Higher education postcard: University of Chichester

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’s postbag shows us that progress is not always linear

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

In 1836 William Otter, the first principal of King’s College London, was appointed Bishop of Chichester.

Amongst his actions in his brief tenure (he died in 1840) he established a training college for schoolmasters. By public subscription new buildings were erected for the college after his death, and Bishop Otter College moved into its new buildings, with its new name, in 1850.

The college was overseen by the Diocese of Chichester, and it seems a government scheme provided some of the funding. But not enough: the college did not thrive. From a report in the Chichester Express and West Sussex Journal of 16 July 1867, we can see that:

  • Bishop Otter College was £1000 in debt at the end of 1862 (roughly £100,000 in today’s money)
  • By subscription the debt was paid off by 1864
  • Student numbers fell from 28 in 1864 to 7 in 1865
  • By the end of 1865 the college’s debt was £418 (£43,000 in today’s money)
  • Government support provided 75 per cent of the costs, and tuition fees provided about 8 per cent of the remainder
  • The diocese had two training colleges to support (the other being in Brighton, for women)
  • January 1867 recruitment to Bishop Otter College was disappointing
  • Recruitment to Brighton Training College for Schoolmistresses was thriving – all 46 places being taken
  • In February 1867 the decision was taken to close Bishop Otter College

And that, you might think, would be that. But in 1870 the Elementary Education Act was passed – a step on the road to compulsory free education for all children in Britain. The act gave local authorities the power to fund elementary schools, and created school boards in districts where there were not enough school places for children. A consequence of this was that more teachers were needed.

Enter Louisa Hubbard. Campaigner for women’s rights, and vigorous promoter of women as school teachers. Hubbard promoted the idea – radical to Victorians – that women could be educated to become educators. This represented a big change from the then common approach: children aged thirteen plus – known as pupil teachers – were supervised in teaching younger children in the classroom, until after five years they became teachers in their own right.

Hubbard specifically sought to have Bishop Otter College reopened as a training college for women teachers, and in 1873 she succeeded.

The first head of the new college was Fanny Trevor. The Diocesan Board had sought to appoint a “Lady Supervisor”, and appointed Trevor. She offered to work for nothing, and was given the title of Lady Principal.

In 1882 she was appointed as Principal, with a salary of £150 per year. But due to ill health she reverted to the unpaid role of Lady Supervisor in 1885, with her salary being used to appoint a deputy. She finally resigned in 1895 – there are suggestions of conflict with the college chaplain, who is thought to have sought to undermine her authority.

Bishop Otter College then thrived. Two principals clearly had a profound positive impact: Dorothy May Meads, principal from 1936-1947, and Elisabeth Murray, principal from 1948 to 1970. In those years the college grew; survived two wartime re-locations (the Chichester campus was needed by the RAF) to Bromley and then to Oxford; and expanded its campus. Under Murray’s leadership the college became co-educational, admitting men in 1957.

Now let’s take a brief trip down the road from Chichester to Bognor Regis. Just as there had been a shortage of teachers in the 1870s, so, post world war two, there was a further shortage of teachers, again driven by changes in legislation. The 1944 Education Act had cemented the distinction between primary education to age 11 and secondary education; and had raised the school leaving age to 15. And so emergency teacher training colleges were established (this link is to a parliamentary written answer, set out in Hansard, listing the colleges), including one in Bognor Regis.

In 1977 Bishop Otter College and the Bognor Regis College of Education merged to create the West Sussex Institute of Higher Education. At first associated with Sussex and Southampton universities, the Institute moved to awarding degrees validated by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). When the CNAA was wound up in 1993, the institute once more turned to the University of Southampton to validate its awards.

A name change took place in 1995 – the Chichester Institute of Higher Education was created; and after the power to award degrees was granted in 1999, it became University College Chichester. University status was finally awarded in 2005.

The card itself was posted using an Edward VII stamp, but the postmark is unclear. I’ve only just finished using my Elizabeth II stamps, so we can speculate a date no later than, say, 1912. It was sent to a Miss Brailsford, c/o Miss Edwards, in Exeter:

Bishop Otter College, Chichester. My Dear Miss Brailsford, I am sending you a PC of our recreation room. It is a most glorious place. Later on I will send you a view of the College itself. Hope you are quite well. Much love from Dorothy.

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