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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Happy anniversary, Open University!

Man, this is off topic for me. But I wanted to post this, and where better than my blog?

The OU, for those of you who haven't encountered it before, is a British long distance and research university which was first set up in 1969. They were initially controversial for their open admissions policy (no academic qualifications were necessary for enrollment), but are widely lauded for their commitment to fostering an enthusiasm for learning and opening up education. Today is the 40th anniversary of their first BBC broadcast, and since then they have grown to the largest academic institution in the UK, with over 250,000 British students and over 50,000 international students.

With a motto of 'learn and live' I am incredibly enthusiastic about the Open University's founding beliefs - where traditionally university and learning has been the preserve of the few, the Open University made education available to people who would never have dreamed of getting a degree or qualifications, and encouraged making learning an integral part of life. Their BBC broadcasts opened up the public to the arts, sciences (the social ones too), maths and many other topics, and they continue to be involved in producing programmes with the broadcaster.

I have a personal connection with the OU, as my dad got his degree there in his forties. After leaving school at fourteen to become a bricklayer, he didn't feel like he was able to get a degree with his background. The Open University gave him a place to do this and realize the importance and joy of learning - something which, in turn, he fostered in me.

I'm incredibly proud of what my dad managed to do, against all odds, and I'm incredibly thankful for institutions like the OU that make it possible. We're often dismissive of long distance courses and other non-conventional forms of learning; what we need to remember, both in the gothic subculture (which promotes free thinking and the pursuit of knowledge) and in wider society, is that opening up education and learning for it's own sake is a beautiful thing, and should not be shut down.


P.S. I should say that it's also the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the Women's Tennis Organization, a group lead by the tennis player Billie Jean King who campaigned for the discrepancies in pay between women's and men's tennis prize money at Wimbledon to end - which has only recently been abolished in 2007. I'd definitely recommend looking up more information about King and her 'Battle of the Sexes' with Wimbledon and US Men's champion Bobby Riggs. It's fascinating stuff!

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