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School of Everything

The Open University is 40 this year, and one its first wave of graduates Audrey Miller is in the mood to celebrate – especially as the family connection continues.

The Open University's is celebrating its 40th birthday and I am more than happy to have been involved from the beginning.

Since 1969 over 2million people have been educated through the OU and it's now the UK's largest university with 200,000 students each year. I was one of its first students and proudly had the prefix “A” to my registration number.

Because it was one of the most radical educational ideas of the 20th Century and fitted all my egalitarian ideals I signed up immediately the application forms were available. Being an 11 plus failure it ticked all the boxes by offering another way to a degree, outside the conventional university route.

The simple idea at the heart of the OU was that anybody should be able to be a university student independent of their age, social background, work or family.

The idea came from the visionary Michael Young who said, "If the student can't come to the lab, then lab must come to the student."

I will remember the postal strike that blighted the first few months and how in my cramped digs I struggled with the science kits many limitations, the endless experiments and BBC2 TV lectures some at 6.00am! But I did eventually graduate and took my two year old to the graduation ceremony in Wolverhampton Civic hall.

The OU was a huge success and opened education to many thousands of people from all walks of life. In fact it is still an inspiring concept that has been copied around the world today its modules being included in many conventional University courses.

Now the Young Foundation set up to honour the memory of Michael Young is backing a new innovation for 21st century education. This time is utilising the technology of our time.

This web based system bring together the student who wants to learn, just about every subject under the sun, with the tutors who can help them glimpse the wonders of education.

I am of course signed up again, but that two year old - Paul – I mentioned is now the co founder of this innovation that already has 15,000 members globally. And I am a very proud Mom.

Exciting educational opportunities are now within the reach of many regardless of age, social background, work or family through the School of Everything be it leisure pursuits, crafts, languages or any of life skills.

This time not necessarily academic qualifications but a much broader range of experiences, even growing your own food!


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