Acquisition of Rewley House

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Extramural education should be 'part of the normal and necessary work of a University.' 1

'Establishment of a Centre or House'

Between 1919 and 1922 the 'Asquith Commission' (a Royal Commission on Oxford and Cambridge) was formed to examine, among other things, the ever-changing landscape of adult education.

Among the findings of the Commission were two pivotal recommendations:

  • the establishment of university 'extramural departments' and
  • the inclusion of mature students within the walls of the universities.

In support of these two recommendations, the Commission also advocated 'the establishment of a Centre or House for Extra-Mural Students, in as central a position as possible... consisting of the necessary offices and of accommodation for the existing libraries, and for students wishing to read or write there.' 2

In 1924, Oxford established its extramural department - the 'Delegacy for Extra-Mural Studies' (signalling a shift in intent as well as title from the older 'Delegacy for the Extension of Teaching Beyond the Limits of the University'); and in 1927 the University purchased Rewley House on Wellington Square to be the physical base for continuing education.

Rewley House: an ideal base for continuing education

Dr Lawrence Goldman describes Rewley House thus: 
'Built in 1873 as a convent school, St Anne's Rewley, it had been used as a furniture warehouse since 1903. The building provided space for a library, common room, and two lecture halls in addition to offices.' 3

'It also provided a name with long academic associations: Rewley Abbey, to the west of the city, had been founded in 1280 by Edmund, second Earl of Cornwall, as a 'studium' where Cistercian monks could live while studying in the University. And Wellington Square, laid out in the 1820s, was a fitting location: the boarding houses and small hotels that lined it had been used to accommodate students at Summer Meetings and Summer Schools, and were host to the distinct community of WEA students when they came to Oxford in the first years of the century.' 4

Next: read how efforts in adult education further evolved to keep pace with changing times in a post-war Britain.

Footnotes:

  1. British Ministry of Reconstruction Adult Education Committee, 'Final Report of the Adult Education Committee', 1919.
  2. Royal Commission on Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Report, p 239
  3. 'Rewley House', Rewley House Papers, 1 (1927)
  4. Lawrence Goldman, 'Dons and Workers', 1995, p 212

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The text in these 'History of the Department' pages is to be found in the book 'Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education Since 1850', by Dr Lawrence Goldman, Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at St Peter's College, Oxford, and a former member of the Department for Continuing Education.