Learning to Live Together? The Open University, Student-prisoners and ‘the Troubles’

Weinbren, Daniel (2020). Learning to Live Together? The Open University, Student-prisoners and ‘the Troubles’. Family and Community History, 23(1) pp. 4–22.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14631180.2020.1771029

Abstract

During ‘the Troubles’, c1971–1998, the Open University, OU, fostered the emergent peace process which culminated in the 1998 Belfast Agreement. To evaluate the extent and impact of this nurturing there is recourse to David McMillan’s notion of a ‘sense of community’ and to the personal testimony of a range of prisoners, prison officers and OU staff. This material is framed by an assessment of the OU’s structures, as both a national and also local university and its pedagogy, which was developed to support isolated adult learners without prior qualifications and adapted for prisoners. There is also an appraisal of its ethos. Developed during its formative years, which were largely concurrent with those of ‘the Troubles’, it owed much to the idea that the central state could and should further democracy through directing technological, cultural, social and economic developments.

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