Systems and the ‘Polo Mint’ Metaphor

  • R. Armson
  • R. L. Ison


The Systems Department in the Faculty of Technology at The Open University is unique in that it has taught systems thinking within an applied systems framework, using supported distance teaching methods, for 21 years. In this period over 16,000 undergraduates and associate students have taken one of the Department’s three major Systems courses. In their current ‘incarnations’ these are; Managing in Organisations (T245); Working with Systems (T247) and Complexity, Management and Change (T301). New postgraduate and undergraduate courses are envisaged. All Systems courses are supported by a one week intensive and experiential systems summer school (SYST 999). The Department also hosts Third World Development, contributes around 80 per cent of the ‘teaching’ for both the Faculty’s foundation course, Living with Technology (T102) and the Faculty’s MSc and MBA programmes in Technology and Manufacturing management. Open University teaching material has been widely disseminated and used to guide other curricula. The formation of the Systems Department was a highly innovative move in 1972; it remains the largest Systems Department in Europe with 21 full-time academic staff. Courses remain popular with students with around 2500 enrolments in courses in 1994.


Participatory Rural Appraisal Bicycle Wheel Joint European Torus System Staff Large System Department 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Armson
    • 1
  • R. L. Ison
    • 1
  1. 1.The Systems DepartmentThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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