MSPs have paid tribute to the work of Lochgelly lady Jennie Lee in the creation of the Open University which celebrated its 50th anniversary this week.

Annabelle Ewing, MSP for Cowdenbeath; and Claire Baker, the Kelty woman who is MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, spoke in the Scottish Parliament about the role played by Jennie Lee in the launch of the Open University.

Ms Ewing said: “It is absolutely appropriate that we, in this Parliament, should mark this momentous occasion.

“In so doing, we are afforded the opportunity to commend the pioneering and pivotal role of Jennie Lee in securing the establishment of the Open University. That was against a backdrop of opposition and scepticism among many of her colleagues in the House of Commons—and, indeed, much of the civil service at the time—although she had an important ally in the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as her relative, Claire Baker, has pointed out.

"As the MSP for Cowdenbeath, I can say that my constituents are, rightly, very proud of Jennie Lee, who was born in Lochgelly and was the dux of Beath High School.

"She started her political career as an MP for North Lanarkshire, representing the Independent Labour Party in Scotland.

“The royal charter that established the Open University, which was granted on 23 April 1969, tasked the Open University “to promote the educational well-being of the community generally”, and that wide remit is at the heart of the OU’s unique role. It is not just about the promotion of learning and knowledge; it is about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential through education. It really is a university that is open to those of all ages and all backgrounds all of the time. No entrance qualifications are required, and students can study anywhere, the OU having been the first university in the United Kingdom to facilitate distance learning."

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a wonderful institution, I pay tribute to Jennie Lee and all who have worked so hard over the past five decades to make such a success of this unique educational institution. I recommend the Open University to any of my constituents who are interested in broadening their education and improving their qualifications, whether for personal development or for the development of their careers.”

Speaking at Wedneday's reception in the Scottish Parliament to mark the 50th anniversary of the Open University, Claire Baker celebrated its contribution to social justice and accessible higher education across Scotland. Following her member’s debate on the Open University on Tuesday evening, Claire Baker welcomed figures showing over 200,000 Scots from all backgrounds have studied with the Open University and highlighted the role of Jennie Lee in delivering an institution which provides educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of background, circumstance or geography.

Claire Baker MSP said: “I am delighted to celebrate the Open University and its legacy, particularly as a relative of Jennie Lee. We should be proud of the positive impact of the Open University on individuals and communities across Scotland and the UK, and the flexible approach to study which it provides.”

“In Mid-Scotland and Fife we have 1,840 Open University students, and its open entry policy provides a great way to increase access to education. The Open University also works with a number of partners in my region, with Babcock International, Diageo, Fife Council, NHS Fife, SSE and Scottish Water all sponsoring students, showing the benefits for both individuals and employers. With a rapidly changing economy, the Open University is as relevant today as it has ever been, and I am confident it will continue to thrive.”