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Higher Education Postcard: Wadham College, Oxford

This week's postcard from Hugh Jones' postbag comes from that sweet city with her dreaming spires
This article is more than 1 year old

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

To Matthew Arnold, Oxford was “that sweet city with her dreaming spires …” but this card shows none of that – it’s the solid, crenelated Jacobean buildings of Wadham College, Oxford.

Wadham was founded by Dorothy Wadham, in fulfilment of her late husband’s wishes, and using his legacy and part of her own wealth. (Should it therefore be Wadhams College, to recognise them both?).

The Wadhams were a wealthy Somerset couple, Nicholas Wadham was likely a lawyer, and Dorothy Wadham came from a politically well-connected family.

The College was founded in 1613. In the years after the civil war its Warden, John Wilkins, hosted the Oxford Philosophical Club. The club’s members, including Sir Christopher Wren, a Wadham alumnus, were influential in the establishment in 1660 of the Royal Society

William L. O’Neill, in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960’s, recounts a wonderful Wadham anecdote.

This is the reply of the Warden and Fellows to a set of demands from student protestors in 1968:

Dear Gentlemen: We note your threat to take what you call ‘direct action’ unless your demands are immediately met. We feel it is only sporting to remind you that our governing body includes three experts in chemical warfare, two ex-commandos skilled with dynamite and torturing prisoners, four qualified marksmen in both small arms and rifles, two ex-artillerymen, one holder of the Victoria Cross, four karate experts and a chaplain. The governing body has authorized me to tell you that we look forward with confidence to what you call a ‘confrontation,’ and I may say, with anticipation.

It is not clear that such an approach would today be considered compliant with the Office for Students’ Condition C1 of the Initial and Ongoing Conditions of Registration:

The provider must demonstrate that in developing and implementing its policies, procedures and terms and conditions, it has given due regard to relevant guidance about how to comply with consumer protection law.

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