Those considering taking a course with the Open University might like to think again following remarks by the OU’s Wales director this week. In response to a demo against the OU’s involvement in the proposed St Athan military academy, Rob Humphries made the following statement:
“The University recognises that Britain’s armed services play a vital part in peacekeeping activities all over the world”
It must raise serious questions about the quality of education offered by the OU when its Wales director considers the invasion and occupation of Iraq as “peacemaking” – unless, of course, it was a slip of the tongue and he really meant to say “pitiless bloody warmongering without a shred of justification”.
But Rob’s schoolboy howlers don’t end there. If he had done even five minutes research on the subject, he would know that the St Athan military academy will train armed forces from anywhere willing to pay for the privilege.
The OU has certainly come a long way since it was founded by Wilson’s Labour government in 1969. Back then it met with scornful opposition from the products of Eton and Oxbridge on the Tory benches, appalled at the idea that hundreds of thousands of working-class people might get degrees through correspondence courses and BBC2. Under market pressures, however, the OU has become less concerned with education to improve society and more involved in vocational training. That already includes the training of the armed forces.
The involvement of the OU in the Metrix consortium no doubt seemed a logical next step for the OU’s management. But it has put the OU in direct partnership with some of the world’s most loathsome arms dealers: criminals in every respect except capitalist law. Raytheon – manufacturers of cluster bombs and missiles carrying depleted uranium warheads. Qinetiq – pasted by the National Audit Office for the most corrupt privatisation in UK history. And the aim of this unholy coalition will be a university whose graduates will not improve societies but destroy them; will not work for human rights, but crush them. St Athan will be the total negation of all the OU once stood for.
We do not believe the vast majority of OU students or staff, past and present, will find this acceptable. That is why Wednesday’s demo, part of the National Day of Action for University Ethical Investment, will not be the last. The OU buildings in Cardiff will certainly be on the route of the major march planned for 26 April, and we call on all students and staff of the OU to bring the maximum pressure – considering walk-outs, teach-ins, fees boycotts and whatever else it takes, to get the OU out of this project and help scupper it altogether.
Facebook users can join the groups Open University Fans Say No To Partnerships With Arms Dealers and No To St Athan Military Academy.