Open to people, places, methods and ideas? Developing the pedagogy of the Open University

D Weinbren, Keynote at the Technological University, Dublin, January 2022


Available to students from January 1971, the UK-based Open University (OU), by being open to part-time adult learners regardless of their prior qualifications or disabilities, challenged the pre-Second World War status quo. This was when a very small minority of the population in Western societies, often men from the social elite, attended universities. The OU modelled how a central state could seek to direct technological, educational, cultural and economic developments and, through the use of short-term, teaching–only contracts and student fees, normalise a quasi-market within the university sector. At the same time its social democratic ethos, embodied in its Royal Charter objective, ‘to promote the educational well-being of the community generally’, informed its development of learner-centred collaborative engagement. This enabled it to support learners in Britain, in Ireland, including in the H Blocks and in many other countries. Its pedagogies will be illuminated through an assessment of its precedents, personalities and politics.

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