University of the Air speech: 50th anniversary

On 8th September Harold Wilson then the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition, gave a speech to launch the Labour Party’s  pre-election campaign in Scotland. A packed rally of supporters heard his idea for ‘a new educational trust … a University of the Air … to cater for a wide variety of potential students [including] technologists who perhaps left school at sixteen’. There was a report in The Times, about this scheme for a University of the air’. The Guardian provided a report on page 1, the text of the speech on page 2 and an approving editorial headed ‘Higher education outside the Walls’ which said the plan was ‘good and welcome’.

After the ’64 election Labour gained power & Wilson (by then PM) gave the job establishing the OU to Jennie Lee. She set up and chaired the Advisory Committee and gave it a specific remit: ‘To consider the educational functions and content of a University of the Air as outlined in a speech made by Mr Harold Wilson in Glasgow on 8th September 1963’.
Part of his speech is below:
Today I want to outline new proposals on which we are working, a dynamic programme providing facilities for home study to university and higher technical standards, on the basis of a University of the Air and of nationally organised correspondence college courses. These will be intended to cater for a wide variety of potential students. There are technicians and technologists who perhaps left school at sixteen or seventeen and who, after two or three years in industry, feel that they could qualify as graduate scientists or technologists. There are many others, perhaps in clerical occupations, who would like to acquire new skills and new qualifications. There are many in all levels of industry who would desire to become qualified in their own or other fields, including those who had no facilities for taking GEC at 0 or A level, or other required qualifications; or housewives who might like to secure qualifications in English Literature, Geography or History. What we envisage is the creation of a new educational trust, representative of the universities and other educational organisations, associations of teachers, the broadcasting authorities.

To mark the occasion of the half century there is to be some art commissioned. See

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