The legacy and impact of Open University women's/gender studies: 30 years on

Kirkup, Gill and Whitelegg, Elizabeth (2013). The legacy and impact of Open University women's/gender studies: 30 years on. Gender and Education, 25(1) pp. 6–22.



In 1983, the UK Open University (OU) offered its first women’s/gender studies (WGS) course. Although a late entrant to the area, OU WGS courses were influential nationally and internationally for many feminists and WGS teachers and scholars. Not only did OU WGS courses have the largest WGS student cohort of any UK institution with over 8000 students in a 17-year period but also because the study guides and course books were sold commercially and used by many other institutions. The courses were produced and taught by a multidisciplinary team formed by the OU employing feminist scholars on secondment from other institutions to work as members of an interdisciplinary team of academics and media professionals. This paper looks at the challenges posed by the OU WGS courses as well as their legacy within the OU and beyond. It illustrates these with the voices of students reflecting on their experience of the courses up to 30 years later. It also argues that it is important to capture the lessons learned from second-wave WGS because these have something useful to say to third-wave feminism.

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