Archive for April 18th, 2011

History of European Universities. Challenges and transformations

Monday, April 18th, 2011

The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373, ratified at the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 is one of the oldest international alliances in the world. The OU is hoping to strengthen cordial relations between the UK (the UK took over the Anglo part of the alliance) and Portugal by building up links at a conference being held in Lisbon. Representing a third of the participants who have travelled from HEFCE institutions, (London, Oxford and Cambridge are also represented here) Chris Bissell and Dan Weinbren have ensured that blended, supported distance education has not been marginalised at this international conference about the history of universities. Their interests are echoed in other contributions. One, on ‘massification’ in the Portuguese HE sector since the 1974 revolution, is chronologically comparable to the period of the early years of the OU while another, on the role of the informal sector in the construction of the discipline of history in the Netherlands, might lead to comparisons with FACHRS (see earlier posting). In addition, Dan’s paper, which assesses the uses of the market metaphor, was prefigured in both the welcomer’s address and the first keynote, which was entitled ‘The transformation of the universities: from the church to the market’.

For those unfamiliar with Lisbon there are similarities with parts of the UK. For example, the steep hills, trams and fado (a cultural form which celebrates misery) might make it easier for visitors who are homesick for Sheffield. Even those seeking Yorkshire weather will not be disappointed. It poured with rain on 18th April.

Lisbon conference

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Intending to make an impact at least as momentous  as the earthquake which rocked the Portuguese capital in 1755, though aiming to be considerably less destructive, and dreaming of being received as raptuously as the Carnation Revolution, which started in Lisbon in 1974, Chris Bissell and Dan Weinbren, both from The Open University, will be making contributions to the History of European Universities. Challenges and transformations conference currently being held at the oldest university in Portugal, the University of Lisbon (founded 1288-90). Chris Bissell’s topic is ‘The Open University of the United Kingdom’ while Dan Weinbren is going to be talking on ‘Openness, universities and national identities’.  He will be arguing that while the market model is widely used as a metaphor for understanding universities, and that specifically the ideas of Clayton Christensen have been applied to contextualise the development of the OU, there are wider political structures which also need to be considered.  He will propose new parameters which can be employed to understand the impact of the OU.