Explore Themes


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Aerial view of the Walton Hall campus in the first year of the university's existence.
Image : Walton Hall Campus
Date: 1969
Clip: OU Research in 1969
Duration: 00:01:37
Date: 2009

This exhibition has been designed to celebrate 50 years of research at The Open University – but that is a subject of such impressive scale that it is not easy to do justice without going into extensive detail.

With that in mind, it is intended as more of an overview – a general introduction to the history of research at the OU and some of the notable figures who have been involved. By no means all areas could be covered, but hopefully some of the links provided will act as gateways into further exploration.

There is a loose chronological order in each of the themes covered - but by the nature of their content some of the pages within them may also act as a jumping-off point and move back and forth within the wider 'narrative'.

We will start though at the very beginning. The first Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Walter Perry (later Lord Perry of Walton) was adamant that although the university he was setting up was not quite like any other, it was still a vital part of the institution’s remit that private study and widespread research should take place. He declared this philosophy outright in many of his earliest reports and publications on the formation of the OU – the image on this page shows the Walton Hall campus in 1969, when only the very first few staff had arrived.

As soon as this cohort of staff began to take up their posts, they were joined by research students from the very beginning. In most cases, these were following their existing supervisors from the university from which they had been recruited, and were able to continue their studies based at the OU.

Before the facilities on campus were fully constructed and completed, staff and researchers were given access to a number of other institutions by special arrangement. However, as one of the first OU professors Steven Rose describes in the audio clip on this page, the Science Preparation Laboratories were specifically built sooner, so that there was at least some capacity for active research from the very earliest days at Walton Hall.

Beginnings (page 1 of 2)