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Westminster College, London and Oxford

The college was founded in 1851 in Horseferry Road, London, to train teachers for Methodist day schools. Its buildings were designed by James Wilson. In 1872, on the opening of Southlands College, it became an all-male establishment with some students accepting posts in the new Board Schools. Its first three Principals, John Scott (1851-1868), James H. Rigg (1868-1903) and H.B. Workman (1903-1930) made an important contribution to the place of Methodist teacher training within the voluntary sector of higher education. Emphasis on higher education led to an increasing number of entrants qualified for university, so that by 1930 everyone followed a four-year course comprising a London University degree and professional training. In 1959, under the Principalship of H. Trevor Hughes, the college moved to Harcourt Hill, North Hinksey, Oxford, where it expanded and admitted women students. Non-graduate trainees reverted to the Certificate course until 1967, when a minority were able to study for the BEd (Oxon) degree. It was one of the few colleges of education to survive the institutional closures of the 1970s without losing its individuality or straying far from its original purposes. It maintained its emphasis on education and theology and, through its centre at Saltley, Birmingham, retained an interest in inner-city schooling.

In 1997 it had 2,457 full and part-time students following professional and academic courses, at levels ranging from certificate to doctorate, validated by the University of Oxford and the Open University. It was later adversely affected by a reduction in the number of teacher training students and changes to the Government's funding system which led to consideration of its future as a free-standing college and a decision by the Conference of 1999 that it should be taken over by Oxford Brookes University. A long lease of the Harcourt Hill campus was granted to the university, managing trusteeship being exercised by Westminster College Oxford Trust Ltd, whose board members are appointed by the Conference. Teacher training has continued on the campus, and University-funded work which is church-related continues there in the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

The campus also houses a number of collections of Methodist archives, including the library of the Wesley Historical Society, the papers of the Rev Dr Donald English, the Rev. Dr. Colin Morris and the Rev. William Gowland and the archive of AVEC and of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. The Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art is based on the campus.

Sources

  • Frank C. Pritchard, The Story of Westminster College (1951)
  • Chalk up the Memory: the autobiography of Sir Ronald Gould (Birmingham, 1976) pp.20-39
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988), pp.510-11
  • Timothy S.A. Macquiban, 'Body, mind and spirit: Westminster's contribution to higher education', in Christine E. Joynes (ed.), The Quest for Wisdom: essays in honour of Philip Budd (Cambridge, 2002) pp.89-107
  • Jennifer Bone, Our Calling to Fulfil - Westminster College and the Changing Face of Higher Education 1951-2001 (Bristol, 2003)
  • Tim Macquiban, in Vital Piety and Learning: Methodism and Education (Oxford, 2005)

Entry written by: DBT
Category: School/College

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