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The Tree of Learning

2019 was a year of celebration for The Open University, a year to recognise and reflect on the last 50 years of life-changing education. To mark our 50th Anniversary, the University unveiled the Tree of Learning sculpture in the Betty Boothroyd Library in the Milton Keynes campus.

A huge thank you to alumni supporters and donors

The ongoing support of alumni and donors for the 50th Anniversary Scholarships Fund means that we can now offer scholarships to carers who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to study. They will be able to experience the life-changing gift of education because of your kindness. Find out more about the Carers Scholarships Fund.

Each generous donor could choose to be recognised and have a shield personalised with their name and a year that is significant to their OU journey. The response from alumni, staff and students exceeded all expectations with over 7,200 people donating and choosing to have a shield. We were so overwhelmed with the response that we had to have a bigger tree! The Tree was originally planned to be 15-foot (4.5m) and due to the success of the Fund, the Tree grew to 22-foot (6.7m).

One incredible sculpture

Looking at the impressive Tree, it’s clear just how much hard work and dedication went into bringing the sculpture to life. Metalwork artist Clare McHugh, known as MissFire, spent 94 days making every single branch of the Tree, working in her studio through sweltering summer days. There are 1,900 branches in total!

MissFire said:

“When I was approached and told the size of the original project it was quite daunting. It was bigger than anything I’ve made up until that point, but I reminded myself that life is about seizing opportunities, it’s about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and so, although I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Now, that the Tree is in the library, MissFire is amazed by the generosity of donors. She said: “Seeing the Tree so full is a testament to what a success the project has been.”

Published: 21 April 2020

Further Reading