Archive for March, 2013

Marxist bias?

Monday, March 25th, 2013

History, Marx argued repeats itself, ‘first as tragedy, then as farce’. At the OU there has been a rerun of the Marxist bias stories. In the 1980s it was Conservative Ministers who claimed to have found Marxists at the OU. Today it is Education Secretary Michael Gove. One hundred academics, including one associated with the OU,  signed an open letter to Gove.  The authors suggested that Mr Gove’s ideas could ‘severely erode educational standards’.  The Minister responded by categorising them as Marxists. He also suggested that those who stress the importance of communities of practice, a concept which is popular within the OU, were Marxist. He suggested a new way of categorising academics, explaining, ‘There is good academia and bad academia’.  

Mr Gove went on to propose that there is a wider left-wing conspiracy. Although the OU has not been mentioned specifically it seems that there is a group of people who ‘in and around our universities who praised each other’s research, sat on committees that drafted politically correct curricula, drew gifted young teachers away from their vocation and instead directed them towards ideologically driven theory … [The Group] operate by stealth, using its influence to control the quangos and committees which shaped policy.’ David Cameron has proposed that state education and its teachers are a “left-wing establishment’. It is not clear that such categorisations support the improvement of understandings and knowledge.

Godfrey Norman Agmondisham Vesey 1923-2013.

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

On 3 April the funeral of Godfrey Vesey will take place in Bedford. The son of an Anglican cleric, he graduated from St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in 1950 and worked in London and the USA before he became the founding Professor of Philosophy at the OU in 1969. He remained at the OU until his retirement in 1985. He then became an emeritus professor. He was a PVC 1975-1976, the Deputy Chair of Senate, 1976-77 and in 1980 was briefly Acting Vice Chancellor of the OU. He wrote many books and articles, including two pieces on teaching philosophy at the OU. Some of his Open University broadcast transcripts were collected in Philosophy in the Open (1974). He was an assistant editor of Philosophy from 1964 to 1969 and Honorary Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy from 1965 until 1979. He was then given the exceptional distinction of a fellowship of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in recognition of his outstanding services.

Putting the OU into British Council

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

The news that the British Council is the latest partner to join Futurelearn, the first free, open, online platform for courses from multiple UK universities, founded by The Open University brings to mind earlier partnerships with the British Council. In the 1970s the British Council was among those bodies which paid for consultancies, training courses, fellowships, books, materials and equipment. It enabled OU staff to assist with the planning and development of academic programmes and the administrative and regional structures and procedures of the People’s Open University in Pakistan (now the Allama lqbal Open University). There was training of the university’s academic, administrative and regional personnel at the OU. Three senior staff, including Pro-Vice-Chancellor Ralph Smith, were seconded to Pakistan. Joe Clinch, (later University Secretary) spent 10 months in Pakistan. The OU collaborated with the British Council in response to other requests for advice and assistance.