Archive for the ‘People’ Category

The OU in fifty objects: further commentary

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

 

More suggestions as to objects which tell a story about learning and life at the Open University have arrived. They include mug mats, the gowns rented out to those who students who attend graduation ceremonies. These have been available since the first award ceremony. There was also a vote for the diaries issued to staff. Thanks to Ian, Heather and Caroline for those ideas. It has been proposed by Jerard, Caroline and Linda that we celebrate the box marked “Urgent Educational Material’ the home experiment kits and the slippers. When staff first started work on the Milton Keynes site while building work was in progress. One of those first on the site was Joan Christodoulou, who recalled the ‘a sea of mud’ and that ‘everyone was allocated slippers’ Christopher Harvie recalled that:

the campus was so covered in mud that people had to trample around in welly boots. People were issued with slippers when they went into the teaching rooms. Walter Perry greeted us like Trevor Howard in a Second World War movie. He said, ‘Some of you chaps might be wondering why you have been brought here.’

When older staff and former staff were interviewed almost a decade ago the story of the slippers was one of the most frequently told tales. See Hilary Young, ‘Whose story counts? Constructing an oral history of the Open University at 40’, Oral History, 39:2 (Autumn 2011), p.102.  This story was discussed in relation to Greek myths, here and as a possible icon of the OU.

Although it was the television which made the OU famous it also entered peoples’ homes via the letter box. Students received a wide range of items in the post including microscopes, books and home experiment kits. The latter, known as HEKs at the OU, where almost everything is reduced to an acronym, formed part of the name of an early computer set out, (H)ome (E)lectronic (K)it compu(TOR) – HEKTOR. There is an item about Europe and HEKs here.

This eclectic mix reflects the memories of staff and students and the excitement of opening the unknown, be a crate at summer school or a parcel in the post. I’m looking forward to more ideas as to what the OU means to you.

Remembering Asa Briggs, 7 May 1921 – 15 March 2016

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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.

Midnight oil on filtered water – unusual connections

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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.

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

 

 

Death of Asa Briggs

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

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’.

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…)

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’.