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'Well, Harold insists on having it!': the political struggle to establish The Open University, 1965-67

Dorey, Peter 2014. 'Well, Harold insists on having it!': the political struggle to establish The Open University, 1965-67. Contemporary British History 29 (2) , pp. 241-272. 10.1080/13619462.2014.981160

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The establishment of The Open University has been widely lauded as Harold Wilson's most successful policy achievement and his enduring legacy, a view with which Wilson himself concurred, although the policy itself was mostly drafted and developed by Jennie Lee, as Minister for the Arts, albeit based in the Department of Education and Science (DES). Wilson depicted The Open University as a major symbol of the Labour Party's commitment to modernisation in the 1960s, and envisaged that it would simultaneously contribute towards a more competitive economy while also fostering 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 about which Wilson waxed lyrical. Yet, from the outset, Lee encountered widespread scepticism and sometimes outright opposition towards the proposed Open University from several sources: senior officials in the DES; her departmental ‘boss’, Anthony Crosland; the Treasury; Ministerial colleagues, such as Richard Crossman; and television companies, particularly the independent or commercial broadcasters. Ultimately, although first publicly mooted in 1963, The Open University only became established due to Lee's dogged determination and tenacity during the period 1965–67, the steadfast support offered throughout by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the fact that the anticipated costs, as reported to Lee and Wilson by Arnold Goodman, were erroneous—far too low; yet by the time the real costs became apparent, it was too late to scrap the fledgling open university.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
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Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
L Education > LA History of education
L Education > LF Individual institutions (Europe)
Uncontrolled Keywords: University of the Air/The Open University, Jennie Lee, Anthony Crosland, Department of Education and Science, Treasury, Harold Wilson, Scepticism
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN: 1361-9462
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2020 14:30

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