Archive for May, 2010

Has the OU got a history?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

For David Sewart, at first the OU was:

like Athena springing fully grown and fully armed from the head of Zeus [it] appeared to have no mother and never to have had the opportunity to have been an adolescent, let alone a child … I began to realise that the UK OU was part of a world wide phenomenon – and a late entrant at that, to the world of distance education.

Review, Open Learning, June 1995, pp. 62-63, (p. 62). 


Reciprocity lay at the heart of Young’s understanding of socialism.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

The tap-root of socialism was in working-class communities like the one in Bethnal Green… In the turnings of Bethnal Green the poor were helping the poor, looking after children of broken marriages and caring for the old, coming to the rescue of neighbours who fell on hard times having a whip round in the pubs, of which almost every street could boast one, in order to collect money for his widow whenever a man died.

Michael Young, ‘Education for the new work’ in Nigel Paine (ed.), Open Learning in transition. An agenda for action, National Extension College, Cambridge, 1988, p. 5.

Opening Up The Open University

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

The History of The Open University Project is hosting a workshop that, through the prism of The Open University’s development, aims to reflect on debates about learning and teaching, the rationales for and values of higher education and the impact of expanding higher education on British society as whole.

Opening Up The Open University will be held on Wednesday 3 November, 11:00, Seminar rooms 1 and 2, Library and Learning Resources Centre, Walton Hall. For more information see here.

Proposals are invited for individual papers addressing themes related to the University’s development from a wide range of fields including the political, economic, social, cultural and technological.

Possible subjects for papers include:

 – What has been taught; how have content and disciplinary boundaries altered and what influence have such changes had in the outside world?

 – How have pedagogic techniques and tools evolved within the University and outside it?

 – To what extent has the University succeeded in widening participation; and what impact have its efforts to widen participation had on British society and further afield?

 – How successful have course teams been as a method of constructing high quality distance teaching?

 – What have been the implications of collaboration with the BBC?

 – How has the University’s different status affected its development?

 – What has been the effect on the University’s development of being a four-nation university?

 – What can we learn from representations of the University be they fictional or derived from personal experiences?

 – How has the University’s international strategy changed over 40 years?

 – What influence have Tutors, Tutor-Counsellors and Associate Lecturers had on development?

Abstracts of 150-250 words should be emailed to by 9 July. Papers will be selected from those submitted.

We would like to create a network of people interested in these questions. If you would like to be part of that network please let us know. For more information email

Dealing with a new government

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Was former OU Tutor, and former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown more sympathetic to the OU?

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.

Mass-Observation Diary Day 12th May 2010

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Mass-Observation holding a diary day, see here. Diaries should be no more than 750 words and MUST be in electronic form – emails or email attachments.

This is an opportunity to share your OU day and make a contribution to history.