Archive for June, 2011

Research and universities

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

During its early years there was some debate as to whether academic staff at the OU should engage in research. There was a victory for those who insisted that the tradition associated with Humboldt be maintained and that this was part of the job of central academic staff. The OU is now recognized for having produced some world-class research. The debate, about the value of a research-teaching synergy continues through the recent 79-page White Paper ’Higher Education: students at the heart of the system’. (more…)

OU courses through local colleges

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science today presented a White Paper ‘Higher Education: students at the heart of the system’. The BBC reports that the Open University will offer courses through local further education colleges. 

In his reading of the White Paper the OU’s Vice Chancellor Martion Bean noted the ‘numerous positive references’ to part-time study, distance learning and to The OU. He was also encouraged by the material on widening participation and noted that David Willetts said in the Commons that ‘we think that The Open University can be one of the main beneficiaries of the new flexibility with the 20,000 extra places.’ 

This idea of a network was mooted in the early 1960s when the OU was being planned. Jennie Lee, however, took the view that the OU should take the form that it did. She felt that it was only by being independent that it could hope to operate to the highest academic standards. Soon after it was opened the OU allowed modules to be presented at colleges in the USA.  The 2011 White Paper seems to suggest that institutions, (possibly including further education colleges & private providers) which charge tuition fees of less than £7,500 can bid for 20,000 student places. Perhaps OU modules are to be sold to colleges? Who would validate the modules, be responsible for assessment and quality is not clear and the implications of a shift towards providing teaching materials for full-time and quite possibly face-to-face and young students have yet to be announced. The White Paper mentions the OU twice, once pointing out that it does ‘consistently well’ in thesurveyof student satisfaction (p37) the other time to suggest that there could be more bodies with a structuere such as that of the OU (p52).  (more…)

Goodbye to the RAF Hut

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

RAF Hut at Walton HallOpen University staff at Walton Hall have been informed that this week the RAF Hut on campus is to be demolished to reduce costs and carbon emissions. The RAF Hut came from RAF Cardington as a temporary building in 1969. It was finally demolished 42 years later in July 2011. Recently it has been used mainly for storage but the hut’s structural condition had deteriorated and it is no longer fit for purpose.

Several huts were erected as temporary accommodation in 1969 and 1970, but because of a shortage of capital funding ended up being in still in use many years later.

Visit the History of the OU website for more information about the history of the campus at Walton Hall.

Educating Eliza

Monday, June 20th, 2011

In wishing a happy birthday to Eliza M Shardlow we acknowledge that the OU built on the work of other universities in accepting part-time and mature female students. The first of the 381 day students and 623 evening students who started their studies when, on 30th June 1881 Nottingham University College (now  The University of Nottingham) opened its doors, Eliza, then aged 24 would be 154 today, 20th June.

We’re still looking for alumni tales of starting studying with the OU. Do let us know your story.

Disrupting rag

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Many books and film portray students as wealthy, careless young men. For example, Bertie Wooster, a character who appears in the popular novels of P. G. Wodehouse, attended Magdalen College, Oxford. As the stories have appeared on the radio, and in films and been televised his antics on boat race night will be familiar to many.  However, such representations are only part of the story. This film, funded by Student Volunteering charity, ‘Student Hubs’ illustrates some of the ideas about students which were perpetuated in the popular media through a combination of archival footage and animated sequences. (more…)

Flexible at forty

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The history of the OU was an important element  of a discussion on Monday, 13 June 2011 at the British Academy, London.

After a welcome from Robin Jackson, Chief Executive and Secretary of the British Academy there was an introduction from the chair of the panel, Sir Peter Scott, Professor of Higher Education Studies, Institute of Education University of London (Vice-Chancellor Kingston University till December 2010, earlier Editor Times Higher Education Supplement introduced. He spoke warmly of the innovative social democratic ethos of the OU and invited Professor Alan Tait, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Curriculum and Awards, Open University to address the question, ‘Flexible learning: the future higher education landscape?’ The PVC told his audience of approximately 70 people about the initial development of the OU in the face of criticism from civil servants, politicians of left and right and the BBC. He explained the ways in which it might be seen as flexible and some of its strategies for coping with the uncertainties which face the HE sector. Taking up the theme of the innovative nature of the OU a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education, Lewis Elton asked how it was that OU had been pioneered in the often conservative UK and not adopted or adapted for use elsewhere. Alan Tait explained that there were many universities which had adapted the blend of teaching communication through broadcasting and correspondence with some contact with personal tutors.

The next speaker was Carl Lygo, pictured, Chief Executive Officer, BPP Holdings, and Principal BPP University College of Professional Studies. (more…)

New College of the Humanities

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

A new private university college is to be launched, specialising in the arts and humanities and charging tuition fees of £18,000 a year. The privately funded New College of the Humanities will be based in Bloomsbury, London and plans to admit its first undergraduates in October 2012, offering degrees validated by the University of London. The intention is that the staff will teach exactly the same syllabi as the University of London but the college will not be part of that University. 

The University of London issued a clarification about the links with NCH.

“To avoid any confusion, it should be made clear that NCH is not, and will not be, a part of the University of London.”

There is no agreement for NCH students to have access to the University of London’s Senate House library – other than the same access available to other external students and Birkbeck, University of London, stated that ‘Birkbeck has no links with New College and no agreement to provide New College with access to any of its facilities’. Although exactly who owns  teaching materials is not entirely clear the development has caused some concern among staff at the University of London about this use of materials developed within the state system.


Student Stories

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Graduates at an OU degree ceremonyAn e-newsletter to students and alumni featuring a link to the article about the history of the OU on Platform has generated a rush of submissions to the recently launched history of the OU website, ranging from tales of summer schools and degree ceremonies to the way OU study has changed the lives of three generations in one family.

The stories can be read in the section of the website about students.