Asa Briggs

To mark the publication of the late Lord Briggs’ book of poetry in 2016, this featured item focuses on the video of Lord Briggs becoming Chancellor of The Open University in 1979.

Feature: Open Forum 44: 10th anniversary congregation
Duration: 00:25:12
Date: 1979

To mark the publication of Lord Briggs’ book of poetry in 2016, this featured item focuses on the video of Lord Briggs being installed as Chancellor of the OU in 1979.

In this edition of the magazine programme Open Forum, Professor Walter James gave a citation for Lord Briggs who was also presented with an honorary degree at the ceremony.

Asa Briggs was born in Yorkshire in 1921 and graduated from Cambridge University at the age of 20. During the War he served in the Intelligence Corps at Bletchley Park.

In the 1950s and 60s he became a Professor of History, at Leeds and then Sussex University. Over the same period he also wrote many books, including a notable trilogy on life in Victorian Britain. Beginning in 1961 he published a five-volume history detailing the development of broadcasting in Britain (dealing in particular with the history of the BBC up to 1974) which has become a definitive work.

In 1967 the government set up The Open University Planning Committee, consisting of 17 eminent educational directors, media experts and university administrators, including Asa Briggs. Their report, published in January 1969, formed the foundation stone upon which The Open University was subsequently built, and Professor Briggs was part of several key decisions – including the academic and staffing structure which the University adopted and the budget and Charter it would operate under.

While a Professor at Sussex he had also served as a Dean, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, and in 1976 was made a life peer, becoming Baron Briggs of Lewes.

In 1978 he became the third Chancellor of the Open University – completing a full sixteen years in the role until 1994.