17th July 2003

Open University founder Walter Perry dies

As well as being one of its co-founders, Walter Perry, who was born in Dundee in June 1921, was the Open University’s first vice chancellor. He was educated at the University of St Andrews and taught at the University of Edinburgh before establishing the Open University in 1969.

University of the air

Perry was interviewed about the Open University by the Illustrated London News on 2 August 1969. When asked about the concept of what was then being dubbed the ‘university of the air’, he explained that “however much you expand the existing university structure in this country, you cannot hope to embrace all those who could benefit from a university education and who could thereby play a bigger part in the life of the country. You can’t afford to neglect the supply of trained brain power. Consequently, the Open University is a method of giving the people who are not caught in the net of the established universities an opportunity to get a higher education, to benefit themselves by it and the country.”

Careful cost balancing

However, he was careful to point out that while much of the ‘teaching’ would be done using television broadcasts, “in the foundation courses there will only be roughly half an hour of radio and half an hour of TV per week for each course [as] radio and TV must be used with very considerable care because it would be ridiculous to use expensive media for things that can be done inexpensively.” Much of the real study would therefore still be paper based.

In founding the university, Perry worked alongside Jennie Lee after whom the institution’s building in Edinburgh was named.



Other events that occured in July

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