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Jericho Sketchbook

Ruskin College

Ruskin College, Oxford
Ruskin College

Ruskin College moved into its present site on the corner of Walton Street and Worcester Place in 1903 and was the last major institution to be established in Jericho. The main building, completed in 1913, occupied the former site of the stables of Johnson's timberyard, the saw pit and yard of which were also in Worcester Place and its wharf at the end of Great Clarendon Street.

The college, founded in 1899 as Ruskin Hall and named after John Ruskin, whose views on education, labour and social reform were so influential in the 19th century, by two American non-collegiate students and the wife of one of them with the support of Professor York Powell. Renamed a college after the move it offered one-year courses on the history of political institutions, social science and ethics to working class men who were expected to return to their former occupations.

Extension classes based on local Ruskin Halls and correspondence courses were also offered. It was financed by private gifts and support from the Labour Party, the Trades Unions and the Co-operative Society but by 1909 these bodies had become deeply distrustful of the University, suspecting it of trying to emasculate working class aspirations. A student strike forced the principal to resign. In the reforms that followed these political representatives gained control of the executive committee and the students became eligible to sit a two-year University diploma course in economics and political science although few students could afford the second year. The correspondence courses were continued too but extension classes did not.

The college was closed during both World Wars although correspondence courses continued. However, during the inter-war period few students could afford either the fees or the loss of employment entailed. Grants were few and far between. Nevertheless a new wing was built in 1936. The position after 1945 was quite different and numbers rose so rapidly that new premises in Headington were needed to accommodate them. From 1960 onward the College developed its own diploma courses, parallelling those of the University and in 1964 the Trades Union Congress took over the running of the correspondence course. With Labour in power during the 1960s and 70s the College received financial support from the Department of Education and students became eligible for local authority discretional grants.

By this time several associated labour organizations such as the Trades Union Research Unit and the Trades Union International Research and Education Group were housed in formerly residential properties in Worcester Place and in 1979 plans for further expansion of the main block were revealed. These ran into opposition from the Jericho Residents' Association determined to resist further long term expansion of institutions at the expense of local residential housing. They forced a reduction in size of the new buildings and further such development in Jericho is unlikely in the foreseeable future.