Opening Up The Open University

Opening Up The Open University

A workshop organised by the History of The Open University Project

3 November 2010, 11:00-17:00

Seminar Rooms 1 and 2, Library, Walton Hall campus

Posts reporting each of the sessions of this workshop are available at Open to People and Places, Open to Methods, and Open to Ideas. For copies of the individual papers or presentations please email

For programme see here and for abstracts see here.

The Open University was created at a time of public sector expansion. Under a 1960s Labour government, there was a widely held view that people from all backgrounds should have access to higher education. The University has had its critics. Politicians on the right have accused it of Marxist bias and being ‘blithering nonsense’. Critics on the left have argued that its efforts to widen participation have been insufficient. It has been presented as both cost-effective and expensive.

Over two million students have studied with the OU. Students have commented on how their lives have been transformed for the good. Course materials and methods are perceived to have had an impact nationally and globally.

As British society moves into a period when substantial cuts in higher education expenditure have been promised and when more universities are turning to online communication, there is a need for fresh assessments of the impact and roles of The Open University itself.

The project hosted a workshop to develop these ideas and reflect on the history of The Open University and its impact.

Proposals were invited for individual papers from within and outside the University. These were presented in three plenary sessions – Open to people and places; Open to methods; and Open to ideas – reflecting the University’s mission, as set out by Lord Crowther in 1969.

Subjects addressed included the development of technology and pedagogy, the success of the University in widening participation and the role of the BBC. There was also a contribution from the University’s Oral History Project.

If  you were unable to attend but are interested in the questions raised, please get in touch via email to