HANDLE this copy of Open Eye with care, for it is a truly historic document. Slightly flimsier than normal because of seasonal constraints, it is therefore easier to save. And it is worth saving.

It is, as regular readers and members of the OU Alumni Association are aware, already unique in many ways.

It is the only alumni magazine in Europe (and, as far as we know, in the world) that is published on a monthly basis. It is the only university publication anywhere that is produced as an integral, yet stand-alone, part of a national newspaper.

It is the only university magazine that can be read in most parts of the world within 24 hours (and, in some places closer to hand, within about six hours) of being printed.

To all these unique qualities can now be added another First, for this issue alone. For - covering, as it does, two months' Learning Zone OU TV listings - it is the first publication since the invention of the printing press to span two millennia.

The viewing guide that starts with programmes for the remains of December days in 1999 on page 6, ends on page 8 just into the second month of the next millennium. A small step for Listings, maybe: but equally a giant leap for Publishing.

I appreciate that this claim will not wash with the few sad people who insist that we still have a whole year to wait for the next millennium actually to arrive, and are therefore, presumably, doomed to miss out on the celebrations at the end of this month, and to party all alone at the end of next year. And we are not going to continue that argument here.

Rather, we are getting down to working out some special (because it is a special date) new year resolutions.

We have heard of people who plan to take up life-changing new pursuits such as scuba-diving, mountain climbing, or sailing. Still more exciting, for us, are the decisions of OU graduates to go for that second (and, in some cases, third) degree.

We very much look forward to welcoming you back.

We will be publishing a list of Masters courses in the new year for those among you have made the decision to pursue a new course of study, without having reached a conclusion about precisely what course it should take.

Our own resolution in the Alumni Relations office is to meet more members of the alumni community in the new year. We are planning a list of special events, including a dinner trip on the Thames, to coincide with the London graduation ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, which will be open to all graduates, old and new.

We are also creating a weekend programme, including dinner with the Vice- Chancellor and a summer dance, based around the bi-annual Open Day at Walton Hall in June. Details, as they become available, can be found on the alumni website which is at www.openlink.org or by letter or phone to the address and number at the bottom of the page opposite.

Although, totally unlike every other university alumni organisation in the known world, we make a point of not continually passing round the begging bowl, this is the time of year when people think about making donations or helping others. And, should you be minded to assist your alma mater in any way, there are a number of ways you can do it, some of them incredibly easy, and all of them painless.

There is, for example, an opportunity on this page to help the OU while actually earning money. Volunteering to assist like that could be a fairly attractive resolution, and one that would probably be easy to keep.

Over the page is another idea that costs nothing, but which helps the OU considerably. If you apply for, and receive, an OU Visa card, the OU Foundation earns immediate income which is used to help disadvantaged students; and it earns more, every time you use the card, in spite of having no annual fees. It is a no-lose option.

There is also, for those people prepared to dip into their pockets and make a donation, however small, information about the new dream project, which will assist sight-impaired students to gain better access to their course work.

And for those who expect to get a present of a computer for Christmas, what better than to subscribe to the Alumni Association's own Internet service, ouvip, which costs only a pound a month and provides access at local rates throughout the UK? To receive a free disk to subscribe to the system, and give yourself an e-mail address which you could easily create as yourname@ouvip, simply phone 0870 6070797.

Another kindly option, for those with some organisational ability and a bit of time on their hands, would be to volunteer to assist your Alumni Association in arranging events in the regions.

TALKING of resolutions, more than a quarter of a century ago, while I was telling Jeffrey Archer he should resign as an MP because he was bankrupt, and while he was telling people he and I had been at Oxford together (neither of which happened to be true), I resolved never to buy his books.

I broke that pledge last week when I saw a photograph of a supermarket assistant "removing the books of the disgraced politician from the shelves of the store" - which looked to me like being akin to book-burning.

So I bought one... and immediately gave it away. The blurb on the front described Lord Archer as "the greatest story-teller of our time." So, no dissembling there.

I expect I'll bump into him again in the Blues' seats at the Varsity match this afternoon.

Revel Barker

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