Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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: and you can find more information on our release page about the film:

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…)

Norman McKenzie, 18 August 1921-18 June 2013

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

The life and work of one of The Open University’s pioneers Norman McKenzie, who has died at the age of 91, are considered in these obituaries. One of the foremost planners of the OU, Mr McKenzie described the year he and the first Vice-Chancellor Walter Perry spent looking for a name and site for the new educational venture in the late 1960s as reminding him of 1940 when “anything could be achieved with ideas and flair”. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the OU in 1977. There are obituaries in the Guardian and in the Telegraph.

Death of former Professors in History of Science

Monday, May 20th, 2013

News has reached us that Colin Archibald Russell (7 September 1928 – 17 May 2013) the Emeritus Professor in History of Science, the Open University has died. His BSC was awarded by the University of London and he went on to teach chemistry at Kingston and Preston while also studying for a M SC and PhD and later a DSc. In 1970 he became the founding Professor of the department of the history of science and technology at The Open University. (more…)

Jennie, Betty and the changing of the world

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

On Sunday 28th April 2013 the Independent on Sunday listed ‘the 100 British women who, arguably, have done most to shape the world we live in today’. They included two women associated with the OU, Betty Boothroyd, the former OU Chancellor and Jennie Lee about whom it was written ‘her legacy as a minister in Harold Wilson’s government included the setting up of the Open University’.

Godfrey Norman Agmondisham Vesey 1923-2013.

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

On 3 April the funeral of Godfrey Vesey will take place in Bedford. The son of an Anglican cleric, he graduated from St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1950 and worked in London and the USA before he became the founding Professor of Philosophy at the OU in 1969. He remained at the OU until his retirement in 1985. He then became an emeritus professor. He was a PVC 1975-1976, the Deputy Chair of Senate, 1976-77 and in 1980 was briefly Acting Vice Chancellor of the OU. He wrote many books and articles, including two pieces on teaching philosophy at the OU. Some of his Open University broadcast transcripts were collected in Philosophy in the Open (1974). He was an assistant editor of Philosophy from 1964 to 1969 and Honorary Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy from 1965 until 1979. He was then given the exceptional distinction of a fellowship of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in recognition of his outstanding services.

University of the Chair

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

To mark the Diamond Jubilee Her Majesty the Queen has bestowed upon the Open University a Regius Professorship in Open Education.  See here: It is one of  twelve prestigious new posts. These accolades have been awarded since 1540. Previously the professorships were concentrated in seven universities, those of Aberdeen, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, St Andrews and Trinity College Dublin. The University of Glasgow has 13, Oxford 8 and Cambridge has 7. Two such Regius chairs were created to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and before that Queen Victoria created one.  There are only 44 Regius professorships in the UK and Ireland. 

In this case universities applied for the Jubilee professorships before a panel of academics led by Graeme Davies, chairman of the Higher Education Policy Institute. The panel will advise ministers who then made recommendations to the Queen.

The first Regius  Professor  in Open Education at the OU will be Professor Eileen Scanlon, who has worked for the OU for over 37 years. Providing a chair which recognises the importance of educational tchnology is a particularly fitting way of marking the 50th anniversary of the announcement of a ‘University of the Air’.

Running the OU

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Towards the end of 1973, immediately following the completion of his degree at Cambridge –where he was awarded a Blue for Cross Country, Les Irvine started work within the OU Student Computing Service at Walton Hall.  A keen runner he had competed for Scotland as a Junior in the ‘International’, the predecessor of the World Cross Country Championships, and he started to arrange runs from the Walton Hall campus.  He also ran between his workplace and his home 6.5 miles away in Wolverton. He only came to work on the bus on Mondays, when he brought in clean clothes and on he returned home by bus with the dirty ones each Friday. A couple of years later in 1975 Mick Bromilow joined the OU as a Course Assistant  in Mathematics. Initially he lodged with Les. He started to run to and from work with Les. They also did a 10 mile run on Monday lunchtimes. By 1976 Mick had moved to his own home and no longer ran to work from Wolverton. However, he kept running and later went on to chair the Marshall Milton Keynes Athletics Club. In 1977 Les emigrated to Australia. By the 1980s Les found that, following surgery for a congenital heart problem, he was unable to run. He died of a heart attack in the early 1990s. Inspired by his example and his pioneering of new routes around the Walton Hall campus, a group of his friends donated to found the Les Irvine Memorial Trophy for the OU Relay. This annual race is still run, generally in March , to this day.

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…)

Ian Gass, 1926-1992

Monday, October 8th, 2012

A decade after his death we republish an obituary of Ian Gass. It is by Arthur Butcher who was responsible for the OU’s science in Scotland between 1971 and 1992. (more…)