Association of Open University Graduates


Professor Colin Pillinger



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Death of Professor Colin Pillinger

The OU is paying tribute to one of our leading scientific academics Professor Colin Pillinger, who has died at the age of 70. 

The Emeritus Professor worked for the OU for 35 years in Planetary and Space Scienceand was Head of Physical Sciences until 2005.

He was already known in global planetary circles but became a household name when he built a probe to search for Martian life – the Beagle 2 spacecraft, just one highlight of a lifetime dedicated to planetary research. 

Awarded a CBE in 2003, Colin also had the auspicious accolade of having an asteroid named after him the following year. He was highly respected by the global planetary science community and was a frequent commentator on space activity. 

Former colleagues described him as “"enthusiastic, inspirational and never-failing in his drive to promote planetary sciences and the science that would come from missions to the Moon and Mars". 

Professor in Planetary Sciences, Monica Grady, who worked with him for 35 years said: "He was my PhD supervisor, and one of the most influential figures in my life, both academically and as a friend. We collaborated on a great variety of projects, and were talking about new things to work on when I saw him last week. I will miss him, as I'm sure that many others will as well." 

Colin was married to wife Judith and has two children Shusanah and Nicholas.




OU Charter Day

AOUG were honoured to be invited as special guests to attend the 2014 OU Charter Day and to be welcomed personally by both the Vice-Chancellor and the Director of Communications. Celebrations took place on the OU campus on Tuesday 29th April. A great celebration had been held in 2013 to link with the updating of the OU Student Charter but this second celebration of the granting of the Royal Charter to The Open University, was also a celebration of the university`s forty fifth year since the first intake of students. The day was celebrated throughout the centres in all Regions and Nations with the cutting of special Charter Day Cakes and on campus this was done jointly by Baron Haskins, Pro Chancellor, and Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor. It was really pleasing to witness both men answer without scripts and to hear how they really felt about unfolding situations.  

They were both introduced by Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications, to the assembled audiences in the Berrill Theatre, and by intranet links to all the Regional and National OU Centres around the UK. Martin spoke of the Faculty displays in the Jenny Lee Building, each following the theme of Innovation, and the great innovations that were happening in every area of the OU. He stressed the need to build on the foundations of the past and not to think of those times as the best years of the OU but to look to the future and to plan to embrace technological innovations yet unknown, to ensure that the OU continued to lead the way and to ensure that the best years were still to come.

Baron Haskins who retires from his role at the end of the year, gave a frank heartfelt speech about the struggles the OU had had especially over government funding with their changes in criteria affecting ELQs and student loans and the need to prepare to allow the OU to stay ahead of the more conventional universities. Both then took unprepared questions from the floor and from the OU Centres by e-mail links. 

When we visited the many stands, the staff members overflowed with enthusiasm to impress upon all who attended, the wonders of their department's innovative work and their ideas and plans for the future. We encountered special computer programmes showing the links between the different ways learning was provided throughout a course, interactive e-books allowing not just enlargements of photos but further pictorial resources giving animated views of the items through three dimensional imagery, along with findings of research into problems for the ageing population presented by modern household designs more suited to the twenty years olds and the further planned research into issues for the partial sighted or hard of hearing.  Each stand offered a fascinating insight into the work behind the OU courses, the research into academic challenges, the ideas for future courses, and the ways to improve their presentations to enhance the students' experiences. So much information to excite the brain and re-ignite the pride we have in our university. As Martin Bean said - the best is yet to come.