Above: NEC Chief Executive Dr Ros Morpeth showing support for the Open University 

Yesterday evening a distinguished crowd gathered at the House of Lords to celebrate 50 years of the Open University. An institution that through its innovation and determination has transformed the lives of millions of students, and changed the way higher education is accessed across the world.

The National Extension College has a long and successful relationship with the Open University. We were pleased that NEC Chief Executive, Dr Ros Morpeth OBE was invited to join the celebrations.

Here is what Ros had to say about the evening:

I was delighted to attend the reception at the House of Lords on Wednesday evening to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Open University. The National Extension College and Open University share a passion and commitment to lifelong and flexible learning as a way of furthering social mobility. 

The Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds talked about growing up in a family where his dad was doing an OU degree, he remembered the big parcels of course material arriving on the doorstep, the stressful deadlines for tutor marked assignments and the TV programmes in the middle of the night. He was followed by the inspirational Joan Armatrading who did her OU history degree while she was on tour, posting her assignments from far flung places. She said how much she enjoyed doing her degree and how proud her parents were of her achievements. She was the first person in her family to get a degree. Professor Mary Kellett, the Vice Chancellor of the OU and a former NEC Trustee, gave a moving speech about the commitment of the OU to each and every student whoever and wherever they are.

The Open University is a national treasure, it has transformed the lives of over 2 million students since it was established in 1969. All of us at the National Extension College send our warm wishes and look forward to working in partnership with the OU for the next 50 years.”

Ros received an honorary doctorate from the OU in 1994 for services to distance learning.

More than 40% of NEC students plan on going on to university, with many choosing to study with the OU after achieving their GCSEs and A levels with NEC. We therefore recognise that the partnership we have with the Open University is a special one, and one that is essential for the many people who are only able to access further and higher education through distance learning.

As the recent BBC Four documentary ‘Happy Birthday OU: 50 Years of The Open University’, (of which NEC was included) showed, in the 1960s going to university was not a choice for the majority of people living in the UK, and the idea that education should be accessible to all was a radical one.

It’s testament to the OU and distance learning that 50 years on we are celebrating this innovative and important organisation.

Images: Right: Professor Mary Kellet, Vice Chancellor of the OU. Left: Musician, Joan Armatrading (OU History graduate) 

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