In the last week there has been extensive media coverage of the large numbers of potential students who are unable to obtain a university place following the publication of A’ level results. Prominent amongst that coverage has been David Willets statement that school leavers should consider The Open University (alongside FE colleges and apprenticeships) as an alternative. Meanwhile spokespeople for the OU have also been popping up advocating this course of action. This is likely to contribute to the trend towards younger people signing up for the OU. (more…)
With a new government in place, promising cuts in public spending, there may be some sense of deja vu at the OU.
Forty years ago, with the University created by a Labour government but no students yet studying, the election of Ted Heath’s Tory government posed a real threat to the newly formed institution. William van Straubenzee, appointed as junior minister for higher education, reported ‘I would have slit its throat if I could.’ He blamed the outgoing Labour education minister Ted Short for some ‘nifty, last-moment work with the charter that made the OU unkillable’. Student numbers were cut but the University survived.
Nine years later, another Conservative government, this time led by Margaret Thatcher, caused more problems for the OU. In 1980 the University had to cut expenditure by £3.5 million, nine per cent of its 1979 expenditure and the government effectively imposed a 46 per cent increase in the undergraduate tuition fee. Again the University survived, as no doubt it will again, whatever the new government chooses to throw at it.