After 41 years - we moved in in 1976 - the biggest university in the UK is withdrawing from one of the geographic educational heartlands of the globe. The main mansion house on the site was built in the 1880s by the Rev Henry Woods, Bursar and subsequently President of Trinity College Oxford and his wife, Margaret, a highly distinguished literary scholar. The site was sold to Lord Berkeley in 1893 and was a theological college from 1934 to the mid 1970s. Couple of pictures of the inside of the hall from the 1900s -
Because of the OU's funding arrangements the purchase of the site needed high level approval in the department for education and the treasury at the time.
Since then this beautiful setting -
- has been filled with amazing, inspirational, dedicated, deeply caring & knowledgeable people, who transformed the lives of thousands of Open University students. Often at significant personal cost.
The secret of the OU’s success, for most of the past half century or so, has been the goodwill of the staff and the students. This institution has simply been about putting people in touch with people, people who care; and creating, enabling and nurturing the materials, support and conditions for learning, personal development and growth.
The people in Foxcombe Hall, on a daily basis, have engaged in nothing short of societal magic and it has been my real privilege to work with you, know you and call you friends, for the past 22 years. The Open University will be a desperately poorer place without you and this enchanting setting, now to be transformed to no more than a cash asset on a balance sheet.
The regional centre in Leeds is also closing tomorrow. East Grinstead, London, Birmingham and Newcastle have already closed. Bristol and Cambridge will follow shortly. Open University Magic flowed from all those places too.
Whatever you all do in the future - and I can only wish you all the very best of good fortune with it - and no matter how unwise you understand the decision to shut down our regional infrastructure was, no one can ever take away the difference you made, here at the OU.
Thank you for caring.
Now, somewhat appropriately perhaps, as I consider shutting down this computer and carrying the remainder of my belongings to the car, the heavens outside have opened in something of a deluge...