolving pen portrait in which the ‘University of the Air’ lived up to its name in at least one respect: it was difficult to pin down in a visual medium.  With no substantial image of its own, the OU was not so much used as a target for satire in its own right, as a means for cartoonists to satirise some of their more ‘usual suspects’.  Groups of people and themes caricatured via their association with the OU included politicians, television, students, changing social mores and class aspiration.

(more…)

Former OU PVC goes online

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Coursera  calls itself a ‘social entrepreneurship company’ which aims to deliver online courses. Founded by two academics from Stanford University and funded to the tune of $22m by the computer industries, it claims to offer ‘education for everyone’ by providing courses from its partner universities. These include  the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, Rice University, UC San Francisco, University of Illinois and University of Washington and also Toronto in Canada and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Coursera does not offer degrees, but students can be awarded certificates. (more…)

Markets, Expertise and the Public University: A crisis in knowledge for democracy?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Regular readers will know that we often stress that one of the roots of the OU lies in the social democracy post-war welfare settlement as exemplified by the input of Wilson, Lee, Young, Perry and others. In addition it has been suggested that the OU also led the way towards some of the changes associated with the development of the quasi-market within the higher education sector. Now the relationship between democracy, the market and the universities is to be considered in a keynote address to be made at the OU. (more…)

Toxic Shock

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Higher education, once high on the government’s agenda, seems to have slipped down the list part way through the reform of the sector. In order to aid resolution of this matter Hefce, the Higher Education Funding Council for England whivh was designed as a funding body, not a planning one,  has become (in England) the ‘lead regulator’ of the quasi-privatised HE sector. As there is no cap on students numbers (there was in the past) those who wish to study through the OU can take out a loan, Hefce has not much control over those universities which teaches relatively little expensive science and are likely to gain most of their income from non-Hefce sources. (more…)

Capella moves in

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The new environment in which the OU must operate was indicated by an acquisition in July when the Capella Education Company, which describes itself as ‘aggressive’ and ‘disruptive’, acquired Resource Development International. RDI has called itself  the world’s largest independent provider of UK university qualifications by distance learning. Capella wants to validate degrees and RDI currently offers distance-learning degrees validated by institutions including the universities of Wales, Sunderland and Birmingham, and Anglia Ruskin and Sheffield Hallam universities. As December 31, 2010, it offered over 1,250 online courses and 43 academic programs with 136 specializations to over 39,000 learners.

The development was widely reported, with comments by, among others, the Wall Street Journal, the company itself and the THES.