A gazetteer of closed higher education institutions

Institutional histories can tend to have a whiggish tone: the university has proceeded from small beginnings through some form of struggle to arrive at the perfectly formed institution it is now. There are fewer histories of the places that failed. This is an attempt to list them. At first this will include places that have closed outright or where, after merger, their original site has been left*. This will focus on HEIs that offered degrees, or other recognised higher education qualifications, under systems akin to our present arrangements. Mergers are complex to represent, as this post showed. Many are former colleges of education closed in the 1970s.

I am not including most of the dissenting academies in this list; not because I don’t have regard for them, but because there’s a fabulous website dedicated to them here.

Alnwick College of Education
Housed in Alnwick Castle from 1944 to 1977 this is the higher education institution with the strongest case to have looked like Hogwarts (even if the Harry Potter filming was over 20 years after it closed).

Alsager College
Cheshire County Training College was an emergency college founded in a former housing site for an ordnance factory in 1945. It merged with Crewe college and subsequently with Manchester Polytechnic just before it got university title. The site was closed in 2006 and all the buildings are now demolished and replaced with a housing estate called ‘Scholar’s Place’.

Anstey College of Physical Education
Founded in 1897 merged with Birmingham Polytechnic in 1975, site was closed in 1984 after teaching moved to another site.

Balls Park Training College, Hertford
Teacher training college from 1946, merged in 1976 into Hertfordshire College of Higher Education. Hatfield Polytechnic took over the site, with its mansion house, which was sold in 2001 and developed into housing.

Bedford College
Opened in 1849 as the first college for women to undertake a higher education. Merged with Royal Holloway College in 1985 and all activities moved to Egham. Formerly in Bedford Square, new premises were open in Regents Park in 1913, these now house Regents University.

City of Birmingham College of Education
Founded in 1948, moved to Edgbaston in 1957, merged with Birmingham Polytechnic in 1975, with teaching moved to Perry Barr in 2001.

Bishop Lonsdale College of Education, Derby
Founded in 1961, one of the colleges that joined into what is now the University of Derby, its Mickleover campus was closed in 2007.

Bordesley College of Education
Founded in 1963, merged with Birmingham Polytechnic in 1975 and teaching was moved to Perry Barr in 2001.

Brentwood College of Education
Merged to form the Chelmer Institute in 1977. This merged with CCAT to form Anglia which proceeded from college, to polytechnic to university in quick succession. The Brentwood campus closed in the 1990s.

Bretton Hall, Wakefield
Founded in 1949, teacher training college diversified into performing arts. Merged with its validating university, Leeds, in 2001 with a plan to operate as a faculty, but closed in 2007.

Brixton School of Building
Founded in 1904, a regional college run by London County Council and then ILEA, it ran CNAA degrees in building, quantity surveying, estate management and structural engineering. Merged to become the Polytechnic of the South Bank. Moved from its historic site in Brixton, to the Wandsworth Rd and then to Elephant & Castle

Callendar Park College of Education, Falkirk
Opened in 1964 as a response to teacher shortages, merged with Moray House in 1981, with the buildings subsequently demolished.

Chelsea College
A College of Advanced Technology, first opened as South West Polytechnic in 1895, it considered a relocation to St Albans in 1965 but joined the University of London. It merged with Queen Elizabeth College and then with King’s College, London.

Coloma College of Education, West Wickham
Formerly Convent of the Ladies of Mary, opened as a teacher training college in 1947. Closed August 1978 Buildings adapted for use as a Roman Catholic comprehensive school.

Craiglockhart College of Education, Edinburgh
Officially opened on 20 October 1920, merged with Notre Dame College of Education in Glasgow to form St Andrew’s College of Education based at Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire. The building, a former hydropathic institution, was sold to Napier Polytechnic in 1986.

Crewe College
Merged with Alasger College, merged with Manchester Metropolitan University in 1992 operating as the Cheshire Campus. Campus closing in 2019, the buildings will be used by the University of Buckingham for health courses.

Culham College
Church of England teacher training college. Founded in 1852 near Abingdon. Closed in 1979. A trust was established after the closure, the buildings are in use by the Europa School.

Darlington College of Education
Founded in 1876, the college had focused on training nursery teachers but diversified in the 1960s. It closed in August 1978. The site housed Darlington Arts Centre until 2013.

Dartington College of Arts
The Dartington Hall Trust arts department became a college in 1962 and offered CNAA degrees. Merger with Falmouth was followed by relocation to Cornwall in 2010. The Trust continues on the site, with its international summer school.

De La Salle College, Manchester
Catholic teacher training college from 1946, closed in 1986 after a surprise decision by the DES to close it in 1982. Site is now the Middleton campus of Hopwood Hall College.

Didsbury College of Education
Emergency college housed in former buildings of a theological college, which had been used as a hospital until 1945. Merged with Manchester Polytechnic in 1977, the site was closed in 2014 and has been developed for housing.

Dunfermline College of Physical Education
Carnegie Dunfermline College of Hygiene and Physical Training was originally founded by the Andrew Carnegie Trust as a training college for women students of Physical Education. Opened in 1905, it moved to Cramond in 1966, it merged with Moray House College in 1987 and the site was closed in 2001 after merger with Edinburgh.

Eaton Hall College of Education, Retford
A 19th century country house, became an emergency maternity home in the war, and afterwards an emergency teacher training college. Closed August 1980, the buildings are now used by Jamia Al-Karam.

Enfield College of Technology
Middlesex County Council created the Ponders End Technical Institute in 1905 , renaming it Enfield College of Technology in 1962. Under George Brosnan and Eric Robinson much of the thinking for the new polytechnics was done and the college combined with Hendon College of Technology and Hornsey College of Art to form Middesex Polytechnic in 1973. With the concentration of teaching at Hendon, the Enfield campus closed in 2008.

Garnett College
A training college for mature students aiming to be lecturers, established in 1946 it moved to Roehampton in 1963, merging with Thames Polytechnic in 1986 when the students were moved to Avery Hill. Some of the buildings are now used by Roehampton University.

Elizabeth Gaskell College
A training school in ‘cookery and laundry work’ was opened in 1880, coming under the Manchester Education Committee in 1906, expanding to cover teacher training as well as housecraft, it became the Elizabeth Gaskell College in the 1960s and merged into the City of Manchester College of Higher Education in 1976, merging with Manchester Polytechnic in 1982. The campus was closed in 2014 and is becoming a private hospital.

Hackney College
Emerging from training offered to preachers, the institution was established in 1803, gained its new buildings in 1887, was made a divinity school of the University of London in 1900. It merged with New College in 1924.

Hamilton College of Education
Opened in 1966 it merged with Jordanhill College of Education in 1981. The campus was sold, partly to a Christian School and partly for housing development.

Hereford College of Education
A local authority teacher training college it opened in 1902 and closed August 1978. Buildings are now used by the Royal National College for the Blind.

Hertfordshire College of Art and Design
Based in St Albans, was approved by CNAA, merging with Hatfield Polytechnic in 1993 it subsequently moved there.

Heythrop College
Having its origins in theological colleges first founded in 1614, the College became established at Heythrop Hall in 1926 and moved to London in 1970 where it became a School of the University of London. The College ‘ceased its teaching activities on 31st October 2018’.

Hockerill College, Bishop’s Stortford
Founded in 1850 the college closed in August 1978. Hockerill Anglo-European College (an independent boarding school) is now housed there.

Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce
A merger of diverse London colleges: Bowling Green Lane Night School, Hugh Myddleton Institute, and Princeton Street School of Modern Languages it is existed from 1960 to 1970 when it joined the Polytechnic of Central London.

Hornsey College of Arts and Crafts
Founded in 1880, it had a famous sit-in during 1968, achieving some notoriety. It was one of the colleges that formed Middlesex Polytechnic in 1973, the Crouch End building was later used by the TUC and is now part of a primary school.

Ilkley College of Education
In large former hydropathic hospital, the college merged with Bradford College in 1982 and the campus closed in 1999. Building is now housing.

Jordanhill College, Glasgow
Opened in 1921, the college merged with Hamilton College, and then in 1993 became the faculty of education at Strathclyde. Teaching at the site was stopped in 2012.

Kesteven Agricultural College
Founded in 1948 at Caythorpe Court, it amalgamated with two other agricultural colleges (Holbeach and Riseholm) in 1980 to form the Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture. That joined De Montfort University in 1990 but in 2001 the Lincolnshire School of Agriculture was transferred to the University of Lincoln and Caythorpe sold. It is now a PGL activities centre.

Kesteven College of Education, Grantham (main college)
Stoke Rochford Hall was purchased by in 1948 by Kesteven County Council as a teacher training college, it closed in August 1978. Subsequently used as the NUT’s training centre, it became a hotel in 2016.

Kesteven College of Education (Peterborough Annexe)
Closed in August 1980 it was designated to be used for in-service training as an outpost of Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln

Lady Mabel College of Physical Education
Lady Mabel Fitzwilliam arranged the lease of part of Wentworth Woodhouse for use at a training college from 1949. It merged with Sheffield Polytechnic in 1977 who kept teaching at the house until 1988.

La Sainte Union College of Higher Education
Opened in 1904 by sisters of La Sainte Union des Sacres Coeurs. Merged with University of Southampton in 1997 after ITT contact terminated to become ‘New College’. Site sold for housing in 2004.

Llandaff College of Education (Home Economics)
The Training School for Cookery and Domestic Arts was part of the expansion of technical and vocational education in the 1890s.  The Llandaff College of Education merged with University College Cardiff in 1977.

Long Millgate College of Education, Manchester
Established in the Alfred Waterhouse designed former building of the Manchester Grammar School in the 1950s, the College closed in 1978 on amalgamation into the City of Manchester College of Higher Education, which subsequently joined Manchester Polytechnic. The building is now used by Chetham’s School of Music.

Designed by Alfred Waterhouse for Manchester Grammar School, used by Long Millgate College, now Chetham’s School.

Manchester and Salford Women’s College
Owens’ College was asked to provide access for women, and settled on a scheme for a separate college as it was not prepared to sanction mixed education. The College opened in 1877, but by 1880 Owens College agreed to take over its management and in 1883 incorporated the college as a Women’s department.

Maria Assumpta College, London
Catholic women’s teacher training college in Kensington Square, closed August 1978. Buildings were then used by Heythrop College.

Maria Grey College
Opened as the Teachers’ Training & Registration Society College in 1878, renamed Maria Grey College in 1886 it moved to Twickenham in 1946. It merged in 1976 to form the West London Institute.

Mary Ward College, Nottingham
Opened in 1968, the college closed less than 10 years later in August 1977. The site was sold to the British Geological Survey.

Mattlock College
Teacher Training college from 1946, merged with Derby Lonsdale College in 1988. The building, a former Hydropathic Establishment, is now housing.

Middleton St. George College of Education, Darlington
Housed in buildings of a former RAF base from 1968 it closed in August 1979. The rest of the RAF base became Teesside International Airport. Buildings have a mix of purposes, but include the International Fire Training Centre.

Milton Keynes College of Education
Closed December 1981

New College London
The result of a merger of three distinguished dissenting academies in 1850, New College merged with Hackney College in 1924, both having become members of the University of London’s Theology Faculty. Consolidated on one site in Hampstead which closed in 1977. The buildings are now the home of ESCP Europe’s London campus.

Nonnington College of Physical Education, Kent
Opened in 1938, expanded in the 1960s, marked for closure but diversified in the 1970s, it was closed in 1986. A Bruderhof community now use the main house.

North Riding College, Scarborough
Teacher training college, diversified and courses were validated by Leeds, then York and then Hull universities. Merged with Hull in 2000 but announced in 2015 it was leaving the site now used by Scarborough TEC.

University of Northampton
A university founded by members from Oxford and Cambridge, certainly in corporate existence in 1265 when it was ordered closed. The king agreed with this petition:

‘If the university … persisted there, it would much harm our town of Oxford … especially as all the bishops of our land have signified by their letters patent that the university should be moved from the town for the utility of the English church and the advancement of students’

Northumberland College of Education, Ponteland
Closed August 1981 Now the Kirkley Hall campus of Northumberland College

Norwich Training College
Founded in 1839 as a Church of England Training College, it moved in 1948 to Keswick Hall. The College was merged with UEA which then disposed of the site (on UGC instructions) in 1981.

Notre Dame College of Education, Glasgow
On a new site in 1969, merged with Craiglockhart training college in 1981 to create St Andrew’s College of Education. Merged with Glasgow University in 1999 which left the site in 2002.

Philippa Fawcett and Furzedown College of Education, London
Merged in 1974, closed in August 1980. Phillipa Fawcett college was re-named after the mathematician and educationalist. Furzedown was a London County Council college founded in 1915, its premises are in use by Graveney School

Queen’s College, Glasgow
Originally the West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, it was renamed the Queens’ College in its centenary year of 1975. It merged with Glasgow Polytechnic becoming Glasgow Caledonian University in 1993. It’s buildings were acquired by Glasgow University in 1998 to accommodate education work including the St Andrew’s College of Education.

Queen’s University
Peel’s plans for higher education in Ireland were predicated on a federal examining university, similar to London. In its first iteration only three colleges (Belfast, Cork & Galway) were allowed to join. The University was established in 1850 and dissolved in 1882. Its functions were taken on by the Royal University of Ireland. This in turn was replaced by the National University of Ireland in 1909.

Queen Elizabeth College, London.
Opened as Ladies Department of Kings College London in 1885. Moved to Kensington in 1915, received Royal Charter in 1953 and was a school of the University of London from 1956. Re-merged with Kings in 1985 and site was sold in 2000 for housing (some using the original buildings). Ran the Household and Social Science course.

Queen Margaret College, Glasgow
A women’s college organised by the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women, it was incorporated in 1883 and merged with the University of Glasgow in 1892, their premises continued to be used just for the education of women until 1935 when sold to the BBC.

Radbrook College, Shrewsbury
Opened 1901, became part of Shrewsbury College after teacher training closed in August 1977 was sold for housing development in 2014

Former Radbrook College

Richmond College
A Methodist theological college founded in 1843 which became a school of the University of London, it closed in 1972. The site is now that of Richmond University.

Ripon College
Founded in 1846 in York, the women’s college moved to Ripon in 1862 before merging with York’s St John College in 1974. The Ripon site was closed in 2001 and is now housing.

Former Ripon College of Education

Rolle College, Exmouth
Opened in 1946, merged with Plymouth Polytechnic in 1988, site was closed in 2009. Will become the home of Exeter Deaf Academy.

Royal Naval College (Greenwich)
Established in 1873 in the Royal Hospital for naval officers. Approved by CNAA for courses, training was reorganised in the 1990s and the buildings open to the public and used by the University of Greenwich.

Rugby College of Engineering Technology
A regional college, but with 800 FT or sandwich students in 1969, it was proposed as a possible polytechnic. It merged to become part of Lanchester Polytechnic, all activity moving to Coventry.

Saffron Walden College of Education
Opened in 1884, closed in 1977. The buildings became Bell College, a language school which closed in 2007. The buildings are now housing.

Sedgley Park College of Education, Manchester
Formerly a convent, closed August 1979, purchased by the Greater Manchester Police as their training centre.

St Katherine’s College, Tottenham
The oldest part of what will become Middlesex University, opened in 1878, it becomes the College of All Saints in 1966, closing in 1978 transferring to Middlesex Polytechnic.

St Mary’s College of Education, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne
Catholic teacher training college, founded in 1905, merged with Newcastle University in 1985, buildings in use as hall of residence but now advertised for sale.

St Matthias College, Bristol
The Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Training Institution for School Mistresses opened in 1853, subsequently being renamed as St Matthias, it merged with Bristol Polytechnic in 1972 and the site was a campus of UWE until its closure in 2014. The College’s historic buildings are now the home of a Steiner Academy.

St. Paul’s College, Rugby
Catholic training college, at Newbold Revel, which had been an agent training establishment in World War 2. It closed in August 1978 and has been used by British Telecom and now the Prison Service for training.

St. Peter’s College, Saltley
Founded in 1852. On closure in August 1978 the buildings were sold (with a trust created from the funds) and used as a hall of residence by Aston, now it is run by a housing association.

College of Sarum St. Michael, Salisbury
Salisbury Training College opened in 1841 as one of the first five teacher training colleges to be founded by the National Society for the Church of England. Although agreement was reached to merge with King Alfred’s College in Winchester, the college agreed to closure. Closed in August 1978, an educational trust was formed from the assets.

Seale-Hayne College
Agricultural college built before World War One but students only arrived n 1920 it merged with Polytechnic South West in 1989, the site was closed in 2005. It had been in use by the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust but this has ended and the site is for sale.

Sittingbourne College of Education
Occupying a former school building, from the 1960s onwards, the college closed in August 1979. The building was used as an adult education centre until 2018 but is now for sale with permission to convert it into housing.

South-East Essex Technical College, Barking
Opened in 1936 to serve the Becontree estate, it became the Barking Regional College of Technology in 1965 and merged to form the North East London Polytechnic. UEL vacated the site in 2006 and it has been redeveloped as housing.

University of Stamford
Founded in 1333 after a migration from Oxford, the university was suppressed by a writ of Edward III in 1335. Clearly seen as a threat to the two English universities, Masters of Arts at Oxford continues to swear this oath into the 19th century:

You shall also swear that you will not read lectures, or hear them read, at Stamford, as in a University study, or college general.

Quoted in Parker I, 1914, Dissenting Academies in England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p66

County of Stafford Training College, Madeley
Founded in 1949 at Nelson Hall as a women’s teacher training college. admitting men from 1958 it developed physical education as a speciality which, after merger with North Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1978, continued to develop. The Madeley site was closed in the 1980s.

Stockwell College of Education, Bromley
Founded by the British and Foreign School Society in 1860, the college moved into the former palace of the Bishops of Rochester in 1930. It was evacuated 1940-1945 and closed in August 1980. The site is now used from the Borough Civic Centre.

Sunderland Teacher Training College
Founded in 1908, the college moved to Langham Tower in 1922. It merged with Sunderland Polytechnic in 1975. In 2004 the University of Sunderland sold the site to Sunderland High School which closed in 2016.

Thames Valley College of Higher Education
Developing from a college in Slough, the College was dissolved in 1991, all assets transferring to Ealing College of HE which became Thames Valley University. TVU developed the site, adding a Richard Rogers designed library which was opened by Tony Blair. The Slough site was closed in 2000 and the university renamed as West of London.

Thomas Huxley College, Ealing
Closed in August 1980, site was used by Ealing Tertiary College.

Totley Hall Training College
Opened in 1950 as Totley Hall College of Housecraft, the college developed into teacher training, before merger with Sheffield Polytechnic in 1977. Sheffield Hallam University left the site in 1997.

Trent Park College of Education.
Opened in 1947 as an emergency teacher training college, adopted the name in 1950, merged with Middlesex Polytechnic in 1974. In 2012 the site was vacated and sold to a Malaysian University, who did not relocate there and the site was sold for housing in 2016.

Victoria University
A federal examining university created to provide degree-awarding powers for Owens College, Manchester and later for University College Liverpool and the Yorkshire College. Founded in 1870 it was merged into the Victoria University of Manchester in 1904.

Wall Hall College
A post-war teacher training college in a mansion in Aldenham (which had been owned by JP Morgan and lived in by Joe Kennedy) it merged in 1976 into Hertfordshire College of Higher Education. The University of Hertfordshire sold the site in 2003.

Wentworth Castle College of Education, Barnsley
Local authority college from 1948, closed August 1978. Based in the Grade I stately home, which is now used by the Northern College. The grounds are open to the public under National Trust management.

West London Institute of Higher Education
Created from merger of the Borough Road and Maria Grey teacher training colleges and Chiswick Polytechnic in 1976 it merged with Brunel University in 1995. The campuses were sold in succession and teaching moved to Uxbridge.

Westhill College, Birmingham
Founded in 1907 the College’s courses were validated by Birmingham with which it merged in 2001. The site is now used by the University of Birmingham School.

Westfield College, London.
Founded in 1882 it was a college of the University of London until merger with Queen Mary College in 1989. The site in Hampstead passed to Kings College, some of it being used for student accommodation.

Wye College
College of the University of London, but far away in Kent. Had origins in a medieval grammar school, but merged with Imperial College which subsequently closed the campus in 2009. Various visons for the site were debated, but the main building is now being converted into housing.

Yorkshire College of Education and Home Economics
The Yorkshire Training College of Housecraft was opened in 1874, it survived, with a name change, to become one of the constituent parts of the Leeds Polytechnic in 1970. It moved from its building, a former school, at the same time which is now used by the University of Leeds.

* Am happy to consider the overall methodology. I note that the effect is that a college such as St Luke’s in Exeter is not on this list because its site is still in use but Rolle College in Exmouth is because Plymouth has left the site. This is slightly arbitrary but avoids having to list every incarnation of every merged HEI. This is a bit of a work in progress – I need to work out how to represent former health colleges for example – am very happy to receive other suggestions for inclusion.


Graduation: Celebrating the Arcane

Graduation is a wonderful thing: celebrating the achievement of students, admitting them to degrees and marking one of life’s milestones. For young undergraduates, this is a part of a series of transitions into adulthood, for older students it can be a change in direction. Graduation comes with trappings; the mix of a special formality in a communal setting.

As graduation has all these trappings, it is often the showcase for the Academic Registrars’ art. This is because there’s no right way to do a graduation. Different universities do it differently. There’s an inheritance from older universities, but the university can decide itself. You can do it in a hall, or a church or a stadium. You can do it with speeches, or songs or poems. You can make it traditional or modern (do have a look at DMU’s ceremonies).

I think that with a ceremony it’s nice if everyone does broadly the same. So it’s nicer if everyone wears a gown and is smart (within some sensible conventions). There’s a debate about the cost of gown hire, but no real requirement for dressing up beyond that, although the debate on formality will run and run. There are other debates that run and run too…

Rules on Academic Dress

Universities have regulations regarding their academic dress, which set out the gowns, caps and hoods, and how these are to be worn at different ceremonies. These are internally consistent at a university’s own ceremony, but one of the excitements comes with staff wearing the academic dress of different universities.

Take hats as an example. Some universities have banished the hats for graduating students. While Leeds specifies hats in its regulations, students on taught courses don’t wear them.

Those being awarded diplomas, first degrees and masters degrees at the University’s degree ceremonies wear academic dress: they do not, through long established University custom and practice, wear the cap (mortarboard) prescribed as part of full academic dress

University of Leeds: General Regulations: Academic Dress

Graduates of St Andrews don’t wear the hats that have traditionally been defined in their academic dress, including the distinctive John Knox Cap for those with doctorates. That doesn’t, I contend, mean that staff mustn’t wear hats at other universities’ graduations.

Hoods are another example. Traditional forms of doctoral dress have had different definitions, where the hood was only worn when the graduate was not wearing the coloured gown. Compare these versions from Leeds’ regulations

Academic Dress
PhD Black Master’s gown with PhD Hood
Full Academic Dress
PhD gown without hood
Academic Dress
Doctors: black Master’s gown with appropriate Doctor’s hood
Full Academic Dress
Doctors: appropriate Doctor’s gown, hood and cap

At their graduation Leeds PhDs now wear the green gown, green hood and a hat. Oxford DPhils aren’t so lucky, their full academic dress is the scarlet robe and hat. Given the variety of occasions that academic dress can be worn at Oxford, there are seven variations for holders of doctoral degrees (subfusc being the regulated suit and tie worn underneath)

1. Black gown (laced, except for DD)
2. Black gown and hood
3. Black gown, hood, square (or for women, a soft cap if desired), and subfusc
4. Convocation habit (black gown, hood and sleeveless cloak [chemir], square (or for women, a soft cap if desired), subfusc, and bands
5. Scarlet robe and appropriate cap
6. Scarlet robe with subfusc and appropriate cap (Full Academic Dress for D.Phil.s)
7. Scarlet robe with subfusc and bands and appropriate cap (Full Academic Dress for Higher Doctors)

Regulations relating to Academic Dress made by the Vice-Chancellor, as Authorised by Council

Armed with this list you can spot the mistakes in Morse/Lewis/Endeavor. The good news, for simpler universities, is that Oxford DPhils can be provided with both scarlet robe and hood and wear them together. It’s your university’s rules – they don’t have to wear subfusc either.

Making your own traditions

You don’t have to stick with how its been done before (really – do look at DMU’s ceremonies), there’s always a chance to tweak things. At NTU we have a new University Hall across the road from our main buildings, which meant we reimagined a number of things about graduation. As an example, we have the procession forming a guard of honour at the end and applauding the graduates across the road. It has a practical function, but it’s also one of the parts that people like most. It’s a tradition now.

Make your graduation ceremonies your own. Embrace traditions, but remember that they’re just things that someone thought up once, so don’t be a prisoner to them. Once it was a tradition to have the national anthem at ceremonies – does anyone still do that?

The universities who never made the batting order.

It was a distinctive phase in the history of British Higher Education. The UGC had planned for expansion after the Second World War through growing existing universities and university colleges. Many of these had retrenched during the 1930s (and certainly during the war) so there was capacity. Other forms of higher education also expanded, with many new teacher training colleges and new routes in technical colleges.

The UGC received proposals for new universities but only acceded to one, the University College of North Staffordshire under the persuasive leadership of A D Lindsay which opened at Keele in 1949. Through the 1950s civic university colleges grew to a size and maturity that they could be granted University title; when Leicester got its title in 1957 that process was complete. The UGC agreed to another new university college, at Brighton, and invented a sponsorship model that would allow innovation. It also agreed that there should be more new universities, and so a very strange competition was started.

The UGC accepted bids for new universities. They established a new universities sub-committee and this set out sorting out a batting order of existing bids and evaluating new ones. This is well covered in histories of the UGC and in the accounts (sometimes heroic) of the universities that were born from this episode in British HE history. However, more evocative are the untold stories, of the universities that never happened, whose files remain as a testament to the optimism of local promotion committees who tried to get a new university.

The Team List

The UGC file contains two different lists of those bids they received, which I have collated, together with other known examples from their files.

Potential UniversityFirst knowledge of application
BrightonNovember 1946
BournemouthOctober 1959
Bury St EdmundsJuly 1947
CanterburySeptember 1947
CarlisleFebruary 1947
ChathamMarch 1958
ChesterDecember 1960
ClevelandJune 1956
CornwallMarch 1963
CoventryFebruary 1955
Cumberland & WestmorlandJune 1961
FolkestoneMarch 1958
Gloucestershire (Cheltenham)February 1959
GuildfordJanuary 1962
HerefordAugust 1958
Isle of ManDecember 1958
LancasterApril 1947
Llandrindod WellsJanuary 1962
North WalesFebruary 1960
NorwichJune 1946
PlymouthDecember 1960
SalisburySeptember 1946
StamfordJanuary 1960
StevenageSeptember 1959
Tees-sideApril 1963
ThanetJanuary 1959
WhitbyAugust 1959
Wiltshire (Swindon)May 1961
YorkFebruary 1947

The UGC had considerable latitude in how it went about the process, with the sub-committee considering applications on their merits, with the UGC Chairman, Sir Keith Murray, setting the tone of discussions. At its meeting in October 1957 it noted the actively promoted proposals were Coventry, Gloucester/Cheltenham, Norwich, Thanet and York

The UGC still reported to the Treasury but was in communication with the DES. There were considerations from the part of the HE sector that DES controlled. So, for example, Dame Mary Smieton, the Permanent Secretary, wrote a helpful commentary on some of the leading contenders:

We are frankly rather surprised that the Cheltenham/Gloucester proposal is not making more headway. … So far as technology is concerned … we should be embarrassed by any proposal to develop university courses in technology in the Cheltenham/Gloucester area until the Bristol CAT [now Bath] has reached the limit of reasonable expansion, and that time is not yet in sight.

Smieton, M, 1961, Letter to Sir Keith Murray 23 January 1961 UGC 7/170 TNA

Time was of the essence. In effect, the batting order was driven by a set of criteria; focused on local support, including access to land and other amenities. The UGC also had an informal spatial plan, it was clear that they would not be placing two new universities in the same area. When York was approved, that knocked Whitby out. Blackpool’s chances declined as Lancaster firmed up its offering. Stamford had prepared a detailed bid, but other Lincolnshire towns became interested. A file note records the visit of the Town Clerk of Grantham.

Mr Guile said that interest in a possible University in Grantham had started up … when they heard that people were interesting themselves in the Stamford project. …
Developing the case for a University at Grantham, if there were to be one in that part of the world at all, they said:-
(1) While Grantham would not pretend to have the history and background of Stamford, it probably had a more lively culture at present and it certainly was more of an industrial centre.
(2) It was two-and-a-half times as large as Stamford and might therefore be able better to cope with the lodgings question. …

UGC File Note: Grantham 28 April 1961 UGC 7/235 TNA

Stamford had been suggested as a site by its local MP on the grounds of both its historical links with Oxford and Cambridge and the opportunities afforded by its new bypass. Despite producing a formal submission, Stamford did not get approval before the scheme closed.

UGC 7/235 TNA

Each of the files contains the stories of the bids: The Isle of Man gamely hoping that the UK government would fund a university there despite them being outside the fiscal system; the hope that a university city of Avalon would be built next to Glastonbury; the note that Wolverhampton has good sporting facilities and a strongly supported football team; and the prospect of 300,000 beds being available for students if a university were to be in Blackpool. The files contain limited signs of consultation with communities, but someone was moved to write to the UGC about Blackpool:

I beg to strongly oppose the current suggestion that a university for the North West of England should be established at, or on the outskirts of, Blackpool.
A university is supposed to be a place where young people absorb culture and learning not spivvery and paganism.

Britton, HW, 1961, Letter to UGC Chairman 3 February 1961 UGC 7/270 TNA

The rest of the correspondence is charming. Notes from the sub-committee members record the emerging picture, particularly as the bids come thick and fast. Indeed the UGC adopted a proforma letter to reply to enquiries from local authorities. By March 1961 the second tranche of proposals are agreed with the Treasury.

As hinted, the appointment of the Robbins Committee stalls developments. Once its report is published and the government changes, the situation is clear. The Town Clerk of Swindon hadn’t been that enthusiastic to start; his first submission notes that the council’s first task is to overcome the “widespread impression of Swindon as a drab and dreary town” such that it was not desired that the name of a university founded at Swindon should include the name Swindon, but rather be the University of Wessex. He keeps up a cheerful correspondence with the UGC over the next four years, worrying whether Bournemouth was getting ahead etc. In February 1965 he keeps the UGC informed of the prospects for a university.

UGC 7/251

It was too late. Copleston replied to say that he hadn’t tossed the letter in the waste-basket, that he hadn’t groaned, but he did hold off replying until the new Secretary of State had made this announcement:

On the question of new universities, the Government have considered the advice given by the University Grants Committee, and it is now clear that the target of 218,000 university places in 1973–74 is within the capacity of existing universities and other institutions of university status.
… the Government have decided that no more additional universities or accessions to university status will be needed for about 10 years …

Crossland, A, 1965 Statement on Higher Education, Hansard 24 February

At this point, the new university process ended. The UGC wrote to all the supporters, even those in abeyance, to say there was nothing further it could do about the proposals.

The UGC’s standard letter concluding the process TNA UGC 7/280

The next month, Crossland would go further in his Woolwich Polytechnic Speech.

‘Why should we not aim at … a vocationally orientated non-university sector which is degree-giving and with appropriate amount of postgraduate work with opportunities for learning comparable with those of the universities, and giving a first class professional training … let us move away from our snobbish caste-ridden hierarchical obsession with university status’

Crosland, A,1965, Woolwich Polytechnic Speech

From this would come the affirmation of the binary system and the creation of Polytechnics. Some of those authorities who wanted their technical colleges upgraded would get a Polytechnic instead. Some, such as Hereford, Glastonbury, Stamford and Salisbury, are still waiting.

The National Archives have the UGC files, Series UGC7 containing the sub-committee, its minutes and the individual files kept on each bid.

A great tier 4 student visa mess to be avoided

EEA Students on four year programmes will have to switch to Tier 4 visas when their temporary leave to remain ends. That appears to be the DfE’s conclusion, and what a mess that could be.

As we move towards some form of exit from the European Union, the inevitability that students from the European Economic Area (EAA) will move to being both outside the current Home/EU fee system but also require sponsorship through the visa system if not otherwise eligible to remain in the UK has taken shape.

There’s still a lot unknown, and probably unknowable, about the form of the arrangements after we have left the EU. The mitigating factor is that there’s a temporary right to remain.

While this scheme will be fine for students completing a three year course, there’s been a concern about longer courses. There are plenty of longer courses in England and Wales; integrated masters courses, sandwich courses, foreign language courses etc, but all Scottish undergraduate education is based on a four year course. So this was a key issue to raise at Education questions in the House of Commons on 24 June 2019:

This is a key concern. Some of those commenting on the change for EU students after Brexit have concentrated on the shift from a fee at £9250 in England to one around £14000 as being a marginal concern. This is to seriously understate the change. It’s a fundamental change in approach, but a key concern if it falls within a course.

Changing from Home/EU to International Student

EU students, even those who have not been resident in the UK, are treated similarly to UK students for tuition fees. They receive a tuition fee loan to cover the fee (£9250 in England) so the upfront fee is £0. The Scottish system is also £0 upfront (but without the loan). There is a considerable range of international student fees, and these include some particularly considerable sums when looking at the full-cost of a laboratory or clinical course. The swing is therefore from finding £0 upfront to finding £14,000, £20,000 or more (and showing the UKVI you have it).

Remember that an international student needs to prove that they can support themselves. UKVI provide guidance; a student needs to show they have at least £1015 per month (more in London) available to them. Although students can work to provide additional income this is constrained: no self-employed musicians.

However you frame it, the requirements for a student being sponsored under Tier 4 are more onerous than a student here from the EU. Application can be tricky, requiring a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) and a range of information. Then there are the additional costs of obtaining a visa: currently an application fee of £348 and an immigration health surcharge of £150. Then there are the ongoing monitoring requirements.

Transitional transitional arrangements

Obviously there has to be a cut-off point at some stage. Government is clear that EU temporary leave to remain can’t become a permanent leave to remain, but having this point inside students’ degrees is going to be problematic. DfE need to work through examples that include longer courses. It may be highly problematic that students from the EAA are going to have a more complex, less well-funded scheme once transition is complete, but consider how that will work for students part way through their courses. A key thing that the Devolved Governments could do is to extend the financial arrangements to those students until the end of their courses.

Law enforcement and approving the use of university title

The ‘European University of Business Ltd’ seems to be another clear example of why we’ve needed the Office for Students. It was reported that this mishap had happened:

“There is no record of this formal clearance ever being given to any institution to use the specific name ‘European University of Business’. We work closely with Companies House and Prospects to prevent misuse of the term ‘university’.”
A Companies House spokesman said: “I can confirm that Companies House accepted the word university in this name in error. We are investigating this matter and will contact the company.”

John Morgan, Business university title approved ‘in error’ THE 3 June 2019

It looks as if Companies House didn’t follow the process; EUOB (the name of the company previously) submitted a form (NM06) which is supposed to elicit advice from a government department about the use of a sensitive word in a company name, in this case ‘university’. It’s curious that EUOB did this, as it should have been clear there was no way that the DfE should have supported them, but Companies House proceeded to issue the name change.

The Companies House route relied on the DfE confirming whether it objects or not to the use of ‘university’ in a company title. Normally it would be expected to have been advised by the QAA that the criteria had been met, which for a ‘university’ included the acquisition of taught degree awarding powers. DfE have also allowed the use of title when qualified with another word that isn’t ‘college’, if a provider was franchising courses. The good news, as I’ve noted before, is that this process has now passed to the OfS.

Andy Youell had raised this and a number of us were surprised that this should have been allowed. I submitted a FOI request for a list of the organisations that DfE had provided non-objection letters for (and also those that they had refused to do so). I have a copy of a list of non-objections that DfE have previously supplied through FOI. This time I was refused:

The Department holds the information you requested, but it is being withheld because the following exemption applies to this information:

Section 31 – Law Enforcement.

Section 31 is concerned with protecting a wide range of law enforcement interests and its application turns on whether disclosure would be likely to prejudice those interests.

Section 31 is a qualified exemption and therefore a public interest test has been carried out. In doing so the following factors have been taken into consideration:

There is a public interest in transparency and accountability, to promote public understanding and to safeguard democratic processes. There is a public interest in good decision-making by public bodies, in upholding standards of integrity and ensuring justice and fair treatment for all, in securing the best use of public resources.

However, releasing this information could prejudice any investigations into organisations who have gone on to use the sensitive word University in a company or trading name.

DFE 2019 Letters of non-objection in a company name

We are in a transitional phase. OfS is now responsible for advising on the use of university title and as the registration process comes to a close it should be possible to determine which organisations have it, but do not meet the new basic requirements to use it – such as being on the register. This might mean a review for football-related providers, branches of international universities offering UK degrees or some university centres. When the OfS register is complete then we should have a complete record of which education providers are allowed to call themselves a university in England (so my FOI wouldn’t be needed).

Meanwhile, it is important that the authorities do more to investigate organisations that are using the sensitive word without permission. But there will need to be greater transparency both on this and then action taken across a range of different practices. Another recent DfE FOI reply makes it apparent that no further action is to be taken against the directors of Grafton College, who lost course designation in a hurry. There are powers for bodies such as trading standards or the CMA to go after people making false claims, and bodies such as HEDD will help to co-ordinate this work. It matters to us all; we can’t have fake universities. So well done to people like Andy Youell spotting these places, and let’s hope Companies House can be a bit more vigilant next time.

When the Government shut HE institutions

A key concern about autonomy in higher education is that Governments might decide to shut institutions. In England that prospect has been examined from the perspective that the new Regulator, the Office for Students, might let an institution, a provider, close. This would be most likely because of market forces, but the legislation behind the OfS also includes the prospect that it might not register a provider, which would preclude it using university title, awarding degrees, having its students supported by the SLC or sponsoring students who need visas. The OfS have revealed they have been considering not registering some providers who applied. Those providers could continue by franchising courses from providers on the register, but that comes with issues.

But what if the Government decided there were too many providers of higher education? What if they looked at the number of graduates that the country needed and decided to reduce the number – in a planned and relatively open way? This might seem unthinkable, but it’s something the Government has done before.

It’s often forgotten that at the time of the Robbins Report the majority of higher education took place outside the universities. When the report was published there were 31 universities but, in addition to the art schools and various forms of technical colleges, there were 146 teacher training colleges in England and Wales with a further 7 in Scotland. Robbins devoted a chapter to teacher training, recommending a new model for co-operation with universities and the upgrading of the available qualifications with a BEd degree. One of the key outcomes of the formation of polytechnics was the consolidation of many of these into larger multi-faculty bodies.

In 1970 Lord James was appointed to look again at teacher education. His report tried to systematise 3 phases of teacher training, with the notion that a broader liberal education might form a platform for a second phase of teacher training. The DipHE was born as a two-year course to do this, intended to be within the reach of the colleges of education to deliver.

The HE White Paper that followed was titled ‘a Framework for Expansion’, but it was clear this didn’t mean in teacher training:

On present trends the best estimate which the Government can make is that the number of initial training places required in the colleges and polytechnic departments of education by 1981 will be 60,000-70,000 compared with the 1971-72 figure of about 114,000.

Many of the 160 colleges are, however, comparatively small and inconveniently located for development into larger general purpose institutions… Some must face the possibility that in due course they will have to be converted to new purposes; some may need to close.

DES, 1972, Education: A Framework for Expansion

Confirmation came in Circular 7/73; teacher training numbers were to halve, colleges would close. A process of deciding which ones, now set off, sometimes quickly, sometimes quite protracted. The discussion focused on which colleges would remain, which colleges would merge, which colleges would lose their teacher training and which would close, complicated by the pattern of ownership by both local authorities and churches. The churches, in particular, were faced with facilitating mergers and closures t to maintain their overall provision.

The institutional histories of the surviving colleges recount the near-misses and missed opportunities. For example, the failed merger of the Salisbury and Winchester colleges resulted in outright closure for the College of Sarum St Michael (Wiltshire remains a county without the main campus of an HEI). Indeed the list of closed colleges of education include many towns without a main campus of an HEI, although there are university centres in places as diverse as Milton Keynes and Shrewsbury.

Former Radbrook College, Shrewsbury

The following list of closed colleges is taken from a written parliamentary answer, including the date of closure and the number of ITT students on the roll when the closure decision was taken.

Date of closure Institution ITT students
31-Aug-77 Alnwick College of Education 379
  Mary Ward College, Nottingham 509
  Radbrook College, Shrewsbury 124
  Saffron Walden College of Education 326
31-Aug-78 Coloma College of Education, West Wickham 559
  Darlington College of Education 406
  Hereford College of Education 682
  Hockerill College, Bishop’s Stortford 490
  Kesteven College of Education, Grantham (main college) 550
  Maria Assumpta College, London 392
  St. Paul’s College, Rugby 449
  St. Peter’s College, Saltley 588
  College of Sarum St. Michael, Salibury 427
  Wentworth Castle College of Education, Barnsley 261
31-Aug-79 Culham College of Education, Abingdon 528
  Middleton St. George College of Education, Darlington 642
  Sedgley Park College of Education, Manchester 481
  Sittingbourne College of Education 345
31-Aug-80 Eaton Hall College of Education, Retford 553
  Gloucestershire College of Education, Gloucester 401
  Kesteven College of Education (Peterborough Annexe) 117
  Philippa Fawcett and Furzedown College of Education, London 941
  Stockwell College of Education, Bromley 623
  Thomas Huxley College, Ealing 267
31-Aug-81 Northumberland College of Education, Ponteland 686
31-Dec-81 Milton Keynes College of Education 248

Some of the closed colleges were venerable: Culham College near Oxford was among the wave of Church of England teacher training colleges, having been founded in 1852. Some had shorter lives: Mary Ward College, a Catholic college near Nottingham, was officially opened in June 1970, its closure was agreed in 1974 and the site was taken over by the British Geological Survey in 1977.

Mary Ward College, Keyworth 1973

The buildings of the closed colleges have had interesting fates. Some have kept educational functions, such as the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford or Jamia-Al-Karm in Eaton Hall, Retford. Saffron Walden College spent 30 years as Bell College, but has now become housing. This fate has eventually come to some of the colleges that merged; Alsager College merged with Crewe and then with MMU, but is now a housing development called Scholar’s Place. This will be the final outcome for Lady Spencer Churchill College when Oxford Brookes vacates the site at Wheatley.

Proposal for housing at Wheatley

Although higher education institutions are remarkably resilient, it is worth noting that over-reliance on the government, especially if focused on one area of activity, can make them vulnerable. It’s unlikely that the DfE would be suddenly griped by the need to regulate the provision of business courses or performing arts courses such that it would set out to decide where provision ought to be focused across England. It’s worth reflecting that a sector that was booming in the late 1960s, with an impressive geographical spread with a heritage of institutions over 100 years old could suddenly be so seriously affected.

For further reading I would suggest: Henke, D, 1978, Colleges in Crisis, Harmondsworth, Penguin. His is a less angry account than many published in the 1970s, but still captures the craziness.

Not just the brightest and best

I have a problem with the brightest and best argument about international higher education participation. It’s easy to argue that higher education is an important part of some people’s journey to elite roles; Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, CEOs of global companies etc. We use that argument to defend student funding or student immigration polices, but I don’t think it helps…

The Government want to ensure we do our best to attract the best and the brightest internationally, which is why we recently published our international education strategy. I want to ensure we do not just attract global talent from the EU..

Chris Skidmore Hansard 29 April 2019

With the prospect of longer post-study periods for international students or the level of EU fees, the debate has retreated back to this notion. We want the best to come here. No doubt this is important; we need the brightest people here (and not somewhere else) but we also need to focus on a much wider group of people. No doubt there is much soft power in educating a world leader, perhaps vital in diplomatic engagement, but what about the soft power of thousands of students doing graduate level jobs in countries across the world?

Imagine the soft power that puts a British-educated graduate in the procurement team of major companies across the world, or in the human resources or accounting departments? What if we train the event managers or hotel managers, the building surveyors or product designers? We’ve made training teachers from overseas complex, but we still enhance the skills of those to teach our global language. Not only do we have the soft power of all those graduates and their skills, they bring our approaches, our standards, and, our values (hopefully we’re proud of all of those).

Why are we seemingly dismissive of these graduate roles? It’s a familiar problem; we’ve decided on a Golgafrinchan* approach to who should benefit from higher education. Clearly the leaders (the thinkers) should get it, and, similarly, clearly the workers (the doers) shouldn’t (in this crass example) . But what about the people in the middle – those people the Golgafrinchans put on an Ark and sent into space?

Screen shot from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

As someone in ‘middle management’ who might be put on that ark, I feel this keenly. We need to have an inclusive argument for educating people, people who might not be world leaders, or who might get an education at one of the universities that’s not one of the ‘Four out of the top 10 universities’ in the world. More Means Better for international students too.

*As described by Douglas Adams