Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Revisiting an earlier interest in openness

Working at the open University for 17 years inevitably colours one's perceptions of what openness is about. Here it has always had a significant political dimension.

As one who's 'office' is located in the Jennie Lee building (Labour Minister for Education 1967-69), and who occasionally has a drink in the cellar bar in the company of photos of Harold Wilson (Labour Prime Minister 1966-70) and Nye Bevan (Labour architect of the national health service 1948) I can't help being reminded of the roots of the concept in the ideals of social egalitarianism and the socialist politics of the post-war period.

I reflected on some of this in a chapter I wrote in 2007 about equal access and widening participation, for a book edited by Joe Lockard and Mark Pegram called 'Brave New Classrooms - Democratic Education and the Internet' (Peter Lang).

I concluded in that chapter that the OU's original commitment to equal access to higher education for all had transmuted over the years into a mission to provide access to higher education for all who were equipped and prepared to participate in the larger national economic interest.

I wonder where our current concept of (technologically defined) openness fits into this ideological spectrum? The sight of Martin Bean and David Cameron both extolling open education in India the other week, the one because it will benefit the have-nots, the other because it will be good business for the haves, made me wonder if it can really be such a win-win proposition?

(Robin Goodfellow)


  1. Interesting post - and chapter. I think your point (via Harris, 1987) that the initial constituency for higher education by distance learning consisted of 'the disenfranchised, rather than the marginalized' (p. 13) could equally well apply to others among the various forms of 'openness' that are currently being touted as intrinsically good: not only open access education, but also open content publication and open source software. Unfortunately, the terms of the public (and, to a great extent, the academic) debate are currently framed in such a way as to exclude nuanced critique. One has to be for the openness of MOOCs or for the elitism of traditional higher education - drawing attention to the different elitism of MOOCs becomes very hard.

  2. One thing which I associate my student life most with is a library. the atmosphere is fantastic, interior is gorgeous. moreove, it is a masterpiece from the point of view of architecture:
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