‘Filled with good social democrats’: the Open University and the development of the knowledge economy, 1969–1989

Weinbren, Daniel (2012). ‘Filled with good social democrats’: the Open University and the development of the knowledge economy, 1969–1989. Journal of the World Universities Forum, 5


The Open University was a product of post-war social democracy and corporate bias, which has been influential within the ways in which part-time mature students have experienced higher education. Its foundation in 1969 was largely the work of a circle of social democrats, at the centre of which was the Prime Minister. Its founding Chancellor called for it to be open as to people, places, methods and ideas and its teaching stressed that students needed to be active learners, engaged with the University’s blended multi-media pedagogy. It has also been a precursor of many elements of the knowledge economy which has emerged since the 1980s and 1990s. This should not be viewed as a dichotomy, but as two sides of the same coin for immanent within it were many of the ideas associated with the shift (experienced across higher education since the late 1980s) towards the market and the linking of funding and transparent auditing. An adaptation of Christensen’s model of disruptive innovation, which foregrounds business, illuminates this apparent dichotomy and illustrates how The Open University was positioned to be able to pioneer wider changes and to make familiar within the academy, generic notions of globalisation and marketisation.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 34524
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1835-2030
  • Keywords
  • Open University; distance education; Christensen; social democracy; social constructionism; Fordist division of labour
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2012 The Authors (individual chapter), © 2012 Common Ground (selection and editorial matter)
  • Depositing User
  • Daniel Weinbren