Tristram Hunt MP tracks the life's work of the historian Asa Briggs, who was instrumental in the founding of the University of Sussex and The Open University.
By the time of his death in March 2016, Asa Briggs had come a long way.
From a childhood helping run his dad's struggling shop in Depression-era West Yorkshire, he began his career at amazing speed. At 16, he arrived at Cambridge University from his grammar school on a scholarship. Not content with that, he did a second degree at the same time. At 21, he was cracking codes at Bletchley Park. In 1945, he turned down the offer of a safe Labour seat. In his late twenties, he had a fellowship at Oxford. In 1951, he went on a road trip round Syria and Turkey with a young student of his - Rupert Murdoch.
Briggs became the official historian of the BBC, where he learned to run institutions - and then grabbed the chance to build one himself. First as a Dean, then as Vice-Chancellor, at the new University of Sussex, he was there from the start - building up the institution from a port-a-cabin office at first. He made Sussex the most glamorous of the new universities of the 1960s, appearing on chat shows with David Frost and James Baldwin and being interviewed by Vogue. And then he played a major role in shaping a much bigger, more radical institution: The Open University.
Asa Briggs, The Last Victorian Improver is broadcast at 8pm on Saturday 7 January 2017 on BBC Radio 4. See below for more details, or head over to the BBC site for a link to the iPlayer.
More about Asa Briggs
We also produced a short reading list when Briggs sadly passed away.