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Jennie Lee and the University of the Air

Jennie Lee (1904-1988) was born into a Fife mining community rooted in Scottish socialism. Lee had a meteoric rise within the Independent Labour Party and at the age of twenty-four won the Parliament seat of North Lanark. She lost the seat in 1931, returning to Parliament in 1945 as member for Cannock. In the interim she married Labour politician Anuerin Bevan.

After the 1964 General Election she was appointed Minister for the Arts, producing the seminal White Paper ‘A Policy for the Arts'. In 1967 Lee laid the foundations for the ‘University of the Air', or Open University. Launched two years later, it provided a distance learning platform via television programmes transmitted by the BBC. Initially with 25,000 places, by 1984 it was Britain's largest university with 100,000 students. In 1970 Lee took a Life Peerage, becoming Baroness Lee of Asheridge.


Jennie Lee


21 October 1964

Catalogue number

Parliamentary Archives, PUD/F/1281