Raising the Bar


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.