10 Jan: Opening Up University

The Open University began welcoming students on 10th January 1971 – but they did not meet up for Fresher’s Week, due to this innovative institution (brainchild of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson) having been created to offer mature students the opportunity for tertiary education without stepping foot on campus.

Instead, students would study for their courses via a radical combination of correspondence materials sent out in the mail (once the postal strike had subsided…), and early-morning lectures on BBC TV and radio (which they had to watch live, because nobody had a VCR).

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the establishment hostility to the concept, even within Wilson’s administration; reveal how the organisation has been affected by the rise in tutorial fees; and take solace in the week of debauchery that was on offer for those dedicated enough to journey to Milton Keynes…

Further Reading:

• ‘The formation of the Open University’ (The Observer, 2019): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/sep/15/from-the-archive-the-foundation-of-the-open-university-1970

• ‘The Open University programmes begin’ (History of the BBC): https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/january/open-university

‘The Periodic Table’ (BBC / Open University, 1971):