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The Open University at 50

For the past fifty years, we’ve made it our mission to open up education for all. As the largest UK academic institution, we’ve empowered over two million students across 157 countries to transform their lives through learning – helping to make the impossible, possible.  

To mark our landmark birthday, we’re building an exciting programme of events and activities that will shine a light on the staff, students, donors and partners who have shaped our much-loved institution.

Join us in celebrating. Help spread the word. #OU50

Events

Jan 1-31

#BrainTeaserMonth

January is #BrainteaserMonth so if even if you can’t make it down the gym to burn off the festive excess, you can flex your grey matter with a spot of lateral thinking. Over the course of the month our social media channels will be filled with brainteasers – from puzzles to ethical dilemmas to storytelling challenges - to help celebrate our 50th birthday and promote the OU’s academic expertise.

Jan 15

OpenTALKS History: With Europe, but not of it? Why Britain joined the European Community

Milton Keynes

When the European Community was set up in 1958, Britain declined to join. By 1961, however, the British Government had decided that the country's best interests would be served by joining Europe. Luc-Andre Brunet examines the arguments for and against joining.

Jan 22

Crichton Conversation with Allan Little: The Power of Conversation, sponsored by The Open University Scotland

Dumfries

As part of the Crichton Conversation programme, The Open University are delighted to be sponsoring this event. Allan Little is one of Scotland's most distinguished journalists.

Jan 23

James Honeyborne: The Making of Blue Planet II, sponsored by The Open University Scotland

University of Edinburgh

Blue Planet II is a landmark piece of film-making with an equally significant legacy. Since its first broadcast, a tsunami of interest has developed concerning ocean sustainability, particularly in terms of marine plastics and climate change. James, the award-winning Executive Producer based at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, was at the helm of this ground-breaking series. Come along as we dive deeper into this intriguing world.

Jan 23

James Honeyborne: The Making of Blue Planet II, sponsored by The Open University Scotland

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Blue Planet II is a landmark piece of film-making with an equally significant legacy. Since its first broadcast, a tsunami of interest has developed concerning ocean sustainability, particularly in terms of marine plastics and climate change. James, the award-winning Executive Producer based at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, was at the helm of this ground-breaking series. Come along as we dive deeper into this intriguing world.

Jan 28

Inaugural Lecture: Back from the future, forward from the past: The journey that is lifelong learning

Milton Keynes

Professor Devendra Kodwani, Executive Dean of The Open University's faculty of Business and Law, will introduce the OU's 50th anniversary inaugural lecture series with a lecture on lifelong learning and the role of universities. What the concept of lifelong learning initiated by the OU in 1969 means now for the future of universities.

Jan 30

OpenTALKS Blue Planet II: The science behind the BBC series

Deeside

Professor Mark Brandon and Dr Philip Sexton have spent years working in oceans all around the world including Antarctica, the Atlantic and the Arctic. Most recently, they were part of The Open University co-production team working on the BBC’s Blue Planet II. Using breakthroughs in marine science and cutting-edge technologies this landmark seven-part series brought viewers face to face with compelling stories from our Earth’s incredible oceans. Together, Professor Mark Brandon and Dr Philip Sexton, will talk about the science of our oceans, the experience of the production process, and how science and discovery were the driving forces behind the award-winning series.

Feb 6

OpenTALKS History: Making this realm of England an Empire: The Tudors, Europe and the Reformation

Milton Keynes

This talk presented by Neil Younger, will consider whether relations between Tudor England and Europe in the 16th Century can offer any lessons for remaking our relationships with Europe in the 21st Century.

Feb 8

An introduction to Chinese language learning in the past, present and future

Dublin

As part of The Dublin Chinese New Year Festival 2019 The Open University in Ireland, in collaboration with The National Library of Ireland, is celebrating with this free, fun talk and interactive workshop. Presented by Ximena Arias-Manzano, The Open University Staff Tutor (Languages) in Ireland, the talk will explore the ways in which Chinese characters were written in the past. Ximena will also discuss the evolution of Chinese characters and how computer and mobile technology have transformed the handling of characters. The importance of Mandarin in the business world today will also be discussed.

Feb 13

OpenTALKS: Blue Planet II: The science behind the BBC Series

Dublin

Join The Open University’s academics who worked on the BBC Blue Planet series to hear about the science of our oceans. Marine scientists Mark Brandon and Phil Sexton have spent years working in oceans all around the world including Antarctica, the Atlantic and the Arctic, and with the BBC Blue Planet team since 2014. Using video footage from Blue Planet II, they will talk about some of the key issues affecting our oceans, including how they ‘work’ and why they are important. If you are a Blue Planet fan, this is not to be missed!

Feb 14

OpenTALKS: Blue Planet II: The science behind the BBC Series

Belfast

Join The Open University’s academics who worked on the BBC Blue Planet series to hear about the science of our oceans. Marine scientists Mark Brandon and Phil Sexton have spent years working in oceans all around the world including Antarctica, the Atlantic and the Arctic, and with the BBC Blue Planet team since 2014. Using video footage from Blue Planet II, they will talk about some of the key issues affecting our oceans, including how they ‘work’ and why they are important. If you are a Blue Planet fan, this is not to be missed!

Feb 16

Mathematical art and the secrets of the Giant's Causeway

Belfast

In this hands-on workshop with Charlotte Webb, Lecturer in Maths Education, children will investigate the mathematics behind regular and Archimedean tessellations, and create their own collaborative, geometric art display using tessellating shapes. They will also look at a local example of tessellation that helped make the Giant's Causeway one of the wonders of the world!

Feb 17

The Moon: a gateway to planetary exploration

Belfast

In 2019, it will be 50 years since The Open University was established, and since the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. These two independent but unique events have touched millions (if not billions!) of lives. In this presentation, Dr Mahesh Anand will highlight the internationally-leading lunar research carried out at The Open University on the Apollo samples, and how the Moon is a natural gateway for future planetary exploration. Prepare to be inspired to make "living off the land on the Moon" a reality in the not too distant future!

Feb 19

Imaginary energy

Belfast

In this entertaining and interactive talk, Dr Stephen Peake takes us on a tour of our weird energy past and our even stranger energy future. Half of the world's 7.5 billion people don't consume enough energy to live well. The other half consume too much. How then, will 11 billion of us enjoy the high energy lifestyles we have become used to? Where will we get our energy from? How will energy change the way we live? This event features a range of theatrical demonstrations, amazing data graphics and performance elements interspersed with some boring facts - a peek into your energy future!

Feb 19

Inaugural Lecture: Aspects of Open: The evolution of the meaning of open education

Milton Keynes

Martin Weller, Professor of Education Technology at the OU, will examine what the term 'open' means and consider if we were to invent an 'Open University' now, what would it look like?

Feb 20

Training your brainwaves

Belfast

It is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain but there are ways to improve the function of your 86 billion neurons. Neurofeedback can help people learn to modify their brain by displaying its electrical activity in real-time. By seeing and hearing the brain activity in milliseconds resolution, people can learn to modify a range of brain functions such as attention or arousal. Dr Duncan Banks of The Open University will give a presentation and live demonstration showing how brainwaves can be recorded from members of the audience.

Feb 23

Science on screen

Belfast

Come and try out some of The Open University’s virtual resources at our pop-up display! You will get a realistic insight into the structure of the heart using the Augmented Reality heart, learn more about what’s in our oceans using our Oceans Explorer app or you can simply challenge yourself to some mathematical puzzles using the Perplex maths puzzle app.

Feb 23

The greatest inequality in maths: acknowledgement of female success

Belfast

From Hypatia (murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE) to Ada Lovelace (the enchantress of numbers) and Maryam Mirzakhani (the 2014 Fields medallist) there have been women who have loved mathematics and, often in defiance of the social and intellectual norms of the day, have shown themselves to be extremely good at it. The Open University’s Professor June Barrow-Green will introduce a number of these women, describe some of the difficulties they encountered and indicate what they managed to achieve. She will also look at the situation for women mathematicians today and describe some initiatives currently in place for tackling the gender gap in mathematics.

Feb 23

Taking a look at the rocks under our feet

Belfast

Come and investigate the rocks and minerals under your feet! In this event you will be able to look at real rock specimens and investigate them in more detail. This interactive exhibition will allow you to select a sample on display and to examine it using a hand lens. You will then be able to examine the same rock type using The Open University’s virtual rock kit – one of the resources found in the OpenScience Laboratory (an initiative developed by The Open University and the Wolfson Foundation).

Feb 24

Taking a look at the rocks under our feet

Belfast

Come and investigate the rocks and minerals under your feet! In this event you will be able to look at real rock specimens and investigate them in more detail. This interactive exhibition will allow you to select a sample on display and to examine it using a hand lens. You will then be able to examine the same rock type using The Open University’s virtual rock kit – one of the resources found in the OpenScience Laboratory (an initiative developed by The Open University and the Wolfson Foundation).

Mar

BBC/OU Partnership Press Event (BBC event - Invitation only)

To celebrate our longstanding partnership with the BBC and to mark our 50th anniversary, BBC Director General Tony Hall will be hosting a special reception event. We were the first university in the world to have the imagination and foresight to embrace the new technologies of television and radio. Our partnership with the BBC continues today enabling us to educate and inspire the widest possible audiences with landmark programming such as Blue Planet II, Horizon and Coast.

Mar 5

Inaugural Lecture series: Menopause and the workplace

Milton Keynes

It is very apt for Professor Jo Brewis to deliver her inaugural lecture in the week of International Women’s Day on a topic which is often regarded as taboo in wider society and in the workplace in particular.

Mar 12

Inaugural Lecture: Fairness in knowing: How should we engage with the sciences?

Milton Keynes

Science has the power to influence our lives. This lecture with Professor Richard Hollman questions and explores how Science should be governed, represented and funded.

Mar 12

OpenTALKS: National histories and national identities: British devolution past and future

Cardiff

The Open University’s Dr Richard Marsden will explore how changing ideas about the past have contributed to the unprecedented existential challenges now facing the British state.

Mar 14

Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards

Milton Keynes

To mark our anniversary we are headline sponsor for the annual Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards which will celebrate education, training and skills development this year.

Mar 29

Revisiting Modern Art & Modernism at the OU

Milton Keynes

This conference will explore the impact of OU art history courses and broadcast media, critically assessing how they inspired successive generations of OU undergraduate students by involving them directly in current - often closely fought - debates about modern art. Keynote lectures, panels and round-table discussions with eminent scholars in the field will cover a range of topics.

Apr 3

OpenTALKS History: British imperialist visions of Islamic States

Milton Keynes

From the mid-nineteenth century, men working in the highest levels of the British state, animated by the partition of the world among the imperial powers and fuelled by the idea of Britain as the ‘greatest Mohammedan power’, began to sketch out a vision for states under British tutelage in which Islam played a central role. This talk by John Slight will trace the trajectories of these putative Islamic states in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the role played by Muslim leaders in them, and explain how this British imperial manipulation of Islam ultimately failed.

Apr 6-21

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Edinburgh

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings, the 2019 Festival theme is Frontiers, exploring the boundaries of knowledge and the spirit of adventure and enquiry that drives science, technology, engineering and maths. Within this theme, specific areas of focus will include Healthcare Frontiers, Engineering Frontiers, Digital Frontiers, Environmental Frontiers and Planetary Frontiers.

Apr 23

The OU celebrates a special Charter Day

The OU will celebrate its official birthday, the day the University was bestowed its Royal Charter in 1969. More information to follow.

Apr 26

50th Anniversary Gala Concert

To help celebrate the role of music in the University, we are hosting a gala public concert and a showcase event for local schools. We are honoured that Dame Evelyn Glennie, DH, CBE, the internationally acclaimed professional percussionist, has agreed to be the soloist in both events. Dame Evelyn is an honorary graduate of the University, and passionately committed to music education for all.

May 15

50th Anniversary Celebratory Dinner (Invitation Only)

A black-tie dinner hosted by Baroness Martha Lane Fox to celebrate our achievements and our role in the future of education for our partners, donors and key stakeholders.

May 15

OpenTALKS History: Reimagining democracy: lessons from the French Revolution

Milton Keynes

This lecture by Anna Plassart explores contemporary reactions to the democratic experiment of the French Revolution. For many in France as in Britain, France’s descent into violence illustrated the dangers of democratic and rights-based politics. But for those who continued to uphold democratic ideals in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Revolution’s failure also provided a set of lessons to reflect upon.

May 21

Inaugural Lecture series: Youth Crime and Justice: does age matter?

Milton Keynes

Many countries have separate criminal justice systems for young people and adults, but is age the differentiating factor that should be considered? In this lecture, Professor Jo Phoenix, Chair in Criminology, will argue that whilst understandable, the current system locks the debate about youth justice into recurring circular disagreements about justice, welfare and rights. Professor Phoenix will discuss different ways in which social circumstances and cultural context might be better placed to differentiate in both adult and youthful law-breaking.

May 23

Hay Festival

Hay on Wye, Powys, Wales

The Hay Festival brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas. Now worldwide, these festivals inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be.

Jun 25

Inaugural Lecture: If school is the problem, what is the solution?

Milton Keynes

Discussing fundamental problems in the current education system. Professor Peter Twinning explores elements of a system that is more fit for purpose.

Jul 4

50th Anniversary concert: John Byron: Ritual Spells

Milton Keynes

This substantial work was commissioned by the OU Choir in 1994, with funding from the University's General Purposes Fund, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Open University. The work is a setting by local composer John Byron of four poems by Richard Gaskell which trace the cycle of the seasons. The OU Choir performed the premiere of this piece on 28 April 1994.

Jul 30

Inaugural Lecture: Sniffing out disease - why we need a dog in a box

Milton Keynes

In this lecture, Professor Claire Turner, Professor of Analytical Science, will cover the latest research in 'sniffing out' volatile compounds produced by 'the disease state.' She will talk about how animals have been used to detect disease and we'll find out why she would like an electronic "dog-in-a-box."

Aug 10-26

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh

The Edinburgh International Book Festival have over 900 events, which are enjoyed by people of all ages. An important feature of the Book Festival's programme is a high profile debates and discussions series. Each year writers from all over the world gather to become part of this unique forum in which audience and author meet to exchange thoughts and opinons on some of the world's most pressing issues.

Sep 9-12

Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF9)

BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

The ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF9), co-hosted by The Open University with The Commonwealth of Learning. Focusing on Innovations for Quality Education and Lifelong Learning, with special focus on Education for Girls and Empowering Youth.