Higher education postcard: student representation

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’s postbag looks at an early students’ union

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

These earnest young people are the 1918-19 Students Representative Council of University College, Aberystwyth / Coleg Prifysgol Aberystwyth.

This was the forerunner to the university’s students’ union, and was founded in 1900. According to the Aberystwyth University Archives, the student representative council owed its existence to the energies of two students: HJ Fleure and John Price Millington.

Fleure studied zoology, graduating in 1901, and after research in Zurich returned to Aberystwyth, becoming head of department of zoology in 1908, Professor of Anthropology and Geography in 1917, and then Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester in 1930. (Seven years after first degree and is head of department; sixteen years after first degree is professor. Just saying.)

I can find out less about Millington. In 1906 he seems to have written a biography of chemist John Dalton, associated with atomic theory and colour-blindness. Beyond that I can find no trace.

We know from a handwritten note on the back of the postcard that the 1918-19 students were led by presidents Mr Cyril Rosebourne, BA and Miss May Evans – I assume that these are the two central in the front row, wearing stoles over their gowns embroidered with what looks like the a variant of the university crest.

Cyril Roseboune appears to have graduated with a 2nd class degree in chemistry in July 1917; he also, oddly, is reported as representing the Students Representative Council of Cardiff in December 1916 at hearings of the Royal Commission on University Education in Wales (to which, pleasingly, Professor Fleure also gave evidence). Of Mr Rosebourne we know no more, except perhaps – based on a gravestone – that he died in 1973. And a puzzle – if he’d graduated in 1917, how was he on the SRC in 1918 – postgraduate study, perhaps?

May Evans also appears now to us only fleetingly, with shadows and glimpses. On 2 July 1920 she – and a number of other students of the university college, sent flowers to the funeral of Adelaide Edwards, the child of Mr and Mrs Edwards of Alexandra Road, Aberystwyth. And in September 1920 the Welsh Gazette noted that a Miss May Evans of Teifyside Inn, Llechryd, had passed the civil service examination as a postal clerk. Was this our May? Postal clerk seems a very junior role for a graduate, but it seems that access to the more senior grades of the civil service was restricted to men until 1925, and even the more junior clerical grades had only been open to women because of the shortage of men caused by the first world war.

The card was published by H H Davies of Aberystwyth, a well-known local photographic firm of that time. Their premises – 26 Pier Street – now seem to be a takeaway restaurant.

2 responses to “Higher education postcard: student representation

  1. It doesn’t seem to be that uncommon for recent graduates to have remained involved in the student bodies or explicitly as alumni, at least from my own research into Bradford College Student’s Union this was the case in each of 1903, 1953 and 1976 with at least one very old hand or tutor hanging around ostensibly as a student! In the earlier years the Union was self-organised with independent property and endowment and could set its own requirements for the essential qualities of a student representative.

  2. Thanx very much for this.

    Will future historians have to lament that people appear ‘only fleetingly, with shadows and glimpses’ or will they be able to trace even less prominent people thru social media archives and their other stored online presence?

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