The History of Oxford Continuing Education


Nearly 140 years ago, a movement called 'Oxford Extension' began at the University of Oxford - an initiative that sprang from general educational reforms in the mid-Victorian era, and from a growing national sense of social awareness.

How the University came to lead the movement for adult education is not merely an account of social and political objectives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The history of the Department is several stories in one: it's the story of a handful of dedicated Oxford academics who felt that educational opportunity was essential to the nation's welfare and future; it's the account of ordinary working citizens from across the nation who collaborated with Oxford to design a unique format of education that served their needs; and it's the story of how adult education evolved as successive generations of students, from 1878 to the present day, participated in ever-growing numbers.

Next: the Victorian-era Oxford dons who wanted to widen access.

The articles in this series show Oxford University's commitment to bring higher education to the widest possible audience.


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.


Harper Lee's Oxford Summer

Pulitzer Prize winning author Harper Lee attended the Department's International Graduates' Summer School in 1948.


A memoir: 1913 and 1930

This snapshot of summer school life in 1930 was recorded just after the acquisition of Rewley House.


Vera Brittain and Oxford Extension

In the latter 19th century and in the early decades of the 20th, women had almost no opportunities for higher education.