Explore Themes

The Open University

(page 1 of 4)
Video: Harold Wilson
Duration: 00:00:46
Date: 1963
Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts and MP for Cannock, giving a progress report on the Arts at a press conference in London in March 1967.
Image : Jennie Lee
Date: 1967

The idea of using television as an education tool was not a new one in 1964, neither were the ideas of adult education or distance education. Michael Young had written a paper in 1962 advocating the creation of an 'Open University' which would prepare people for taking a degree.

On 8 September 1963 Harold Wilson presented his basic idea for a 'University of the Air' in a pre-election speech in Glasgow – the University, he said, would be a trust with representatives from different universities which would use television to produce educational material. You can watch a clip of Wilson's speech on this page. 

Having won the election, Harold Wilson gave his University of the Air project to Jennie. An article from the Times on 2 June 1965, titled “Miss Jennie Lee will fight for a University of the Air” revealed the general response to the idea, and the response to Jennie being given the project:

“The government have not dropped Mr. Wilson’s grandiose scheme for a University of the Air, which would link postal tuition with educational broadcasting to provide home study facilities up to university degree level. An announcement will probably be made in the early autumn.”

The article goes on to say “The project now has a driving force, Miss Jennie Lee, a junior Minister whose ability to push things through cannot be underestimated since her triumph earlier this year in wheedling an extra £665,000 for the arts from the treasury…”

The photograph on this page shows Jennie in her role as Arts Minister speaking at a press conference in London in March 1967.

The Open University (page 1 of 4)