Archive for the ‘People’ Category

50 objects for 50 years. No 5. The logo

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Walter Perry, the University’s Vice-Chancellor is  said to have had the idea for the original logo in 1969 and Douglas Clark, Director of Design produced it. Something like 40 versions were produced with different proportions and different positions for the the roundel, the‘O’. Perry and Clark argued for the roundel not to be centred and won. The BBC objected, because it felt that as the logo would appear on the television the Corporation should make the decision.

Looking at the logo of the simple circle of a moon (O) in the dark sky of the U reminds me that the OU has taken over from night schools. These opportunities for part-time adult study had developed in the UK in association with industrialisation. The first opened in Salford in 1772 was aimed at for adult mechanics. Similar institutions followed as did sandwich courses at universities, university courses for non-enrolled students, and a London Society for the Extension of University teaching. Outside the HE system the WEA was founded 1903. Harold Wilson’s original idea was to connect existing extramural departments, the WEA, broadcasters, correspondence courses and night classes together to create a scheme for degrees to be awarded by an established university. He did not initially envisage an institution with a charter and autonomy but a consortium of existing universities using television and the post. When creating the OU Jennie Lee MP was keen to stay well away from that image of adult education.

We have a great tradition of adult education in this country but we have to be careful that it does not become a little dowdy and mouldy. The days when people would go out to the old-fashioned night schools and sit on hard benches are receding. They are now looking for a different kind of environment. There was a kind of passion for hair shirts from hon. Members opposite today, a passion I do not share.


Here
 Romy Wood shares her thoughts on how University branding could help or hinder learners. She suggests that there might be people for whom the word ‘university’ is off-putting. For some it ‘might bring to mind for older people late night BBC programmes where men in corduroy jackets pointed at blackboards’.

The RP37A VHF Herald Hacker radio was issued for use in Study Centres. The OU version was blue and had the logo in place of the local stations. It had a telescopic aerial and was an FM-only radio as in the early 1970s, OU television programmes were on BBC2 and radio programmes on Radio 3 VHF.

Perhaps the O is also a globe, for the OU logo is familiar around the world and the OU is a global brand. Most other distance learning universities have the name ‘Open’ in their title. The Catalan logo echoes that of the British one.

The unlocked lock of the Netherlands also pays homage to the original. It is echoed in the Australian version.

One can see the O resting in the U in India’s version.

 

Pakistan’s Allama Iqbal OU might be seen to include a moon, but it is crescent not a full moon. Nevertheless it retains the word Open.

An exception is the Open University of Japan (放送大学, Hōsō Daigaku. It was, until 2007, called (in English) The University of the Air. The focus of the name was on the medium, not the message. Perhaps that swoosh might be television signals.

The OU logo has been available in a variety of media. It became mobile on the television screen, with the O turning. The image became synonymous with learning. In the TV series Life on Mars (first broadcast 2006–07) the time-travelling central character’s understanding of his situation was significantly improved through a late night OU-style television programme which offered highly relevant knowledge. It has changed over time. Here is a striped version.

There was also a 21st century, rather more glassy, variant. It still retains that  ‘O’ and ‘U’ combined reminiscent of Barbara Hepworth (whose son taught at the OU) and also  resembling the coat of arms such as one might expect from a venerable educational institution. The OU does have a Coat of Arms and that may well feature in another week.

The current version is very similar to the original. Perhaps you have memories of the introduction of the updates? There was even a signature tune to accompany it. This was the first five bars of Leonard Salzedo’s 1959 composition, Divertimento. However, that piece of music, is an object (if that is best term) for another day. Information on the history of the logo can be found in ‘Armorial Bearings of The Open University’ by N. Woods (1992).

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…)