The History of Oxford Continuing Education

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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.

The history of Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education is several stories in one: it's the story of a handful of dedicated Oxford tutors who felt that educational opportunity was essential to the nation's welfare and future; it's an account of ordinary citizens collaborating with Oxford to design a format of education that served their needs; and it's the story of adult education evolving as successive generations of students, from 1878 to the present day, participated in ever-growing numbers.

The articles below are milestones in our efforts to bring Oxford teaching to the widest possible audience.

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19th century beginnings

Social reform was imminent, and educational reform was at the forefront of the debate

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Taking the University Outside Oxford

From the first 'Oxford Extension Lecture' in 1878, women students were in the majority.

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The Rev'd Arthur Johnson

The don who delivered the first Oxford Extension Lecture in Birmingham in September, 1878, was the perfect choice for the job at hand

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The Importance of Rail

Oxford Extension was an idea which was put forth prior to 1850; yet could not take place until more than 25 years later.

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Summer Meetings

From 1888, students began consolidating their year's extension lectures by attending intensive 'Summer Meetings'

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Dawn of the 20th century

The beginning of the 20th century marks a time in which the political and social advancement of ordinary working people was on the rise.

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Raising the Bar

From 1908, a new and higher standard of learning was required and it was supplied through collaborative effort

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Acquisition of Rewley House

In 1927 the University purchased Rewley House on Wellington Square to be the physical base for continuing education.

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A Memoir: 1913 and 1930

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

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'The Education of a Whole Coalfield'

How tutors and students brought adult education into small mining villages in North Staffordshire

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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.

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1945-55: Teaching in West Africa

For a decade between 1945 and 1955, the Department sent tutors to Nigeria, Ghana and the Gold Coast.

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1948: Harper Lee's Oxford Summer

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

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The 1980s: Expanding Continuing Education

A growing number of people of all ages and backgrounds wished to have university-level educational opportunities

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Roger Bannister's Fourth Challenge

Sir Roger Bannister, celebrated for his four-minute mile and as a neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, was an avid lifelong learner who completed our Diploma in Creative Writing, and brought dedication and talent to his studies.

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The Department Today

The Department has risen to meet many challenges in the 21st Century

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What's in a Name?

Our name has changed many times, but our mission has remained the same.