Dear all, first of all let me wish you a belated Happy New Year! The winter in England has been fiercer this year – certainly we have had more snow than we are accustomed to – but is beginning I think to abate a little. I found the yellow aconite just coming into flower in my garden as soon as the snow melted. Many of you will still be in a great deal of snow and ice, but some will not have seen any at all!
The year starts sadly with the death of Robert Beevers, aged 90 years, at his home in Oxford. Not a name that many readers of this blog will know, I am sure. Robert was the first Director of Studies at the Open University, head of a department known as Regional Tutorial Services. Appointed at the foundation of the University in 1969, that is 2 years before the OU started teaching, Robert conceived how students in distance higher education in an Open University might be supported. He invented with his small team the concept of tutor, counsellor, and the idea of study centres supported by regional centres, that have been so influential around the world. And yet his name is hardly remembered at all. There was one short piece of writing from him which can be found in the now defunct journal Teaching at Distance, May 1975 number 3 (the journal morphed into Open Learning) . The article offers a profoundly interesting insight into the thinking in those very early years in our field of work about the relationship of the learner to the study materials, and what sorts of freedoms and constraints should be provided. Robert was also an authority on the garden city movement, and authored as book that is still referenced entitled The Garden City Utopia: a Critical Biography of Ebenezer Howard. I remember Robert well, being at the senior end of the profession myself! He was an intellectually acute man of great kindness, and had an irrepressible desire to reform education for the benefit of adult learners.
We held our EDEN Executive Committee meeting in January, in London, at Camden Lock in the Open University London Region offices. We looked at the final details for the Valencia conference, and further to the Research Workshop to be held in Budapest 25-27 October. This was the first Executive Committee meeting without Martine Vidal, who has retired from CNED, her institution in Poitiers, France, and after many years of wonderful support from EDEN, especially in the ways she has helped EDEN make better contact with France and francophone Europe. We will however be able to welcome Martine back to our Valencia conference where she will give a keynote.