My topic is mapping a controversy in higher education in the UK. The controversy centres on the Open University (but does have wider implications) and the particular challenges around financial sustainability it faces and related to the appointment of Peter Horrocks as Vice Chancellor back in 2015. This all came to a head in early 2018 with a proposed new strategy for the University that involved cutting a large number of courses and staff along with a refocusing of research activities. The new strategy also included a commitment to the continued expansion of, and investment in, FutureLearn as a platform for delivering the OU and other universities’ programmes. The Twitter ‘storm’ that I’m looking at was part of a wider, and predictable, backlash with fears for the survival of the Open University itself. The situation was exacerbated by an ill-judged and thought-through attack on the academic staff by Peter Horrocks leading to a vote of no confidence in him and his resignation as Vice Chancellor.
My research question on the Twitter storm is about what groups are involved in the debate, who the key actors were and the spread and patterns of interactions.