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Televarsity: At Home with the Open University

posted on 2023-06-09, 15:32 authored by Ben HighmoreBen Highmore
In December 1961, The Economist ran a speculative feature about the future existence of “televarsities”—communities of learners serviced by an educational television channel dedicated to transporting lectures and science demonstrations “into people’s own fireside.” The article warned that “if an ETV (education television) network does get set up, its worst enemy might well be the conservatism of educationalists themselves. Many of them are likely to be outraged by the prospect of standardised mechanical or electronic teaching.” Two years later, Harold Wilson, the leader of the Labour party and soon to be Prime Minister, announced the intention to create a “university of the air” as part of Labour’s Plan for Science. In Wilson’s words this university was “designed to provide an opportunity for those who, for one reason or another, have not been able to take advantage of higher education.” By catering for, what were often called, non-traditional students, and by using mass media formats to disseminate knowledge, the university would enrich the development of scientific and cultural fields and disciplines far beyond the bounds of the classical academy. This university of the air materialized as the Open University, and was ushered in by Wilson’s government in the second half of the1960s. It received its charter in 1969 and immediately began to produce course materials for the first intake of students in 1971.


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Canadian Centre for Architecture

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The University is Now on Air. Broadcasting modern architecture

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  • Media and Film Publications

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  • Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies Publications

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Joaquim Moreno

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