The History of the University...
In 1926 a historian J. C. Stobart who worked for the infant BBC wrote a memo advocating a 'wireless university'. The idea was again raised in 1946 by Sir George Catlin, but nothing came of it.
However various correspondence colleges started up in Oxford and Cambridge, like Wolsey Hall, that offered distance tutoring for A-level exams.
By the early 1960s there were various different proposals floating around. R. C. G. Williams of the Institution of Electrical Engineers argued for a 'tele-university' which would combine broadcast lectures with correspondence texts and visits to conventional universities; the Independent Television Authority (ITA) published a pamphlet on the idea in 1961.
Michael Young, who went on to establish the National Extension College (offering ‘F.E.’ education) wrote an article in 1962 proposing an Open University to prepare people for external degrees of London University. The BBC and the Ministry for Education were discussing plans for a 'College of the Air'.
The University of the Air
From then till now
In 1970, 40,000 applications for places were received, and in January 1971 24,000 students started their undergraduate studies. Unfortunately for a correspondence university, this was right in the middle of a postal strike, and so thousands of packages had to be distributed by lorries to centres all over the country where students collected them.
Now the University has a campus at Milton Keynes where there are nearly 1000 academics in eight Faculties: Arts, Education and Language Studies, Social Sciences, Business School, Health and Social Care, Mathematics & Computing, Science and Technology. The OU is now the biggest employer in Milton Keynes since the decline of the Wolverton railway works.
It also has 13 regional/national offices, scattered all over the country; these contain around 100 academics and 500 administrators, providing a local face to the university across the UK. There are also offices in many European countries.
On 1 October 2007, the Faculty of Mathematics & Computing will merge with the Faculty of Technology to become the new 'Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology'.
The First Students
Born in the 1960s, the ‘White Heat of Technology’ era, the Open University was founded on the belief that communications technology could bring high quality degree-level learning to people who had not had the opportunity to attend campus universities. The Open University enrolled its first students in 1971 and by 1973 had grown to become the biggest university in the country with more than 40,000 students on its books.
The first Open University degrees were awarded in 1973. Out of the 1,000 students who sat the final exams, 867 were successful. The first group of 18-year old students was recruited in 1973.
M100 Mathematics Foundation Course Team meeting in 1971
A high proportion (37%) of the first few intakes from 1971 onwards were teachers. Of these, 26% of the total were women, though in the Mathematics Faculty they were in a small minority, only some 12.3%. By 1975, 42% of the University's intake were women, and the proportion in the Faculty rose accordingly.
Across the University, 19,600 students were 'finally' registered in 1971 with just under a quarter (4,200) studying the Foundation Course in Mathematics, M100. The majority of the first cohort were working in Education, or as scientists, engineers and technicians.
From the early days, the Mathematics Faculty integrated basic computer programming into its Mathematics Foundation course and set up the Student Computing Service (later to become the Academic Computing Service) to deliver live computing services to Study Centres through modems and teletype terminals.
The curriculum included Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics from its first years. Courses were directed principally at the 'nature' of mathematics, using as standard the concepts of the 'New Math’ which was then becoming popular in schools.
Early courses relied heavily on TV and Radio to deliver much of the teaching. The Faculty was innovative in using illustrated models and animated film to get mathematical concepts across. This extended to using industrial film showing the operation of a cam cutting machine to illustrate the Taylor Series!
In 1988 the Faculty established a five department internal structure: Applied Mathematics, Computing, Mathematics Education, Pure Mathematics and Statistics. Previously there had been an informal system of ‘interest groups’ or ‘discipline groups’. Later, in 2006 the Departments of Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics and Mathematics Education merged to form a Department of Mathematics, with Sub-Departments of of Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics and Mathematics Education.
The name of the Faculty changed in October 1993 from ‘Faculty of Mathematics’ to ‘Faculty of Mathematics and Computing’.
Our first ever Faculty website was published in 1997 and bears some resemblance to the Text Only version of this site.