Job vacancy: Research Assistant ‘St John’s and the Colonial Past’

Applications are invited for a two-year fixed-term post of Research Assistant in St John’s College, University of Oxford.  The post involves working on a research project entitled ‘St John’s and the Colonial Past’, funded by the College and led by Professor William Whyte.  The full details of the job vacancy and how to apply are available on the St John’s College Oxford website, and the closing date for applications is noon on April 29th 2019.

The drive to ‘decolonise the university’ – or, at any rate, to think through the implications of institutional involvement in the imperial projects of the past – is now a global endeavour.  As yet, however, no college in Oxford or Cambridge has seriously undertaken research into its involvement in colonialism.  This project will explore connections between the college and colonialism, uncovering benefactions to St John’s and the alumni who served in the empire.  It will also investigate the monuments, objects, pictures and buildings that evoke the colonial past.  This research will feed into a report and other scholarly publications.  After this, a series of workshops will be held to discuss the findings and to plan responses.  This is a pioneering project, one we hope will set the standard for future work in other institutions.

The appointee will have a doctorate or other postgraduate qualification, in either history or in a field of humanities or social science relevant to the project.  Research expertise in archival work and/or crowdsourcing is highly desirable.

The appointee will take up the post on 1 September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. This full-time post is a two-year fixed-term position created to provide support for the research project and will therefore not be extended or renewed.

The appointment will be on the University’s Grade 7 for Academic and Academic-related staff, currently ranging from £32,236-£39,609 per annum.

The closing date for receipt of applications is noon on Monday, 29 April.

Call for Papers: Universities and their contested pasts

Conference: 11 & 12 September 2019.  Deadline for abstracts: 31 May.
Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester (U.K.)

For many years, universities and their pasts were seen as a benign backwater – histories of institutions of public benefit of interest to alumni, staff and academic historians. However, in recent years, attention has been drawn to the uncomfortable past of some of these institutions.

Protests around the world have prompted universities associated with colonialism, slavery and inequality to face up to, and reconsider, their own histories. Presently, institutions are subject to calls from inside and outside their own walls to answer uncomfortable questions about: where their funding has its origins, the land they occupy and the provenance of their cultural and heritage collections.

This two-day event seeks to understand universities’ uncomfortable pasts (both distant and recent) and how we should deal with them. We invite papers that consider themes such as slavery and colonialism; racism, sexism and discrimination; research and the curriculum; university museums and collections; the connection between universities and the state. Papers may address questions such as:

  • How should we approach and seek to understand the contested histories of universities?
  • How have and should universities respond?
  • Do universities have more of a responsibility to address their pasts than other types of organisations?
  • What impacts do difficult histories have on the ‘brand’ and public perception of a university?

The University’s Research Group on University History warmly welcomes participation from across the academic disciplines, from heritage practitioners and from university managers and policymakers. We invite 20-minute papers that consider the difficult pasts of universities in all parts of the world, addressing a variety of time frames and that are academic and practice-based. The questions listed above are indicative only, rather than prescriptive.

Abstracts of a maximum of 250 words and a short bio should be submitted to universityhistories@manchester.ac.uk by 31 May 2019.

Please register here

Histories, Anniversaries and University Pasts (and Present)

This post has been contributed by Keith Vernon, Principal Lecturer in History at the University of Central Lancashire where he teaches on modern British history.  He has written on several topics in the history of technical and higher education in Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially on the relationships between universities and the state, between universities and their local communities and the student experience. 

University institutions seem to be becoming more interested in their pasts.  One manifestation of the trend is the appearance of historic dates on websites or logos of which Manchester University was a pioneer.  When the (old Victoria) university finally joined with UMIST, origins could now be traced back to the formation of the Manchester Mechanics Institute out of which UMIST claimed its foundation.  Now ‘1824’ features boldly in the university’s branding, neatly pipping UCL’s presumption to be the oldest English institution of higher education after Oxbridge.  A more recent entrant is Queen’s University Belfast, which has taken to emblazoning ‘1845’ across its publicity as the year when the Queen’s Colleges were established.  Otherwise, institutional webpages sport time lines or historical introductions that establish lineages of suitable antiquity.  Some places have created impressive museums of their role and contributions as at De Montfort.  Although in one sense surprising for institutions more accustomed to trumpeting their cutting edges, it is not to be wondered at that universities also want to claim historic antecedents.  Status in higher education commonly follows the longest established.  As the field becomes ever more crowded, and with the danger of potentially dubious upstarts, demonstrating a weight of tradition adds valuable gravitas.

Previously, one of the few times that universities looked to their pasts was around anniversary years that afforded an opportunity for a commemorative volume.  A flurry of institutional histories marked the centenaries of the older civic universities, and a number of former polytechnics discovered their pasts on becoming universities.  Interestingly, the silver anniversary of the post-92s came and went without much recognition.

There are currently few obvious anniversaries in view, but why wait for the obvious?  My own institution, the University of Central Lancashire / UCLan, has this year decided to celebrate a 190 years since the formation of its ancestor, the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, in 1828.  It seems an arbitrary choice, nor is it presented as much else by the current Vice-chancellor, whose initiative it is.  He is interested in history and heritage, wants to create an occasion (and some institutional re-branding) and accepts that he probably won’t be in post in ten years time to mark the 200th anniversary.  If we take the sound historical argument that round figures of years are rarely of greater significance than the years before or after, then why not the 190th?

Avenham Institute

The Avenham Institute, which opened in 1849 in Preston, was the first permanent home for the Institution of the Diffusion of Knowledge (which later developed into UCLan) 

As we know, anniversaries are a doubled-edged sword to historians of universities.  While they offer an occasion, and until recently, a rather rare occasion, when a university will make some consideration of its past, they are mired in the problems associated with this kind of study.  There is usually little desire for searching or critical investigation.  An anniversary account is seen as an opportunity to flourish achievements and steady progress.

The issue has become personal in that I have been asked / tasked with writing an updated history for UCLan 190.  An account covering the development of the institution from 1828 was produced in the early 1990s when the university was first created.  This latest version will just deal with the most recent phase of the university years.  The project raises many historical, methodological, indeed ethical issues, but returns to the key ones of P1000642commemorative history.  The task is not to write a searching critique, and there is no place for muck-raking, but nor would I wish to be overly critical.  In part, that is not the commission but, more than that, UCLan has been my career home for most of my life; I am committed to and have great affection for what it seeks to stand for (even if it often doesn’t succeed), its academic community, and its home city of Preston.  Is the entire undertaking, then, illegitimate in that any history written will, by my own admission, be more or less sanitised?

But should we be so sniffy about engaging with this form of university past?  While never a substitute for thorough historical scholarship, is there no place for accounts that are accessible but critical, offer a simplified version of the past, but still inform and raise deeper issues and questions?  At a time when universities and what they stand for are openly being questioned, it surely behoves us to take what opportunities we can to tell the story of what universities do, their importance and centrality to the modern world; not photo-shopped, but not necessarily warts and all either.

 

 

Skull and Bones, Singapore Style? Imagining the Ivy-League in Authoritarian Confines

Dr. Jason Luger is an urban geographer currently lecturing at the University of California, Berkeley, in the College of Environmental Design.  His research focuses on the production of urban space, the relationship between material and digital activism and social networks, the nexus of art, politics, and space, and authoritarian urban geographies.  Jason’s research has been featured in journals such as IJURR, Antipode, Geoforum and CITY, and his co-edited Volume “Art and the City: Worlding the Discussion through a Critical Artscape” (with Julie Ren), was published in 2017.  He is an assistant editor at the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies.  

In August 2012, Yale / NUS Liberal Arts College opened its doors to the first crop of students at its campus in Singapore.  Instantly, a new history was created, combining mythologized elements of the storied ‘Ivy League’ university (Yale, in New Haven, USA) with Singapore’s own National University of Singapore.  The hybrid, the first standalone liberal-arts college to open in Asia, is a complex and intriguing example of the way in which global mobilities and imaginaries circulate and are assembled via bilateral flows of ideas and capital.  Partially governed by Yale, though independent, Yale / NUS offers Singaporean students (and those from outside Singapore) the novel experiences of an all-encompassing campus experience through a liberal-arts design featuring small class sizes, residential colleges, and a multi-disciplinary, arts-heavy curriculum modeled after the liberal arts colleges of the United States.  This represented a dramatic shift in Singaporean higher-education, which has traditionally emphasized the ‘STEM’ subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and where the majority of students live at home, rather than on-campus.  Other campus features include a ‘quad’ (central green and social space), a black-box multi-purpose theatre, and a garden-like environment taking advantage of Singapore’s lush, tropical climate.

Main Quad Singapore

Fig.1: Main Quad at ‘University Town’, NUS and Yale / NUS, Singapore (Jason Luger, 2013)

However, the question of how a liberal arts college, with all that entails, can operate within Singapore’s illiberal, soft-authoritarian confines, became a troubling one that generated much controversy inside and outside of the City-State.  Yale faculty took issue with the limitations on freedom of expression (particularly around political themes) in the City-State, as well as Singapore’s restrictions on LGBTQ rights, such as the local Penal Code 377A which permits the arrest of gay men partaking in consensual sexual activity (even if hardly ever enforced).  Other restrictions forbid students to form political parties on campus, or to extend official invitations to speakers on certain political themes. These, critics said, prevented the true operation of a liberal arts college.

In some ways, Yale / NUS has demonstrated a locally-situated operationalizing of the Yale model (albeit with Singaporean characteristics), such as the creation of a ‘secret society’ for elite students in the style of the famed ‘Skull and Bones’ society at Yale, of which several American presidents have been members.  Questions remain, however, about the degree to which students can (or want to) push the critical boundary of controversial topics, themes and opinions, given local restrictions on things like free speech, assembly, and political organizing.  It is here where Yale / NUS diverges most significantly from its North American counterparts (places such as Middlebury College, Vermont, which has seen raucous protests in 2017 in response to controversial invited speakers).

Yale Singapore

Fig. 2: Yale / NUS campus under construction, 2013 (Jason Luger, 2013)

The faculty maintain a statement on the freedom of expression, which can be found on the Yale / NUS website:

Faculty statement on the freedom of expression

‘We are firmly committed to the free expression of ideas in all forms—a central tenet of liberal arts education.  There are no questions that cannot be asked, no answers that cannot be discussed and debated.  This principle is a cornerstone of our institution.’

However, where exactly the line is, or as it is known locally the ‘Out of Bounds’ marker (sometimes shortened to ‘OB’), is at best, hazy.  While there has been on campus support for the LGBTQ community, including an ‘Ally Week’ featuring events in support of LGBTQ students, there has also been push-back from authorities about what is, and is not, permitted.

Most recently, new restrictions were put in place about the use of space on campus: among them was a change in policy in the usage of space in the college, which sees a new ‘Event Approval Committee’ to assess the “desirability and feasibility” of holding an event on campus.  And any event that requires licenses or permits under the ‘Public Entertainments and Meetings Act’ or a permit under the ‘Public Order Act’ would not be allowed (The Straits Times, Feb 2017).

Yet, the case of Yale / NUS should push observers to turn their gaze back toward so-called liberal arts campuses in the ‘liberal’ West.  I conclude by asking the question: are they truly free of authoritarian restrictions, self or de-facto censorship, or the other benchmarks of authoritarian power which, as Foucault (1980) proposed, flow in a circular and sometimes ground-up manner (rather than in a top-down, hierarchal direction?)

Rather than being an outlier or an authoritarian step-child of the liberal arts geography, Yale / NUS may actually serve as a useful mirror of the current authoritarian paradigm that is increasingly global in scale and deeply embedded within, and across, supposed ‘liberal’ structures and locales.  The securitization and neoliberalisation of the university campus is a global reality a generation in the making; administrators often find themselves playing the role of the police or even the autocrat on campuses where activism and violent political rhetoric threaten operations and safety.  The most ‘liberal’, at least in popular imagination, of American major universities – the University of California at Berkeley – has gone so far as to ban speakers altogether whose presence is deemed a security threat.

Yale / NUS may be, therefore, a replica of what already exists – a Singaporean mirror of the new reality, and sign of things to come.  The possibility also exists for a new form of liberalism altogether – one that may yet open up spaces for critical thought and expression that those too focused on a ‘liberal’ lens may fail to see.

References:

Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Pantheon.

The Straits Times, (13 Feb, 2017) Yale-NUS space use a bone of contention, by Calvin Yang.

The Medieval Universitas

This article has been contributed by Marci Freedman, a medieval historian who has recently completed her PhD at the University of Manchester. Her research profile is available on: https://manchester.academia.edu/MarciFreedman

The University as an institution is often associated with the built environment. Its infrastructure reflects a certain gravitas and they seem to breathe an air of erudition. Universities are incredibly proud of their buildings which highlight their beginnings and their heritage; no campus tour is complete without these points of interest. Whilst this may provide the history of a specific university, it is not the physical environment which can inform us about the early rise of the university as a socio-cultural development of the twelfth century. In fact, the infrastructures of universities across Europe often do not accord with their earliest years as the majority of buildings are late medieval or early modern foundations. To truly understand the rise of the university in the Middle Ages, one must turn to the people and cities who provide the backdrop. It is the purpose of this post to explore who comprised the earliest universities, their position within respective university cities and what this reveals about the university as a place of learning in medieval European society.

Medieval uni

The true beginnings of Europe’s oldest universities are obscure. What is certain is that the university is a development of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Within these uncertain beginnings are wandering scholars – men who travelled to seek out masters of a specific subject, or who followed these masters from city to city. Masters attracted scholars through their reputation which led to students hiring them for instruction, thereby establishing a learning group known as a universitas (learning community). Other universities were established by the Church who paid the masters, and others still were established by the nobility and state. The earliest university structure was predominantly transient and comprised of lectures organised in ad hoc locations, often private halls and Churches. Certain cities did emerge as the leaders in specific fields – Bologna for law, Paris for theology (to name just two), with students travelling from across Europe to attend them. This tied universities to the urban expansion that was occurring across medieval Europe.

With the influx of students into cities the demand for goods, services and accommodation rose, as did the prices of these necessities. A student would typically require a range of supplies and services, including (but not limited to) stationery, books, clothes, food, ale/wine and money changers. In the natural course of supply and demand, prices could be extortionate. In response, students and masters began to organise themselves into guilds against the exploitations of townsmen. One means was to threaten to leave the city and take their learning elsewhere (as students in Paris did in 1229). A second option was to negotiate a charter with the town which would grant privileges to masters and students – such as price fixing and student exemptions from civil jurisdiction (although they remained subject to the ecclesiastical courts). To further mitigate the inflated prices of room and board, purpose-built colleges were erected in some towns, particularly in Oxford. The beginnings of the University as an institution – one which was self-governing and insular – caused tensions between “town and gown” (the city and the university) and, at times, erupted into violence (such as Oxford’s famous St Scholastica Day of 1355). Nonetheless, teaching continued and physical structures were gradually built which further tied universities to specific cities and entrenched them within the urban landscape.

The student body was entirely comprised of literate men, anywhere from their mid-teens to thirties, who arrived at the university with a range of motivations and incomes. All were proficient in Latin, the lingua franca of medieval learning and allowed for men of different nations to converse. It is difficult to trace the daily lives of students, and little evidence survives which shed light on this section of urban society. Some of the documentation which has been left to us include: university and college statutes, student manuals, court and law records, sermons, as well as letters from students themselves. Much of this data provides a one-sided portrayal of lazy, reckless and haughty students who were a nuisance to the general populace. Townspeople might typically complain about ‘brawling, whoring, dicing, swanking around in inappropriate clothing, singing, dancing, carrying weapons and insulting not only the respectable citizens but also the forces of law and order’.[1] The extant evidence does little to differentiate between the different classes of students – the idle and aimless versus the diligent and academically gifted students – and can offer quite a negative image. Amongst the paucity of evidence is a body of letters which does shed some light on the daily lives of students. Reinforcing this image is a letter from a father to a son who sternly writes:

I have recently discovered that you live dissolutely and slothfully, preferring license to restraint and play to work and strumming a guitar while the others are at their studies, whence it happens that you have read but one volume of law while your most industrious companions have read several. Wherefore I have decided to exhort you herewith to repent utterly of your dissolute and careless ways, that you may no longer be called a waster and your shame may be turned to good repute.[2]

Those who did attend university for academic pursuits were by far the larger group; though they remain less conspicuous in the documents. Of those that have survived, we are often presented with an image of the cash-strapped student which may resonate with their modern counterparts. For example, two twelfth-century brothers wrote to their father requesting funds:

This is to inform you that, by divine mercy, we are living in good health in the City of Orleans, and are devoting ourselves wholly to study…We occupy a good dwelling, next door but one to the schools and market-place, so that we can go to school every day without wetting our feet. We have also good companions in the house with us, well advanced in their studies and of excellent habit…Wherefore lest production cease from lack of material, we beg your paternity to send us by the bearer…money for buying parchment, ink, a desk, and other things which we need, in sufficient amount that we may suffer no want on your account (God forbid!) but finish our studies and return home with honour…[3]

Although only one example, it begins to balance the view and reveals that there were plenty of assiduous students in attendance. The majority of requests were replied to by parents who remitted the desired amount – though some parents might have added a caveat for the student to moderate their expenses.

Medieval learning was a transmission of knowledge from masters to students. This was accomplished through lecturing from a specific text as well as through disputations, all of which were in the pursuit of knowledge. The university, however, was primarily an institution of vocational training; graduates were the clerks of government, high-office holders of the Church (bishops and theologians) as well as lawyers and doctors. The university thus offered a rare avenue for social mobility, providing poorer students opportunities not available before. Learning was especially useful to the State as governments ‘modernised’ trade, tax collection, record keeping and legal systems. Thus, it was university-educated men who increasingly came to underpin the bureaucratic machine of both Church and State.

Notes

[1] Hunt Janin, The University in Medieval Life, 1179-1499 (Jefferson: NC, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008).

[2] Charles Homer Haskins, The Rise of Universities (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1923) pp.79-80

[3] Ibid.

Between War and Revolution: Trinity College Dublin 1914-22.

This post has been contributed by Dr Tomás Irish, lecturer in Modern History at Swansea University. He has recently released a new book looking at Trinity College Dublin in war and revolution, 1912-1923, available here.

TCD_web

On 24 April 1916, nationalist rebels seized the General Post Office in the centre of Dublin, inaugurating the Easter Rising which would lead to a week of fighting in the name of a newly-proclaimed Irish republic. At Trinity College Dublin, the university’s porters, fearing the worst, quickly locked the gates to the venerable institution, already depopulated owing to the ongoing war. In the hours that followed, a motley crew of students, professors, and alumni organized the defence of Trinity. They were joined in this by a small number of soldiers on leave from the front, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. On the first night of the Rising, this improvised garrison numbered 44 men who acted in the full expectation of an attack upon the university, one which ultimately never came to pass.

In the week ahead, Trinity would become the hub from which British forces suppressed the nationalist rising, although it would in turn inspire a war of independence leading to the secession of 26 Irish counties from union with Britain in 1921. Trinity, traditionally a unionist institution with strong links to both the government in Westminster and the British Empire, was out of tune with the nationalist revolution and found itself sidelined by the new Irish Free State, which prioritized funding and influence for the National University of Ireland, where many of the revolutionaries had been educated. This left Trinity both emotionally and practically distant from the new state in the decades following the latter’s establishment.

Trinity College Dublin forms an unusual example of a university which saw its normal activities turned on their head by not one, but two conflicts in the second decade of the twentieth century. It found itself, in 1916, a site of mobilization for conflicts being fought at home and abroad. While the First World War was a transformative moment for universities in most belligerent states, few universities found themselves directly threatened by military action (with the notable exception of Belgian universities in August 1914). Moreover, none, to the best of my knowledge, found themselves unwitting participants in two different military affairs with conflicting aspirations. This was the experience of Trinity College Dublin in the period 1914-1922.

**

MS EX 02

British troops in Trinity College Dublin during the Easter Rising, 1916.

Image owned by, and reproduced here with the kind permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin: https://www.tcd.ie/Library/digitising-the-treasures/

Exhibition material from the Long Room Exhibit ‘Dublin; The College and the City’ as compiled by the Manuscripts Department, Trinity College Library, October 2009

The example of Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592, exemplifies both the richness and the challenges of writing university history. At the turn of the twentieth century, TCD formed part of a wider academic world, with its lecturers travelling to international conferences, receiving honorary degrees from institutions elsewhere in Europe and North America, and its graduates frequently gaining employment elsewhere in the British Empire. This was exemplified by its tercentenary celebrations of 1892, where scholars came from across the world to honour one of Europe’s ancient universities.

In an Irish context, Trinity was seen as antithetical to resurgent nationalism which had grown in strength in the decades before 1914: it had, until 1793, excluded Catholics, and was still a strongly Anglican institution. It was initially resistant to the teaching of Irish, central to the nationalist cultural revival, and it was a politically unionist institution. Moreover, TCD’s graduates elected two representatives to the Westminster parliament who were unionist in outlook. Indeed, Sir Edward Carson, the unionist leader by 1912, represented Trinity College Dublin (Dublin University) in parliament between 1892 and 1918. Cultural nationalists and nationalist publications frequently cited the institution as exemplifying all that was wrong with British rule in Ireland. The Leader, an especially vituperative nationalist newspaper, frequently referred to Trinity as ‘the Parochial University’ and ‘England’s Faithful Garrison’.

The institution’s experiences in this period exemplify the tension between national and international concerns that mark the experiences of universities in this period, where academics and institutions (almost) universally supported the war and their respective national causes, leaving the appeals to the scholarly internationalism to one side while the conflict was ongoing.

The period of the First World War was transformative for universities around Europe. The conflict was a ‘total war’, meaning that states mobilised the entirety of national resources available to them in their bid to both sustain and win the war effort. For universities this meant that, as the war progressed, national governments increasingly leant on them for expertise and resources. Specialist learning, from the humanities to the hard sciences, was applied to war and its associated problems, with historians and philosophers writing propaganda, physicists and chemists applying their knowledge to weaponry, geographers and legal scholars planning the post-war settlement, while sociologists and economics managed the wartime division of labour. The historian and president of the Board of Education, H.A.L. Fisher, noted in 1917 that ‘the Professor and the Lecturer, the Research Assistant, and the Research Student have suddenly become powerful assets to the nation.’

The engagement of universities in the war was not restricted to academic staff. Students volunteered for service in great numbers, with over 3,000 Trinity students, staff, and alumni undertaking some sort of military service over the course of the war, leaving classrooms empty and universities deprived of student fees. Cumulatively, the university was deeply invested in the prosecution of the First World War. The population of the university dropped from an average of 1,200 before the war to a low of 721 by 1917-18, while students and teaching staff mostly swapped academic work for war work for the conflict’s duration.

Like their counterparts at universities elsewhere in Europe, TCD students volunteered for a myriad reasons: for adventure, out of a sense of solidarity with their fellow students, out of a belief in the righteousness of the cause. To this list can be added two more reasons: in 1914, the two major political factions in Ireland (unionist and constitutional nationalists: both of whom were led by Trinity alumni: Carson and John Redmond) were united in support for the war, and many Trinity students enlisted for this reason. Radical nationalism was still a minority movement at this time; indeed, in November 1914, Patrick Pearse, the man who would lead the Rising in 1916, was forbidden from speaking to the student Gaelic Society owing to his anti-recruitment activities. John Pentland Mahaffy, the Provost of TCD who numbered King George V and Kaiser Wilhelm II amongst his acquaintances, did not want ‘a man called Pearse’ disseminating his ‘traitorous views’ at Trinity College Dublin.

The Easter Rising occurred in the middle of this unprecedented mobilization for war. Its leaders allied themselves to Germany and explicitly rejected the allied war effort. The Trinity community was steadfastly against the Rising and its goals and shocked by the devastation to property across Dublin’s inner city. However, the execution of the leaders of the Rising by the British authorities did much to lend popular support to the republican nationalism which grew in the years that followed, culminating in a War of Independence fought by nationalist insurgents and British military between 1919 and 1921.

Trinity College Dublin found itself caught between two major national movements. In a British context, the wartime efforts of universities transformed their relationship with the state. The establishment of the University Grants Committee in 1919 created a mechanism through which British universities could claim state funding from a centralized body, remuneration universities for their wartime privations and ensuring ongoing state funding of higher education and university research for the first time. To prepare the way for this, a Royal Commission sat in 1920, recommending a capital grant of £113,000 and an annual grant of £49,000 for the university.

In Ireland, the revolution established a new state which was unsympathetic to TCD, its unionist traditions, and its wartime record. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty on 6 December 1921, Prime Minister David Lloyd George made it clear to TCD that all future financial claims should be taken up with the new Irish government, and the Free State government, in turn, made it clear that they would not honour the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1920.

It was not until 1947 that Trinity College Dublin would receive a state grant for the first time from the Irish government. This followed decades of slow adjustment to the new political regime. While Trinity still displayed the trappings of the old regime – singing ‘God Save the King’ and flying the Union Jack into the late 1930s – it also attempted to build a solid working relationship with the new one, giving honorary degrees to leading figures in the Free State, such as the President of the Executive Council (and veteran of the 1916 Rising) W.T. Cosgrave, in 1926. The process of readjustment was fraught, contested by students and staff alike, and fought out in official ceremonials, student societies, and in the day-to-day business of the university.

Trinity College Dublin’s experiences a century ago are most likely unique in the history of universities. A.A. Luce, one of three fellows of TCD to fight in the Great War and one of the defenders of Trinity on 24 April 1916, commented in 1965 that ‘historians may say that Trinity backed the wrong horse’. Trinity’s case demonstrates the richness of university history and the tensions between the international connectedness of scholarship and its national and local environments.

 

Early Fundraising: An Approach to Local Industry

This post has been kindly contributed by Dr Triona Fitton, who has recently published a monograph on the hidden history of philanthropy at the University of Kent. Dr Fitton also blogs about her research here.

The philanthropic foundations of the University of Kent were laid during the early fundraising efforts of the ‘Sponsors of A University in Kent’; the collective of influential local people whose aim was to put forward a bid for a University in the county. Their first appeal began informally in June 1960 when University supporter Lord Alfred Charles Bossom, a former architect and Conservative MP, hosted a luncheon at his house in Carlton Gardens. The plan for the luncheon was to invite key local industrialists and businessmen, with an aim of enticing them to contribute to a fund for the new University in Kent.

IMG_0019
Bossom’s invitation to Commander Thompson, courtesy of the University of Kent Archives.

Just prior to the luncheon, the Sponsors received word that Pfizer Ltd., an American pharmaceutical company, had pledged a donation of £50,000. This is equivalent to over £1 million in today’s money – the first and largest of any company donation. Pfizer had developed a subsidiary in the UK in the early 1950s, establishing a vast 80-acre site in Sandwich in 1954 and cementing its ties with the county.

Pfizer remain one of the top donors in the history of giving to the University of Kent. In the last 20 years they have also funded a chair in Medical Statistics, provided over £500,000 to fund the head of Medway campus’ School of Pharmacy, and given £20,000 to the Kent Institute of Medicine and Health Sciences for library materials. Their strong bond with the University’s scientific and industrial progress is demonstrated by Kent Innovation and Enterprise (‘KIE’, the University’s dedicated business support department) moving some of their services to Discovery Park, the former Pfizer site in Sandwich, which is now an international hub of biotechnology, life sciences, medical research and business. Pfizer still retain a presence at the site, but the relocation of KIE will aid the development of networks and collaboration between industry, students and academics.

The original donation from Pfizer established a pattern of knowledge-transfer and industry partnerships which has an enduring legacy at the University of Kent.  Back in 1960,  the donation marked a momentous start to the University’s initial appeal. The gift was announced during Lord Bossom’s prestigious luncheon, and became a marketing tool for encourage other local industries (which included breweries, cement manufacturers, paper makers, oil refineries and engineering companies, among others) to themselves contribute. However, although the Pfizer donation was succeeded by many other generous donations by companies such as BP, Shell, Unilever and Associated Portland Cement, no early corporate donation came close to the £50,000 donation that started it all.

times pfizer donation
Image courtesy of “University News.” The Times [London, England] 1 June 1960: 16. The Times Digital Archive.

(This blog contains excerpts from Hidden History: Philanthropy at the University of Kent, available now)