Archive for the ‘Higher education’ Category

Community engagement

Thursday, September 13th, 2012


Photographer: Richard Learoyd Copyright (C) The Open University

A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently asked ‘How can universities support disadvantaged communities?’ It concluded that ‘Most universities thought community engagement was important’ and that ‘Some universities were much more active than others in supporting disadvantaged communities. Institutional commitment to this is a key factor’. The OU had such engagement written into its founding Charter which specifies the importance of the ‘educational well-being of the community’. Many OU students have long been involved in their local communities because they did not leave their homes in order to study. It seems as if the OU led theway towards such engagement by other universities.

New degree opportunities

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Pearson, which owns the Edexcel exam board, Penguin, the Financial Times and other educational publishing and digital education businesses and is an FTSE 100 company, is to become a for-profit private higher education provider by opening Pearson College. This will be based in London and Manchester and will teach a business and enterprise BSc degree course validated by Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. Tuition fees will be £6,500 per year and there will be an option of an accelerated two-year course. (more…)

Open to satire?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

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.


Former OU PVC goes online

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Coursera  calls itself a ‘social entrepreneurship company’ which aims to deliver online courses. Founded by two academics from Stanford University and funded to the tune of $22m by the computer industries, it claims to offer ‘education for everyone’ by providing courses from its partner universities. These include  the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, Rice University, UC San Francisco, University of Illinois and University of Washington and also Toronto in Canada and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Coursera does not offer degrees, but students can be awarded certificates. (more…)

More on the New College of Humanities

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Although the New College of Humanities’ plans to charge £18,000 per year fees were mentioned almost a year ago in the Daily Telegraph, (and reported on this blog) it appears that it was only recently that geneticist Steve Jones discovered this. This led the Aberystwyth-born snails enthusiast to distance himself from the unborn institution with which he had been associated. These fees, he said, mean that ‘it can now no longer really claim to be about public education’. He then went on, through a deft classical allusion, to compare the New College of Humanities to a toilet. While other universities plan to charge fees of around £9,000, the OU will charge even less.


A national, local university

Saturday, March 17th, 2012
Wherever I go I meet OU students, including ones who wish to discuss their TMAs, and I see signs pointing towards the OU. When I travelled to Huddersfield the other day, in order to act as discussant at a doctoral students’ study day there, I was delighted, on emerging from the railway station, to be greeted by a statue of Harold Wilson. The OU founder maintained an enthusiasm for the OU and I work in a building named after him which he opened.
I’m now off to act as discussant of other doctoral papers in London, at UCL which is a few mins walk from the OU’s metropolitan office. Perhaps the alleged popularity of Hi-ho silver lining at summer schools of yore is because the lyrics speak to the virtual and real OU ‘You’re everywhere and nowhere baby, / Thats where you’re at’. The song concludes with a reminder to return to focusing on the teaching materials of the period, no matter where you are located: ‘So open up your beach umbrella /While you are watching TV’.
If you have ever got sun tan lotion on your Reader or you have a favourite OU location (I once got locked into a study centre and had to use all my teaching skills to pursuade the most agile student to clamber out of the window to summon help) do let us know via the website.

Calls for papers

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This from Bournemouth:  

Thursday May 3rd 2012 ‘Addressing the Audience: European Historical Perspectives’,  The Centre for Broadcasting History, Bournemouth University  

Broadcasting History and Media History more generally have tended to focus on institutions and production rather than the audience. There are obviously methodological challenges in studying audiences of the past but there is nothing to stop a consideration of how audiences were imagined and spoken to, and that will be our main theme. This informal one day gathering brings together British and European scholars to exchange ideas and research. It also reflects the ‘European turn’ in media history which has been a feature of recent research projects and publications. We have invited media historians from the universities of Utrecht, Lund, Hamburg, Maastricht and Roskilde to share research and ideas.  We invite papers on the history of audience address (British or European) however that is interpreted. The following key note speakers are confirmed; Patrik Lundell, University of Lund & Kate Lacey, Susex University. Contributions are welcome from academics and researchers interested in the history of broadcasting (radio and television but other media historians are welcome to join us) as well as doctoral students, archivists and curators.  

ABSTRACTS: Please send abstracts of less than 250 words before 2nd April to<> (Kathryn McDonald)  

This from Edge Hill 

The Centre for Learner Identity Studies 4th Annual Conference, themed around ‘Identity, State, Education’ is to take place at Edge Hill University on July 11th-13th 2012. The call closes on the 28th February. See  

We are hoping that the conference will provide opportunities for a wide range of issues to be discussed, ranging from curriculum and pedagogy to policies and structures. We welcome contributions from researchers at all stages of their careers and the call is for paper, symposia and roundtable presentation abstracts. The conference aims to explore the changing role of the state in the provision of mass education from national and international perspectives and to consider the impacts on structures of educational provision, delivery and governance of a range of pressures, including, for example, marketization, neo-liberalism and globalisation.  

This from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa: 

Since its inception in 1998, the Higher Education Close Up (HECU) Conference has distinguished itself among conferences with a focus on higher education for its interest in research methodology, in particular qualitative approaches which afford fine-grained analysis of higher education practices. Over the five conferences themes have included: assessment, academic literacies, professional development, management and change, quality assurance and the student experience. Consistent with this focus, HECU 6 is an opportunity to reflect upon higher education research from a theoretical and methodological perspective.  

Higher Education Close Up 6 Conference, 11 – 13 July 2012. The theme of the HECU6 conference is ‘Challenging Dualisms in Higher Education Research and Practice’.  Research and practice in higher education abounds with dualisms, in the HECU 4 conference, for example, Paul Ashwin identified problems associated with the dualism of structure and agency, other such dualisms include quantitative/qualitative, essentialist/non-essentialist, macro/micro, academic/vocational.  At this conference four dualisms are considered in the Thinkpieces of the keynote speakers: 



Essentialism/Social Constructionism 


Conference participants are invited to submit abstract that speak to these dualisms in the Thinkpieces. 

This from Saint Andrews:  

Function, form and funding: What are universities for – and who should pay for them?.  An international conference hosted by the University of St Andrews, UK 29 – 31 August 2012  

To mark the 600th anniversary of the foundation of St Andrews University, the School of History and the Institute of Scottish Historical Research are joining with the International Commission for the History of Universities to host an international conference on the theme of ‘Function, form and funding: What are universities for – and who should pay for them?’  

The conference theme is intended to allow for an exploration of both the historic and contemporary function of university education and the extent to which its academic purposes have been, and still are, driven by broader economic, social and political issues.   


What have we learnt? the Tight report

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

The Times Higher 22/29 December 2011 reported on the recent ‘What have we learnt?’ conference, organised by the History of the Open University Project. It noted Malcolm Tight’s views about the lack of change in the social background of many students in the period since 1945. There are more female students and a larger percentage of mature students and students from ethnic minorities. However, the percentage of those from lower socio-economic backgrouynds had not shifted very much.

What have we learnt?: Scholarship of engagement

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

One of the outcomes of the What Have We Learnt? Event is that we have decided to build stronger links between researchers interested in how universities create and maintain communities. This interest connects to the interests of others at the OU and across the UK.

Paul Manners is the director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. The Centre was set up in 2008 in recognition of a looming crisis in public trust and understanding of higher education. The THES of 24th November 2011 quotes Paul as saying that it is


Happy birthday, University of Sussex

Friday, November 4th, 2011
Fred Gray (a speaker on the 29th November forum) has edited a new book, ‘Making the future. A history of the University of Sussex’. This beautifully-illustrated account of the first fifty years of the university (1961-2011) consists of chapters by almost 70 different authors. Here are the voices, and the varied and well-presented images, of former and current staff and students. Their narratives are framed by Fred Gray’s introductions his overview and his account of continuing education (the field in which he became a professor).  

The theme of the liberalism of the sixties and seventies runs through the book as does the engagement with the distinctive and original curriculum. There are some parallels to be made with the OU, the influence of Asa Briggs on both places being one of them and the ‘early leavers’ scheme is another. One might also compare it to the University of Twente (founded 1961 as the first campus university in the Netherlands it insisted that engineers study social sciences) and it also influenced Kent, Lancaster, UEA, Stirling, Essex, York and Warwick.  (more…)