start typing and results will show

or press esc

I do not think that Thomas Hardy is much read these days, but I know that Jude the Obscure was one of the formative books for me when I was a young student—the struggle for self-education, the struggle in circumstances where poverty, ill health and everything else lead to the final tragic defeat. So that when we are thinking of a university of the air, in common sense and common courtesy, we must consider the receiving end.

Jennie Lee in the House of Commons, 2 April 1965

This is the Royal Charter for the Open University, presented on 23 April 1969. A resolutely inclusive and accessible institution, the formation of the Open University was spearheaded by humanist Jennie Lee. Education is at the heart of the humanist approach: the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the sharing of ideas, collaborative working, and personal development. The Open University was designed to enable distance learning and higher education for people from diverse backgrounds. This additional emphasis was clear in those lines of the charter which went beyond the advancement of knowledge and the spread of learning: it was also ‘to promote the educational well-being of the community generally’.

As well as laying the foundation for a ‘university of the air’, as Minister for the Arts Jennie Lee had produced a white paper calling on the government to play a part in creating a ‘wider and more appreciative public for the arts’. Herself raised in a Scottish mining community, Lee could speak from experience when suggesting that ‘too many working people have been conditioned by their education and environment to consider the best in music, painting, sculpture and literature outside their reach.’ Support for the arts was a matter of public utility, the paper argued:

In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.

Lee’s humanism shone through in her work for greater opportunities and an improved quality of life for all, in education and the arts. The Open University’s Royal Charter enabled the realisation of her ‘university of the air’, which since its launch has welcomed over two million students.

Made by Heritage Creative