Asa Briggs

On Thursday 19 May 2011 at the Institute of Historical Research in London there will be a celebration, co-hosted with the British Association for Victorian Studies, to mark the 90th birthday of the distinguished historian, Asa Briggs. At this one-day colloquium, his contributions to Victorian studies and to the history of communication will be assessed. His role in the growth of modern universities will also be considered. Postscript: podcasts of the event can be found here.

Click here for a short clip of Lord Asa Briggs recorded as part of the 2009 Oral History Project

Asa Briggs has a long-standing involvement with many of the ideas associated with the OU. It awards degrees through distance education and he was awarded a degree in Economics from the University of London External Programme in 1941, the same year that he graduated from Cambridge in History. The OU’s original address was Bletchley (the new town of Milton Keynes was under the process of construction) and during the war he served at Bletchley Park. The OU supports part-time adults learners and Asa Briggs is a former President of the WEA. It has used television and radio and he has always sought to use technologies to support learning. His direct influence on the OU was that he served on the university’s Planning Committee (established in 1967, four years before the first students were enrolled) and he was Chancellor of the Open University (1978 to 1994).  He has shown an interest in the OU through his five-volume history of broadcasting in the UK, 1922 to 1974. This assessed the role of the BBC in the dissemination of ideas and its relationship with the OU. He also wrote a biography of Michael Young in which he concluded that his subject played ‘a unique role’ in the conception of the OU and indeed ‘created’ it (Asa Briggs, Michael Young: Social Entrepreneur, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, pp x, 3). While Chancellor he provided material for the Arts Foundation course.

The particpants include Professor David Vincent from the OU and Robert Seatter (from the BBC) who has called the OU ‘a revolution (and not just intellectually)’. You can register to attend here. There are links to the other confirmed participants below:

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