Jennie Lee and the Open University


I’ve just enjoyed a very cheap and very productive evening. I have remainedin Jako Towers and have been sorting out lots of Labour leaflets into appropriate piles for delivery across my ward over the next few weeks. At the same time as doing this I watched BBC 4’s documentary ‘Happy Birthday OU: 40 Years of the Open University’

The story of the Open University was told by Premier Inn-loving comedian Lenny Henry, who also happens to be a graduate of the OU. Henry explained to the audience how influential the efforts Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts in the first Wilson government, were to its establishment in 1969. She played a key role in supporting the OU and making sure that it went ahead despite the misgivings of some in the political and academic establishments.

Wilson went on to declare that the Open University was the greatest achievement of his government – an opinion that Tony Benn supported in the documentary. More than three million people have studied at the OU since its foundation and it has been consistently rated the top university for student satisfaction.

Jennie Lee was of course the wife of Nye Bevan, the Labour politician responsible for bringing about the creation of the National Health Service in 1948.

So between them this stridently socialist couple bequeathed to the nation two of the best-loved and most enduring institutions we have! 

Bevan and Lee never had children – apparently Lee did not want to become a mother. However, if they had would the offspring have inherited super socialist powers? Or would it have felt obliged to rebel against its parents and turned into an arch-reactionary?

This is what I wondered to myself as the documentary came to an end and I completed my 24th pile of leaflet delivery rounds.


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One Response to “Jennie Lee and the Open University”

  1. Alun Says:

    It was mildly amusing to see quite how much Robin Wilson resembles his father; poor sod.

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