Samuel Alexander’s conception of a university: locality and liberality

This post has been contributed by Anthony Fisher, a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Washington. Previously, he was a Research Fellow (2016-19) and a Newton International Fellow (2014-15) at the University of Manchester. He works on metaphysics and the history of philosophy. At Manchester, his first project was on the philosophy of Samuel Alexander. In June 2021, he edited a collection of essays that celebrates the centenary of Alexander’s Space, Time, and Deity, published with Palgrave Macmillan.

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938) was the first Samuel Hall Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester, from 1913-1924. Born in Australia, he made his way to the University of Oxford first as a scholar and then a fellow during a phase in philosophy where British idealism was the dominant trend in reaction to the theory of evolution and its explanatory application beyond biology. He became an influential philosopher, defending a unique metaphysical system in the realist tradition. The Faculty of Arts building at the University of Manchester now bears his name and still contains his bust from 1925.

Alexander first arrived in Manchester as Professor of Logic, Mental and Moral Philosophy at Owens College in 1893, when Owens College was a constituent university college of the Victoria University. He was deeply involved in the campaign to make the Manchester constituent its own independent university. He presented his case to The Speaker on 1 March 1902 and again in the Manchester Guardian on 11 June 1902, which was published as a pamphlet titled A Plea for an Independent University in Manchester by Sherratt and Hughes later that month. The timing on his efforts mattered significantly. In June of the previous year, the University Court appointed a committee to investigate the case for dissolution. This committee sent its report, which proposed separation, to the University Court on 31 May 1902. The University Court at the 1902 Convocation on 23 June 1902 voted on whether to support the break-up of the constituent colleges (it did: 137 in favour, 87 not).[1] Owens College received its independence in 1903. For more on the history of the Victoria University, see John Taylor’s ‘1880-2020: A Forgotten Anniversary‘.

For many, Alexander’s pamphlet proved convincing. Owens College was just over 50 years old by 1902. It had had its ups and downs since 1880 within the federal system that was Victoria University. There were many costs and benefits of such an educational system. Liverpool was keen to free itself, whereas Leeds (Yorkshire College) was steadfast in keeping the union alive. Manchester was somewhat on the fence. Alexander’s position on the issue was shared by others such as T.F. Tout, but for him there were philosophical arguments that supported it, arguments that were imbued with his character and that informed his very conception of a university.[2]

Photograph of Samuel Alexander
Owens College Union Magazine no. 20, December 1895

In philosophy, Alexander defended realism but also believed in system and often theorised in systematic terms. Everything is somehow related to everything else and so the best comprehensive explanation is couched in terms of a system. In his metaphysics, spacetime is the fundamental matrix of reality, as he elaborates in Space, Time, and Deity.[3] At the social level, society and social institutions are organic social wholes (which emerge from spacetime, although this is irrelevant here). These social wholes undergo evolutionary progression, just like everything else. Such an idea dates back to Hegel, which Alexander recognised in his early work along with the realisation that Darwinian evolution and Hegelianism converge to some extent on this truth.[4]

From this perspective, the social institution – in this case, Owens College – is inexorably caught up in the organic growth of the city (Manchester) in which it is located and the city’s surroundings (now Greater Manchester). The social whole is the larger organism, namely the city, with the institution as one aspect or part of that social whole. The social whole is its own system. Alexander added that the people of Manchester felt this social reality too; there was growing and intense ‘sentiment of organic connection’, he writes.[5] We now have the makings of an argument, which can be formulated as follows.

The university is one integral aspect of a social organic whole, which is the city and its surroundings. If the university is a constituent of some other external system, then it cannot fill its role in its real place in its social whole. In other words, in order to fill its role the university should be independent of some other system that has parts external to the university and its city. Therefore, Owens College should be an independent university. A subsidiary point is that the federal system is not a true system exhibiting a unity that makes that thing unqualifiedly one. Rather, the federal system is an aggregate or sum of social entities. An aggregate or sum – like a sand dune – is a thing that derives its reality from its parts. It is something that is built from the bottom up. Hence it is not the sort of thing that can suitably govern the parts from above.

By freeing Owens College it would be able to continue its natural course of being caught up in the social life and economic growth of Manchester. People of Manchester would care more deeply for their institution if it was truly theirs. University and community are two sides of the same coin. Furthermore, deans, lecturers, staff, and others at the university would be able to let in new disciplines and faculties such as those of medicine and law, which is exactly what the University of Manchester did. Finally, the university would be able to tend to the specific needs of Manchester and its distinctive development and expansion in the Northwest. The vision of a local and regional university did not foster an inward parochialism, as it was feared by some. Instead the city with its university – as a unified social whole – would attract students from all over the world.

In presenting arguments for an independent university in Manchester Alexander never implemented a destructive endeavour. Talk of ‘freeing the university’ from the chains of the federal system and talk of ‘independence’ were often seen in a negative light, as if independence implied that the federal system was being dismantled, as if it is something that must be torn down. On Alexander’s view, society and social wholes (such as cities with their universities) progress along evolutionary tracks. In the nineteenth century, there were colleges, university colleges, and universities. Owens College began, as the name indicates, as a college in 1851, then it became a university college in the Victoria University, and its next evolutionary step was to become a university. So, for Alexander, Victoria University was not dissolving, it was evolving.[6]

It should be highlighted that when Manchester became independent its name was the ‘Victoria University of Manchester’. On paper Victoria University was evolving into the Victoria University of Manchester and in principle Manchester could become associated or conjoined with other colleges in the future. So the birth of what is now the University of Manchester occurred in 1880, not 1903. From Alexander’s perspective, Owens College was ready to evolve into something that would be better for all those involved. This evolutionary progression supports the optimism that is needed by the people of a city-with-university to make their institution a superior thing in the future. Manchester was ready to make a great university in the twentieth century, and so it did.

What becomes of the University of Manchester in this century remains to be seen. But lessons can be learnt from Alexander’s conception of a university. Besides the metaphysical underpinnings, he held a practical and what he called liberal conception of the university. His views on this are found in a piece he wrote for The Political Quarterly titled ‘The Purpose of a University’, which he wrote 30 years after Owens College had evolved into the University of Manchester.

According to Alexander, the university is an association of students and teachers. The purpose of a university is for students and teachers alike to pursue knowledge in preparation for a job or profession after graduation as well as in advancing research. Specialised research serves as one way to prepare for the professions because it is engaged in building knowledge of a discipline that grounds the professions that students are preparing for. Acquiring knowledge is the key here; hence, the teacher (lecturer) is meant to teach the student, and not simply examine the student. One flaw with the federal system was its focus on examinations removed from personal instruction. The latter model fuelled in the student an obsession with grades, transcripts and the certificate handed out upon graduation.

Alexander also thought that the university’s job of pursuing higher branches of knowledge grounds the professions of ordinary life. The job prospects of engineers would have been greatly diminished if universities did not acquire and extend knowledge in the sciences such that engineering as a special science could be created. A university, therefore, is essentially bound up with practical issues in life. It is not an institution that cultivates knowledge for its own sake or maintains this goal as its sole purpose.

However, acquiring and extending knowledge must be pursued in a liberal spirit, Alexander says. The word ‘liberal’ is not restricted to the liberal arts. It should be broadened because, he argues: ‘It sets us free from the routine which besets the practice of any craft, it saves knowledge from being merely an acquisition or merely useful, animates it with reason and gives it life and zest’.[7] It describes a spirit that we live when we study any kind of subject, from physics and philosophy to art history. This spirit is directed towards understanding what we know. It thus applies to all branches of knowledge, not just Literature, English, and Poetry. Alexander concludes:

A University thus trains its members to perform their craft with liberation from the mere doing of it, because it supplies them with the enlightening quest of reason. All our studies therefore are pursued, not without regard to their utility for life, but not for the sake of their utility. What the University seeks to provide is the command of a subject, afterwards to be applied, which will make the application worthy of a free man. Such education may justly be called liberal.[8]

In sum, the liberal spirit and the practical drive of the university are unified in the interlocking context of the city and local region of which the university is an intimate and central component. The spread of universities across the world vindicates Alexander’s case for letting Owens College evolve into the University of Manchester and his liberal conception of a university is an important reminder of the real nature of a university.[9]

[1] Fiddes, Edward. 1937. Chapters in the History of Owens College and Manchester University, 1851-1914. Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 103.

[2] For an account of Tout’s role, see Jones, H.S. 2019. ‘T.F. Tout and the Idea of the University’ in Thomas Frederick Tout (1855-1929): Refashioning History for the Twentieth Century, ed. C.M. Barron and J.T. Rosenthal. London: University of London Press, pp. 71-85.

[3] Alexander, S. 1920. Space, Time, and Deity: The Gifford Lectures at Glasgow 1916-1918. London: Macmillan.

[4] See Alexander, S. 1889. Moral Order and Progress: An Analysis of Ethical Conceptions. London: Trubner and Co, p. viii.

[5] Alexander, S. 1902. A Plea for an Independent University in Manchester. Manchester: Sherratt and Hughes, p. 5.

[6] A Plea for an Independent University in Manchester, op. cit., p. 8.

[7] Alexander, S. 1931. ‘The Purpose of a University’, The Political Quarterly 2(3): 337-52, p. 343.

[8] ‘The Purpose of a University’, op. cit., p. 344.

[9] Images are courtesy of The University of Manchester.

1880-2020: A Forgotten Anniversary

This post has been contributed by Professor John Taylor, based at the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University.

Amidst the understandable preoccupation with Covid 19, an important anniversary for higher education has been forgotten.  On 20 April 1880, Queen Victoria signed the charter for the creation of the Victoria University and, on 14 July 1880, the University was formally inaugurated at a meeting of the University Court.  In effect, 140 years ago, Manchester gained a university for the first time.

A Medical School had existed in Manchester since 1824 and Owens College had been founded in 1851, but neither had university status. The Manchester Guardian (14 July 1880) wrote: “One of the most important events in the history of the city – an event which has also a national significance – is being celebrated today.”

The events of 1880 marked the end of a period of vigorous debate over the proposed new university, debates that shed light on the position of English higher education at the time.  At the start of the 1870s, there were four universities in England: Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham.  A university for Manchester had been suggested before, but the idea  gathered support in the 1870s.  By that time, Owens College had successfully established itself as a teaching institution and had begun to gain a strong reputation for research in certain branches of science. In the absence of degree-awarding powers, however, most students went on to take examinations set by the University of London.  As Owens College grew in self-confidence, academic staff became increasingly frustrated by the controls exerted from London.  As a result, in the summer of 1876, members of the College Senate produced a pamphlet calling for the creation of a University of Manchester based on Owens College.

The pamphlet provoked widespread discussion and raised fundamental questions about the future of higher education.  Central to the debate was a simple question: what is a university?  Was it purely a body to examine students and to award qualifications? Or, was it, as Owens College advocated, a body that both taught students and examined them?  Underlying these questions were also issues of academic freedom for academic staff to set their own curriculum to reflect personal specialisms and also to meet local and regional priorities.

The John Owens Building in Manchester, built in 1873

However, the proposals from Owens College provoked a second fundamental question: how many universities were needed in England?  In the 1870s, it was widely accepted that the country needed to expand the opportunities for higher education, to meet growing demands from an expanding population and to help resist increasing international economic competition. However, for many observers, this did not necessarily mean that more universities were required.  Indeed, there was a widely held concern that more universities would erode standards and serve to devalue degrees. Developments in the United States were often quoted as evidence of how an increasing number of universities had undermined the value of a degree.  As a result, various alternatives were put forward intended to avoid the establishment of a new university in Manchester.  One was for a reformed relationship between Owens College and the University of London; another was for the affiliation of Owens College with either Oxford or Cambridge Universities.  These were not really realistic options, given the strength of feelings in Manchester, but they did illustrate the issues at stake.

As the debate continued, the focus of opposition shifted from the old universities to the towns and colleges elsewhere in the North of England.  New colleges, often modelled on Owens College, were emerging in Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham.  Owens College had from the outset opened the way to the possible affiliation of other colleges to the proposed new University. However, in particular, the Yorkshire College of Science, in Leeds, founded in 1874, was unhappy that the creation of a new University of Manchester would jeopardise its own development and would result in an over-dominance of Owens College.  In Liverpool, discussions were also moving forward about the development of their own college and similar fears grew that this would be disadvantaged by a new University of Manchester. An influential deputation to the Privy Council was organised in May 1878 to oppose the award of university status to Owens College. 

As a result, the debate moved on and began to focus on alternative models for the establishment of a federal university for the North of England.  Owens College continued to argue that new colleges, once they had become established, could be affiliated to the proposed University of Manchester.  However, the Yorkshire College argued for the establishment of an entirely new body which would be based in Manchester and to which Owens College would become the first member; the Yorkshire College also objected that the name “University of Manchester” would convey a false impression for an institution intended to serve the whole of the North. In the end, Owens College conceded on both points.  A new University was established, the Victoria University; Owens College became the first, and initially only, member of the University, to be followed by the University College Liverpool in 1884 and the Yorkshire College in 1887.

At first sight, it may appear that Owens College had failed to meet its objectives.  The Victoria University developed as an “examining university”, with teaching undertaken in the Colleges, not totally unlike the University of London, and they had given way on questions of governance and name. However, the reality was rather different.  The Victoria University was firmly based in Manchester, the Principal of Owens College became its first Vice Chancellor, and, at least initially, Owens College would be the only member institution, able to shape issues of governance, curriculum and assessment.  For all intents and purposes, Owens College had achieved its independence, and Manchester had gained its University.

It is also important to understand the wider significance of the establishment of the Victoria University. The discussions represented a significant challenge to the establishment view of higher education in the late nineteenth century.  The proposed university not only brought higher education to the North of England, it was also explicitly intended to open up new opportunities for the middle classes, and even the upper echelons of the working class, to enter higher education.  Less explicit, but nonetheless real, were also the clear expectations underlying the new University that opportunities for higher education would also be available for women.  Further, the idea of a university social experience based around the residential college as a necessary corollary to academic study was challenged; instead, the picture of the student combining study with living at home and ongoing contact with business and industry was favoured by many of the supporters of the Victoria University.  Moreover, the University would pursue research across all subjects, alongside teaching and assessment of students.  These changes would evolve in future years, but the debates over the Victoria University had questioned old ideas of higher education and would have a significant long-term impact.

Issues of regional and local identity were also apparent throughout the discussions.  At one level, there were questions about how ‘the North’ was perceived.  A number of highly disparaging attitudes towards the need for higher education in the ‘provinces’ were expressed and some critics questioned whether it was appropriate to locate a university in a Northern industrial town.  At another level, despite persistent denials, it is clear that there were strong rivalries between civic and academic leaders across the North, between Manchester and Liverpool, between Manchester and the towns of the West Riding, especially Leeds, and more generally between Lancashire and Yorkshire.  There was a widespread recognition, and indeed admiration, for the achievements of Owens College, but this did not prompt any willingness to accept perceived institutional subservience; on the contrary, there was a broad desire to emulate and compete. In achieving a final agreement, such rivalries were, to some degree, put aside, but their underlying strength did not augur well for the prospects of a federal institution to represent diverse industrial communities across the North.

The debates over the Victoria University also helped to place a new focus on the importance of science teaching in higher education.  Both Owens College and the Yorkshire College had built their reputations around scientific teaching. However, what was also noticeable was the desire to create in the Victoria University a fully ‘rounded’ university, with strengths in the arts, applied science and medicine, as well as in science. The supporters of the Victoria University argued strongly that their institution should meet the broad needs of its region, for education and social advancement as well as for economic success.  Whilst not expressing the idea in an explicit way, the advocates of the Victoria University were, in effect, outlining the idea of a broadly-based civic university that would dominate English higher education for the century ahead. Indeed, in the years ahead, many of the leading members of the Victoria University would play a leading role in helping to broaden and deepen the ideas that would come to characterise  the civic university (see, for example,  H S Jones, T F Tout and the idea of the University, in Thomas Frederick Tout 1855-1929, Barron and Rosenthal (eds), 2019).

1880 marked the start of an important experiment in English higher education.  The Victoria University was established with a mission to become a federal university, uniting colleges across the North of England.  After 1887, the University embraced colleges in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.  However, the experiment, to bring together colleges in three distinct cities, each with strong, proud identities, geographically separate, and with differing needs and priorities, ultimately failed after barely 20 years, leading to the creation of the independent Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.  The idea of a federal university spanning such a large, diverse English region has never been repeated.  With hindsight, many of the seeds of this failure were already sown in 1880.  By 1879, there was growing frustration that a stalemate had been reached regarding the establishment of a new university.  In order to break the stalemate, many questions were, in reality, left unresolved, especially whether a university should teach as well as examine its students and the scope of academic staff to develop and teach their own curriculum.  At the same time, rivalries between different colleges and between their different communities persisted.  It was, perhaps, a sign of things to come when a minor dispute took place even during the first meeting of the University Court on 14 July 1880 about whether the new University seal should bear the words “Victoria University, Manchester”. As a gesture of goodwill, it was agreed to replace “Manchester” with “1880”. All these issues would re-emerge throughout the life of the Victoria University and would contribute to its eventual demise.  However, it is also important to recognise the role of the Victoria University, inaugurated 140 years ago, in the emergence of the English civic university, and, more specifically, in advocating causes such as higher education for women, a more socially diverse student population, an active regional presence, a breadth of studies and the importance of research across all subjects and involving all academic staff.

Event Registration: Universities and their Contested Pasts

Registration is now open for the symposium ‘Universities and their Contested Pasts’ to be held in the Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester (U.K.) on September 11 and 12, 2019.

For many years, universities and their pasts were seen as a benign backwater. However, more recently, attention has been drawn to the uncomfortable pasts of some of these institutions.  This two-day event seeks to explore and understand universities’ difficult pasts (both distant and recent) and how we should deal with them. The panels will consider the themes of: studying slavery; universities and empire; institutions and legacies; exhibitions; universities and the state.

The keynote speakers are Professor Astrid Swenson (Bath Spa University) and Dr Chris Renwick (University of York).  The full provisional programme is outlined below.

Registration closes on 27 August 2019.

Please register here


The event will be held in the University of Manchester’s Samuel Alexander Building (no.67 on the campus map) Lecture Theatre.

Provisional Programme: Universities and their Contested Pasts

Wednesday 11 September, 2019

13:00 Registration, tea and coffee, Samuel Alexander Building Foyer

14:00 Welcome and introduction, followed by keynote speaker Prof Astrid Swenson (Bath Spa University), Samuel Alexander Building Lecture Theatre

15:00 Paper session 1: Studying Slavery

Natalie Zacek and Matthew Stallard (University of Manchester): “Scholarship Funded by Slavery – Tracing the Cotton and the Cash that Built the University of Manchester.”

Richard Stone (University of Bristol): “Tobacco and Chocolate, Slavery and Abolition: Tracing the University of Bristol’s Connections to Enslavement.”

Alexander Scott and Andy Bevan (University of Wales – Trinity St David): “The Early History of the University College at Lampeter: An Agenda for a Bicentenary.”

16:30 Panel Discussion

Panel: Neil Curtis (Head of University Museums and Archives, University of St Andrews); Stephen Mullen (University of Glasgow); Natalie Zacek (University of Manchester).

17:40 Drinks Reception, Christie Bistro

Thursday 12 September

08:30 Registration, tea and coffee, Samuel Alexander Building Foyer

09:00 Keynote – Dr Chris Renwick (University of York), Samuel Alexander Building Lecture Theatre

10:00 Paper Session 2: Universities and Empire

Ian Harper and Roger Jeffery (University of Edinburgh): “Late Victorian ‘scientific racism’ and the University of Edinburgh’s collection of skulls from India.”

Sandip Kana (King’s College London): “The failure of Indianisation: Situating Roorkee Civil Engineering College in the anti-colonial project.”

Dongkyung Shin (King’s College London):A Transnational University Issue from Rhodesia to London.”

11:30 Break

11:50 Paper Session 3: Exhibitions

Lola Sanchez-Jauregui (The Hunterian Museum): “Curating Discomfort in the Hunterian Museum.”

Sue Donnelly (London School of Economics): “LSE 1969: marking the 50th anniversary of the LSE ‘Troubles.'”

12:50 Lunch

13:50 Paper Session 4: Institutions and Legacies

Eric Lybeck (University of Manchester): “The Forgotten Origins of American Academia in Germany.”

Joe Cain (University College London): “Eugenics, Karl Pearson, and the Legacy of Anglo-Saxon Nativism at UCL.”

Kevin Grace (University of Cincinnati): “Positioning the Facts: The Archivist’s Duty and the University of Cincinnati’s Racial Heritage.”

15:20 Break

15:40 Paper Session 5: Universities and the State

Keith Vernon (University of Central Lancashire):Contesting Control? Universities, the state and the marketization of higher education in England.”

Tatjana Šarić (Croatian State Archives): “The University of Zagreb Under Surveillance of Supreme Power – League of Communists of Croatia 1959 – 1964.”

Josh Patel (University of Warwick): “The welfare state and liberal economic thought in the Robbins Committee (1961-63): an uncomfortable alliance?”

17:00 Closing Remarks

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

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

Please note the deadline for submissions has now passed.

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 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.


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:

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.


[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.


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:

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.

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)