Much of the reporting of the recent development of universities laments the passing of a golden age. Sometimes these accounts are a burnished and reconstructed version of the past which portray universities as victims. However, the OU has played a more active role. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category
Often the OU is seen in terms of systems. It also needs to be understood in terms of students. (more…)
History, Marx argued repeats itself, ‘first as tragedy, then as farce’. At the OU there has been a rerun of the Marxist bias stories. In the 1980s it was Conservative Ministers who claimed to have found Marxists at the OU. Today it is Education Secretary Michael Gove. One hundred academics, including one associated with the OU, signed an open letter to Gove. The authors suggested that Mr Gove’s ideas could ‘severely erode educational standards’. The Minister responded by categorising them as Marxists. He also suggested that those who stress the importance of communities of practice, a concept which is popular within the OU, were Marxist. He suggested a new way of categorising academics, explaining, ‘There is good academia and bad academia’.
Mr Gove went on to propose that there is a wider left-wing conspiracy. Although the OU has not been mentioned specifically it seems that there is a group of people who ‘in and around our universities who praised each other’s research, sat on committees that drafted politically correct curricula, drew gifted young teachers away from their vocation and instead directed them towards ideologically driven theory … [The Group] operate by stealth, using its influence to control the quangos and committees which shaped policy.’ David Cameron has proposed that state education and its teachers are a “left-wing establishment’. It is not clear that such categorisations support the improvement of understandings and knowledge.
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.
Many people have clear ideas about what they think that the OU has done, its history. These are reflected in their views about its future. For example, it is argued here that ‘the Open University is trying to poach full-time students from “traditional brick universities’. Competition for students was not invented by the OU and throughout its life the OU (open to people) has resisted treating students simply as objects to be poached or assumed that some adult learners automatically belong elsewhere. Doug Clow proposed another approach and others noted that the OU was cheaper than other universities in England but the ‘thought slash blog’ continued to present the increase in fees as ‘the end of the OU as we know it — but only for students that live in England’, here. Understanding the shift in funding towards individual learners and away from taxpayers as part of a longer and wider trend could help us gain a better sense of its implications. Presenting change in terms of a drama of epochal moments may be less useful.
When, early in 2012, Alan Tait, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Curriculum and Qualifications, received an honorary doctorate from the Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics, one of Russia’s leading economic institutions, in recognition of his services to distance education in Europe he gave a keynote address. This was about open and distance learning in Europe. This was to an audience of rectors from universities across the former Soviet states and also to students. A former President of the European Distance and Elearning Network and the Chief Editor of the European Journal of Open and Distance Learning, Alan noted that ‘there is currently significant effort in Russia to invest in distance education’. While MESI might be interested to learn from the OU, the OU has learnt from the USSR which provided a role model for the University of the Air.
The OU opened in 1969, which makes it almost a chronological twin of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The latter opened as the Negev Institute for Higher Education a few years earlier, had a few other antecedents, including roots in the Dimona nuclear research institute and became a university in 1969. Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson promised that the Open University would support the spread of technology and in Israel it was an interest in science and technology that helped to drive the project to develop BGU. (more…)
The Open University is largely funded by the state and yet it has supported the creation of voluntary organisations such as the FACHRS. Getting the balance right between the state and other sectors can be tricky. On the centenary of legislation which enabled voluntary bodies to administrate on behalf of the state Dan Weinbren reflects on these matters.
Although it is a child of the sixties the precedents for The Open University are numerous and international. Harold Wilson was influenced by the work on educational broadcasting carried out in Chicago. For a posting about the American School of the Air and The University of Chicago Round Table and Judith Waller, a radio programming manager and later the Educational/Public Service Director for NBC’s Central division in the 1920s see here. It seems that
Waller helped craft a number of educational programs, including a joint venture between the Chicago Public Schools that successfully connected city-wide special exhibits and the Chicago Daily News into an audio/visual/experiential learning experience.
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
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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.