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Celebrate OU: How we’re marking our 50th

It’s not every day you reach half a century and so we’re making sure we mark it properly! Up and down the country, in our nations, up mountains and in fields we’re getting ready to celebrate.

There’s all sorts of activity going on, from baking cakes and fanfares to social media messaging. All of them are remembering what a great institution the OU has become and the ambitions and drive of our founders.

In the field

In Cricklade, Wiltshire, a team of volunteers will be out counting rare species of the spectacular snake’s-head fritillaria found in abundance at the North Meadow Natural Nature Reserve. It’s part of the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, which has been supported by The Open University and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for over 10 years in a bid to understand more about species rich floodplain meadows in the UK.

Snake’s-head fritillaria in a meadow which will be counted on our birthday

Emma Rothero, partnership manager of the OU’s Floodplain Meadows Project in the STEM faculty, said:

This is a great marker for the OU’s Charter Day – engaging the public and students to share in a common cause to protect nature and develop scientific knowledge at the same time.

Meanwhile further north, a group of Level 2 geology students will be on a field study trip in Cumbria, with Professor David Rothery and Associate Lecturer Andrew Southworth, continuing into the Easter weekend. The students are collecting observations of various processes and environments, one of which they will choose to write up. Prof Rothery said:

I can think of nothing more appropriate to be doing on this special anniversary than helping students develop their skills and enthusiasm for fieldwork.

collage of images showing Geology field trip participants and their celebratory cake.
Professor Rothery shows off the celebratory cake geology students will be enjoying on their field trip.

He recalled his first association with the OU, before starting his PhD in 1978, working as a demonstrator on a week-long geology school:

In the case of geologists, they got to see, feel and measure rocks in their natural setting. It was great to see the penny drop so many times. It’s a flame that I’m proud to do my bit to keep alive.

Around the OU

Back at the OU’s main campus in Milton Keynes we’ll be holding an event for staff and guests, featuring a brass fanfare by the OU Wind Band and there will be messages and greetings from our Vice-Chancellor Mary Kellett and Chancellor Martha Lane Fox, as well as the obligatory cake cutting.

Our colleagues in our nation and regional offices, in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Manchester and Nottingham will be tuning in too and having their own slice of cake to celebrate.

In addition, there’s lots of activities planned for the 50th in our nations. In Scotland there’s a Members’ business debate in the Scottish Parliament, where members will pause to remember the day in 1969 when the OU received its Royal Charter and officially became a university. This will be followed by a reception in the Scottish Parliament and celebratory activities in the Edinburgh offices too. There will also be a chance for students past and present to join in the social media remembering with the hashtag #OU50Scot.

Pioneer students will join in social media messaging

Over in Wales, a social media campaign kicks off which will include pioneers telling their stories – including an early student who began his studies with the OU while working in a mine back in 1971. Staff will link up with the Milton Keynes celebrations, having their own cake (and eating it!). An official reception to mark the OU’s 50th year takes place in the Welsh Assembly in June, which will include a display from the archives and some wider media campaigning too.

In Ireland not one but two events will be shared with colleagues in Milton Keynes, these take place in Belfast and Dublin at the OU in Ireland’s two offices. It will include a presentation of the OU in Ireland by Assistant Director John Addy. A special 50th anniversary dinner took place just recently, prior to the Dublin degree ceremony, at which the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins addressed graduates and saluted the OU in its special anniversary year. A further 50th reception takes place in May in Belfast with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, continuing the celebrations.

About Author

Christine works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University and focuses on stories from the Faculty of Social Science and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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