Raising the bar

Collaborative effort

University Extension had come to play a pivotal role in the lives of working adults. Now, in the early years of the 20th century, a new and higher standard of learning was required – and it was supplied through collaborative effort.

Dons and citizens working together

A specially selected group consisting of University figures and representatives of the working class was established in 1908; they were called the Joint Committee. Their purpose: to devise a new and improved form of extramural education.

The Committee published a report in their first year, 'Oxford and Working Class Education', which was in its own way a 'Magna Carta' for University Extension. The report comprehensively reviewed adult education, and presented 'the case made by working people for access to the University and its educational resources.' (1)

More rigour

The 1908 report 'outlined the desired programme of tutorial classes... recommended that Oxford University extension should develop a new emphasis on class work; that each class should meet regularly for at least two years; that classes concentrate on advanced academic work with regular essays and final examinations.' (2)

This was a substantial move forward. Extension lectures were a largely passive form of education; tutorial classes, by contrast, provided an opportunity for students to engage in rigorous, highly interactive education.

This new arrangement was a 'remarkable example of the University sharing of authority with an external agency, and [represents] a clean break with the old form of University extension' (3) in which the students had little say or control. Oxford was reaching out beyond the older model of Extension lectures to embrace a tutorlal system – and thus meeting the demands of the modern adult learner.

A quick start

The first tutorial classes did not even wait for the publication of the report; classes began at Rochdale and Longton in October of 1908. Albert Mansbridge, head of the WEA, later pronounced the programme 'a glorious triumph...each class has been a success and the tutors are all splendid.' (4)

Next: how the Extension movement finally gained a physical base in Oxford.


  1. Lawrence Goldman, Dons and Workers, 1995, p 122
  2. Ibid., p 123
  3. Ibid.
  4. A Mansbridge to A Zimmern, May 1910


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.