Archive for the ‘People’ 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.

Graduation day tales

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The OU's first degree ceremony, Alexandra Palace, 1973

Numerous graduates have recognised the positive impact of university on their lives. However, for many OU students their studies dramatically changed their trajectory and, for some, their pride in their achievement came after a fall.

While full-time young students are often bolstered through their studies, OU students often acknowledge the collective support and commitment from family, tutors, colleagues and friends. Students did not need to arrive at the OU assuming that a university education was a birthright determined by their class position, educational qualifications or age. Perhaps we can hear in the whoops and cheers that echo around any OU graduation ceremony the collective transformations that the OU has helped to shape. and the recognition that this is an award not only for individuals but also for their networks and supporters.

Interviewed at her graduation ceremony, Alex Wood, indicated that for her graduation was not the marking of an, apparently seamless, individual intellectual journey from school to degree. During the six years she took to complete her OU degree , she went through two bereavements, a break up, a new relationship, a house move, relocation, promotion (she was a police officer) and the birth of two children.  She attended her graduation while nine months’ pregnant with her third child.  

If you have a Graduation Day tale, please share it with us.

Lucky call

Saturday, September 1st, 2012
Since it opened the OU has supported female learners. Many critics were the dismissive accusations about it being the university for bored housewives as if it was a self-evidently bad idea that women should have the opportunity to learn at home.
Now the OU is working to further support women. (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.


178 years since denial of monarch’s declaration of an open university

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Edward I

Edward I (1239 –1307) is alleged to have gone to Cambridge and declared it to be ‘an open university – open to all’, thus making him one of the earliest users of the term Open University. However, Henry Goulburn, the MP for Cambridge who spoke in the Commons on  28 July 1834,  (this from a report of the Commons Debate in The Times 29.7.1834) argued this was unlikely as on Edward’s death the only known college in Cambridge was Peterhouse. Still, an alleged use of the term in about 1300 makes this the earliest reference. Unless, of course you know of earlier uses of the term.

Image credit: This image is in the public domain.

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…)

Re: Joyce

Thursday, July 5th, 2012


‘The broadening of my horizons and my appreciation of life has made joining the OU one of the best decisions I have ever made’.

In 1975 Brian Joyce, a self-employed salesman, started to study at the OU as he sought ‘the pleasure of learning new things’.  After many years studying with a focus on earth sciences and evolution, he gained a degree.  You can read his story, one of well over 100 which students and staff have uploaded, here:

Photo credit:  Jurassic Coast, made available by Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieila under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License © Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieila

Markets, Expertise and the Public University: A crisis in knowledge for democracy?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Regular readers will know that we often stress that one of the roots of the OU lies in the social democracy post-war welfare settlement as exemplified by the input of Wilson, Lee, Young, Perry and others. In addition it has been suggested that the OU also led the way towards some of the changes associated with the development of the quasi-market within the higher education sector. Now the relationship between democracy, the market and the universities is to be considered in a keynote address to be made at the OU. (more…)

Asa Briggs and the OU

Friday, May 18th, 2012

In a few days Asa Briggs will launch his book which includes material on his relationship with the OU. This is a good moment to reflect on three contributions that he has made to the OU. (more…)

Roy Shaw, 1918-2012: mature student who helped found the OU.

Friday, May 18th, 2012

The death of one of the members of the Planning Committee of the OU, Roy Shaw, at the time the Director of Adult Education, at Keele occurred on 15th May. Born in 1918 Sir Roy came from a poor background. He gained a place at Firth Park Grammar School, Sheffield, but aged 18, a major operation for Crohn’s disease almost killed him and he could not complete his Higher School Certificate. He left school and worked in a library. He obtained a scholarship attended university and, after he graduated in 1946, became tutor-organiser for the Workers’ Educational Association. He then became a lecturer in the department of extramural studies Leeds University, the director of the Leeds University Adult Education Centre in Bradford, and from 1962, Keele University’s professor and director of adult education. He was an active member of the BBC’s board of governors and the British Film Institute, and, after his work helping to create the OU, he became an unpaid adviser to Jennie Lee (The Minister for Arts). When the Tories won power in 1970 he was retained by the Conservative Arts Minister, Lord Eccles. He became an unpaid member of the Arts Council in 1972 and was its secretary general, 1975 to 1983.