The Open University History

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The Open University History

The Open University History, History of The Open University. Established in 1969, The Open University (OU) has aimed from its inception to be open to people, places, methods and ideas but its story has never fully been told. … The project aims to draw on the collective experience of OU staff and students over 40 years.

The Open University was founded by the Labour government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson was a strong advocate, using the vision of Michael Young. Planning commenced in 1965 under Minister of State for Education Jennie Lee, who established a model for the OU as one of widening access to the highest standards of scholarship in higher education, and set up a planning committee consisting of university vice-chancellors, educationalists and television broadcasters, chaired by Sir Peter Venables. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Assistant Director of Engineering at the time James Redmond, had obtained most of his qualifications at night school, and his natural enthusiasm for the project did much to overcome the technical difficulties of using television to broadcast teaching programmes.

Wilson envisioned The Open University as a major marker in the Labour Party’s commitment to modernising British society. He believed that it would help build a more competitive economy while also promoting greater equality of opportunity and social mobility. The planned utilisation of television and radio to broadcast its courses was also supposed to link The Open University to the technological revolution underway, which Wilson saw as a major ally of his modernization schemes. However, from the start Lee encountered widespread scepticism and even opposition from within and without the Labour Party, including senior officials in the DES; her departmental head Anthony Crosland; the Treasury; Ministerial colleagues, such as Richard Crossman; and commercial broadcasters. The Open University was realized due to Lee’s unflagging determination and tenacity in 1965–67, the steadfast support from Wilson, and the fact that the anticipated costs, as reported to Lee and Wilson by Arnold Goodman, seemed very modest. By the time the actual, much higher costs became apparent, it was too late to scrap the fledgling open university