Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

What have we learnt? Establishing the OU in Scotland

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

One of the most relevant presentations to the OU’s own history at last week’s What have we learnt? forum was Professor Judith George’s paper on supporting isolated remote learners. Judith spoke of the challenges in establishing the OU in Scotland, with its specific geography and politics. However, it was essential that the OU in its early days grapple with these issues if it was to be recognised as a British institution. (more…)

What have we learnt?: Scholarship of engagement

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

One of the outcomes of the What Have We Learnt? Event is that we have decided to build stronger links between researchers interested in how universities create and maintain communities. This interest connects to the interests of others at the OU and across the UK.

Paul Manners is the director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. The Centre was set up in 2008 in recognition of a looming crisis in public trust and understanding of higher education. The THES of 24th November 2011 quotes Paul as saying that it is


What we learnt at ‘What have we learnt?’

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Prof Harold Silver at What have we learnt?The History of the OU Project was pleased to host a successful one-day forum What have we learnt? Transmitting knowledge, facilitating learning on 29 November. With papers from academics from a variety of traditions this event enabled educationalists, educational technologists, historians and adult education practitioners to gain new perspectives on the OU and the wider development of the HE sector since 1945. 

 A Senior Research Fellow in IET at the OU, Martyn Cooper, attended the event and swiftly told his colleagues, ‘Today I attended the excellent “What have we learnt? – Transmitting knowledge, facilitating learning c1960-2010” seminar organised by the History of the OU project’. His blog posting is here


University history is the nation’s history

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The conference was a delight. We convened in one of the older parts of the university pictured in this report. There we heard a fascinating welcome talk from John Peter Collett, Professor at the University of Oslo and then Mitchell Ash, Prof of Modern History, Vienna presented a keynote on ‘Universities, science, scholarship and national identity’ and there was a contribution from Benjamin A Elman, Professor of East Asian Studies and History, Princeton who gave a paper entitled: ‘Why was the scientist in Chinese Universities call ‘Mr Science’ based on Japanese universities?’ A theme running through all the contributions was that of national identity. This postings title comes from John Peter who explained the centrality of the University of Oslo to Norway. Many universities provide training for the elite administrators of the state or church but also embody national and often regional pride. It was only when the talks had concluded and we were filing out, some of us with rather numb due to the unforgiving wooden seats, that I snapped the ceiling. (more…)

Conference, Oslo

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Oslo has just over half a million inhabitants and is located at the head of a 70-mile long fjord. It is surrounded by forested ridges and I’m told that it is straightforward to go skiing, kayaking or ice skating within the city.

It certainly appears cheerier than a glance at the work of local artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) might lead one to suppose. He painted other images beside the famous one shown here. For instance he provided a mural for a local chocolate factory.

I’ve come here to spend a weekend listening to papers and contributing to discussions in a forum entitled, ‘Rethinking Modern University History’. I hope to situate thedevelopment of The Open University within the wider context of the development of other universities and hear, among other contributions, a paper about ‘The Myth of Academic Dissertations’, another intriguingly entitled: ‘An Inside Job? The Problem of Reflexivity in University History and Higher Education Studies’ and a third called ‘Undoing the European University: The Bologna Process’.

Registration now open!

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The History of The Open University Project is very pleased to announce that registration for the following event is now open.

What have we learnt?

Transmitting knowledge, facilitating learning c1960-2010

29 November 2011, 10:30-15:30

Library Seminar Rooms 1 and 2, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

Higher education has played a significant role shaping our culture and our social, religious, ideological and political institutions. Since the Second World War, in common with other western societies, the UK developed mass higher education from an elite format. New universities opened and existing institutions became polytechnics and later universities. In 1969 the Open University provided a new form of higher education institution. The existing universities developed new student bases and students engaged with a variety of communities

This one-day forum, organised by the History of The Open University project, brings together a range of experts to discuss elements of the history of higher education over 50 years.

The morning session will ask how have students been taught, looking at the move from traditional lectures and tutorials to the use of new technologies, a variety of pedagogies and the development of student-centred learning.

The afternoon session will reflect on 50 years of the student experience, placing learners’ perspectives at the centre.

 Speakers include:

  • Prof John Beckett, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Georgina Brewis, Institute of Education
  • Prof Judith George, The Open University
  • Prof Fred Gray, Sussex University
  • Dr Janet MacDonald, Higher education consultant
  • Prof Andy Northedge, Higher education consultant
  • Prof Harold Silver, Author of Tradition and Higher Education
  • Prof Malcolm Tight, Lancaster University
  • Dr Dan Weinbren, The Open University

There will be a short meeting at the end of the day for current researchers to discuss future workshops in the context of preparing a funding bid.

The workshop is open to all, but those who wish to attend are asked to register in advance as space is limited.

More information, including a provisional agenda and abstracts from the speakers are now available here.

To register please email

Hats off to Drake

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

On 10th October, 2011 Michael Drake, the OU’s first Dean of Social Sciences, gave a talk in the Milton Keynes Village Hall to the Two Villages Archive Trust about on ‘The OU and me’. He employed the metaphor of industrialisation to describe the impact of the OU. This echoed a phrase that he had employed in 1972 when Michael Drake argued that the Open University was ‘the industrial revolution of higher education’ (M Drake, ‘The Open University concept’, Studies. An Irish Quarterly Review, Summer 1972, LXI no 242, p. 158).  (more…)

History of Education seminars in London

Monday, September 19th, 2011

New History of Education seminar series announced. Readers might also be interested in the seminars series ‘Education in the Long 18th Century’. In the ‘British History 1815-1945’ seminar series, there are forthcoming papers on the BBC (On an Equal Footing with Men? Women and work at the BBC, 1923-1939) on 1st December and on schooling (‘Sometimes it was necessary, for the sake of the class, to exclude a hopeless case. London’s elementary schools and the origins of classification 1870-1904’) on 20th October.

Digital Humanities

Friday, July 8th, 2011

After PVC Alan Bassindale opened this colloquium on 8th July and John Wolffe welcomed everybody there was a keynote contribution from John Corrigan of Florida State University. He spoke on ‘Digital technologies and the spatial humanities’. See here. There were many presentations from staff from all over the University, and beyond, at the Digital Humanities colloquium and many distinctive and fascinating speakers. This colloquium is part of a wider debate about the impact of access todigital records and sources for thestudy of the Humanities. For example some academics at Kingston fear that archive data on commercial websites tend to be geared to family history rather than other research. (more…)

Flexible at forty

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The history of the OU was an important element  of a discussion on Monday, 13 June 2011 at the British Academy, London.

After a welcome from Robin Jackson, Chief Executive and Secretary of the British Academy there was an introduction from the chair of the panel, Sir Peter Scott, Professor of Higher Education Studies, Institute of Education University of London (Vice-Chancellor Kingston University till December 2010, earlier Editor Times Higher Education Supplement introduced. He spoke warmly of the innovative social democratic ethos of the OU and invited Professor Alan Tait, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Curriculum and Awards, Open University to address the question, ‘Flexible learning: the future higher education landscape?’ The PVC told his audience of approximately 70 people about the initial development of the OU in the face of criticism from civil servants, politicians of left and right and the BBC. He explained the ways in which it might be seen as flexible and some of its strategies for coping with the uncertainties which face the HE sector. Taking up the theme of the innovative nature of the OU a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education, Lewis Elton asked how it was that OU had been pioneered in the often conservative UK and not adopted or adapted for use elsewhere. Alan Tait explained that there were many universities which had adapted the blend of teaching communication through broadcasting and correspondence with some contact with personal tutors.

The next speaker was Carl Lygo, pictured, Chief Executive Officer, BPP Holdings, and Principal BPP University College of Professional Studies. (more…)