Higher Education Postcard: Wye College, University of London

This week's card from Hugh Jones’ postbag shows us a pastoral scene in the Garden of England

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

Wye College – now only a memory – was an agricultural college based in Wye, near Ashford, Kent.

It was established in buildings formerly used by the College of St Gregory and St Martin at Wye, an ecclesiastical college founded in 1447.

The agricultural Wye was founded in 1894 as the South Eastern Agricultural College – it became a school of the University of London in 1898. You might think that Wye is too far from London to be part of London University. But as the university’s establishments included a marine biological station in Millport (on the Isle of Cumbrae near Glasgow) Ashford in Kent does seem wildly metropolitan.

Wye’s independence within the university continued until the late twentieth century, when it merged with (for which read, was taken over by) Imperial College, becoming Imperial College at Wye. And, perhaps inevitably, the economics of it all meant that Imperial decided to close the campus, and by 2009 it was finished.

In April 2021 an appeal against a refusal of planning permission was allowed, granting permission for “conversion of former college buildings with associated restoration and alterations to buildings, demolition of later structures and rebuilding to provide 38 dwellings and community space – together with provision of two new dwellings, parking courts with car barns, cycle storage and refuse stores on land to the north of the retained buildings and associated landscaping”.

Will the buildings give a clue to their educational origins? Time will tell.

In the meantime, let us remember that Wye contributed to the development of new varieties of hop, essential for the brewing of beer. The Wye Challenger, Wye Northdown, Wye Target and Wye Yeoman varieties all have their origins in the work of the College.

So, let’s raise a glass to Wye College – gone but not forgotten.

2 responses to “Higher Education Postcard: Wye College, University of London

  1. Wye was at the forefront of many other areas of relevance today – not least landscape ecology, sustainable agriculture, soil science and agricultural economics. Its international network was also hugely significant and graduates are still influential in many spheres – just this week I had a meeting with a leader at Mersey Forest – one of the most significant community forests in Europe. She reminded me I taught her at Wye 34 years ago!

  2. The Wye Heritage Centre is the organisation which is maintaining as much as possible about the legacy of this hugely important and influential institution. We are working with the developers to retain the physical and educational references within the buildings and in the new Heritage Centre to be housed within the Edwardian buildings of the College. Francis Huntington Hon. Sec. Wye Heritage. admin@wyeheritage.org.uk and http://www.wyeheritage.org.uk

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