Skip to content
Skip to main content

STiP@50 Celebrations

Updated Tuesday, 14 December 2021
STiP@50 celebrates fifty years of distance learning at The Open Univeristy along with Systems Thinking. Find out more about systems thinking in practice with these podcasts and videos. 

What is STiP@50?

STiP@50 celebrates the unique coupling, in 1971, between the provision of Supported Open and Distance Learning as developed at the OU since 1969, with tertiary level teaching of systems thinking in the UK and beyond.  2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of  a new academic department – the Systems Department. Under the leadership of a newly appointed first Professor of Systems, John Beishon (1930-2001), a group of Systems thinking practitioners (STPs) collaborated to design and then present a new undergraduate module (the first of many) called Systems Behaviour (T241). Through various organisational and operational changes over that time the name, personnel and educational offerings of this group of systems practitioners have changed with the current incarnation being the  ASTiP (Applied Systems Thinking in Practice) group in the School of Engineering and Innovation. The life and contribution of John Beishon to establishing the nature and scope of this systems thinking and practice is celebrated through an occasional lecture series called the John Beishon Memorial Lecture (see Summary overview of Memorial Lectures in Open University ASTiP, 2021) while a short history of OU systems thinking - Systems Thinking at the Open University: 50-year celebration (OU Systems @50) is available to download (Ison, 2021).

Reasons to be cheerful

Fifty years on, the OU has a thriving postgraduate suite of qualifications in systems thinking in practice (STiP) and extensive experience of designing and delivering STiP education and scholarship. The OU is probably the largest and most experienced provider of STiP education and scholarship in the world. Since 1971 the OU has had over 50,000 students worldwide taking a variety of systems courses, whether as stand-alone modules or as part of different UG and PG programmes of study. In 2010 ASTiP launched a specific Postgraduate suite of qualifications for STiP, with now over 1200 students having studied our core STiP modules. The ASTiP group and our PG alumni, drawing on ASTiP-led scholarship and action research initiatives from 2014, took a lead role in establishing a Trailblazing Group with the UK Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (Reynolds et al., 2020). The Institute has given approval for a new occupational role and associated Level 7 (postgraduate) systems thinking practitioner apprenticeship (STPA) and the OU launches its own STPA programme in 2022.

Led by ASTiP, the Open University was able to celebrate this unique pioneering tradition of fostering STiP capabilities for lifelong learning and managing change in broad-ranging professional contexts through two initiatives in 2021; whose resources are on this STiP Hub:

a series of 8 webinar events that began in April

a series of 10 audio podcasts originally recorded in August/ September involving one-to-one conversations with ASTiP Associate, (Emeritus) Professor Simon Bell

Celebration 1: Webinar series   

Starting in April 2021 ASTiP hosted a monthly series of eight hour-long lunch-time (beginning 12 noon UK time) seminars on the OU Zoom platform. The first seven events involved specially invited external expert guests from the international field. The final eighth event (7th December 2021) was given as the 4th John Beishon Memorial Lecture presented by Professor Ray Ison from ASTiP. Details of the webinars are given below.

April 27: Andrew Mitchell De Montfort University

Second-order perspectives on learning and practice under complex conditions

May 25: Glenda Eoyang, Human Systems Dynamics Institute (Minnesota, USA)

Scale-free dissemination: local behaviours to systemic results

June 22: Mike Jackson (Hull)

Systems Thinking and Practice: What has been done and what needs doing.

July 27: Sharon Pollard, Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) (South Africa)

Systemic praxis for water governance: Unnecessary divergence or essential framing?

September 7: Tyson Yunkaporta, Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab (Australia)

On Being Systems within Systems

October 12: Gene Bellinger, Independent consultant (USA)

Systems thinking: trial and learning

November 9: Julian Corner, Lankelly Chase (London)

Systems thinking and social justice

December 7: Ray Ison, Open University (Australia/ Milton Keynes)

‘In search of Aha moments’ Fifty years of systemic co-designing for transformative learning with STiP.

Celebration 2: Podcast series  

During the summer of 2021, 10 Systems thinking practitioners with diverse association with the ASTiP group over the past 50 years were identified and invited to have a conversation about their own experiences of using systems thinking in practice. Professor Simon Bell kindly agreed to facilitate each of the one-to-one conversations. Simon is an experienced facilitator with unique knowledge and experience of the ASTiP group coupled with a particular post-retirement interest in crafting and curating conversations for a variety of purposes aligned with STiP.  

Under Simon’s stewardship, each conversation was structured around  ‘systems as my background/ friend/ solace rather than “systems as my weapon” or “my way to make the world the way I want it to be”. 

After all recordings were complete, each interview was edited down to between 11 and 16 minutes. Approval for the final edits were sought from each interviewee. A schedule for a staggered weekly release of each podcasts was is provided below. Individual biographies for each podcast contributor (including Simon) are given on the webpage featuring each contributor's podcast. 

Schedule of Podcast Releases

Podcast guest

Podcast release date


Arwen Bailey

15th  December


Jake Chapman

22nd December


Wendy Gregory

5th January


Misha Hebel

12th January


Martin Holt

19th January


John Naughton

26th January


Rupesh Shah

2nd  February


Paul Tucker

9th  February


Peter Tuddenham

16th  February


Mo Vernon

23rd February




Ison, R. (2021). Systems Thinking at the Open University: 50-year celebration (OU Systems @50). The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Open University (2021) ASTIP (Applied Systems Thinking in Practice) Group. John Beishon Memorial Lectures. The Open University,  Milton Keynes.

Reynolds, M; Ison, R; Shah, R and Wilding, H. (2020). Beyond employability: a more radical role for Higher Education in developing workplace capabilities. In: Employability Conference 2020 Expanding the narrative for a rapidly changing world, 11 Mar 2020, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.


Become an OU student

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?