Open University Practicals chenistryThis has been an invigorating week involving job applications of various kinds, a dead alderman, an equally dead dragon and the launch of SOUP.

SOUP (Save OU Practicals) has its origin in one of the online forums inhabited by Open University students at odd hours of the day and night. The original announcement about the scrapping of science practical summer schools (on financial grounds) was made last year. Debate raged until somebody (OK, me) suggested lodging a protest using HMG’s new fangled e-petition site.

So I created what I thought was quite a good business case and submitted the petition. The key points are:

  • removing “hands on” science from university science courses is the educational equivalent of abolishing motherhood and apple pie
  • the way in which the Open University is funded is changing, meriting a review of the original decision

Unfortunately, the petition was delayed by a surge of hangers and floggers who brought the site down in the wake of the recent riots – these people obviously haven’t heard of queuing.

Open University Practicals - biology Anyway, it got approval this week and project SOUP was launched. The process of setting up the campaign infrastructure – the e-petition, the  Facebook page, Twitter account, networking with fellow students and the wider worlds of news and science has been fascinating.

To be honest, I’m not sure of the value of the e-petition system. You have to reach 100,000 signatures to be even considered as a subject for Parliamentary debate which means that only those calling for punitive punishments, unrealistic tax cuts or being horrid to foreigners have a hope of reaching this target.

Save Open University Practicals - geologyThe main benefit to a campaign such as SOUP is that it provides a hook to hang a campaign on. A fellow student, who has been active in the campaign, suggested getting support from well known public figures. Although initially sceptical, I’ve come round to the view that a few strongly worded letters from distinguished scientists and friends of the university may well carry as much, if not more, weight than any number of mouse clicks.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Links :e-petion to save Open University Practicals, SOUP on twitter, SOUP on Facebook