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History of Education Seminar Programme 2017-2018

The ‘History of Education Seminar’ at IHR (Institute of Historical Research) is convened by ICHRE (International Centre for Historical Research in Education) members. The seminar attracts speakers from around the world, providing a forum for established historians as well as early-career researchers to present their work. For further information please contact Gary McCulloch or Georgina Brewis at ioe.ichre@ucl.ac.uk

All welcome, no registration required. Unless otherwise stated these seminars are held in the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), Senate House.


5 October 2017, 5.30pm, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way (Room 642)

‘The secret history of Brian Simon’

Professor Gary McCulloch (UCL Institute of Education)

Brian Simon (1915-2002) was a leading historian of education and a foremost advocate of comprehensive education.    In 1935, as a student at Trinity College Cambridge, he became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.  This seminar will discuss the significance of Simon’s ‘secret history’ in the Communist Party in his subsequent educational career.  The archives of Simon himself and of the Communist Party help to trace the development of his position in relation to the CP.  The intelligence services also maintained surveillance on the activities of Simon, his wife Joan, and other close family members and friends, and these are highlighted in the intelligence files recently released at the National Archives.

All are welcome to join us for refreshments after the seminar.


2 November 2017, 5.30pm, IHR, Past and Present Room, N202. 

‘From architectural planning to organic change: Mrs Thatcher and the abolition of the colleges of education revisited’

Robin Simmons (University of Huddersfield)

This paper revisits the abolition of the colleges of education in England and Wales – specialist teacher-training institutions once some 160 strong, which were effectively eradicated in the years after Margaret Thatcher’s 1972 White Paper Education: A Framework for Expansion. Its central argument is that the way in which change was enacted following the White Paper represented a significant break with the model of policymaking which held sway for thirty years after the end of World War Two. Whilst more far-reaching change would come following Mrs Thatcher’s ‘conversion’ to neoliberalism later in the decade, the fate of the colleges of education was, I argue, an important if largely overlooked episode in the history of education – especially in terms of violating the collaborative relationship between central government and local authorities which had, until that point, dominated education and social policy in post-war Britain.


7 December 2017, 5.30pm, IHR, Peter Marshall Room N204

‘Narratives of Crisis – 1980s education policy and the ideas behind the CTCs’

Elizabeth Bailey (University of Birmingham)

Education policy in England underwent major reform thirty years ago in terms of provision, curriculum, funding and management. City Technology Colleges (CTCs), proposed in 1986, embodied many of these changes. CTCs were a new type of school within the state system, with control over their own funding, admissions and operations; they were intended to have a technology focus within a broad curriculum and were partially funded and managed by industry. This presentation aims to connect the broader 1980s conservative ideas about choice and diversity, the aims and purposes of education, and management and funding, to those that fed specifically into the CTC policy. In order to understand this better, the composite elements of the CTC policy and the ideas referenced by actors introducing the policy are examined to determine how they reflect continuity in ideas and language. This presentation also considers the influence of ideas used by external interest groups on internal Conservative Government policy discussion.



1 February 2018, 5.30pm, IHR, Peter Marshall Room N204

‘Toward a transnational history of the English Public Schools’

Petter Sandgren (Stockholm University)

This talk revisits and rethinks the idea of the English Public Schools as a global model for elite boarding schools. The argument at the heart of this presentation is that from the beginning of the nineteenth century and onwards, there existed something that could be understood as a ’global transnational field’ of elite boarding schools. During the formation of this transnational field, the English public schools quickly emerged as an international gold standard for what an elite boarding school should look like. The ethos and educational ideology of the Victorian English public schools thus not only spread throughout the vast British Empire, but also left a lasting impact in countries such as Denmark, Greece, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Notwithstanding this process of a global diffusion of the English public school model, this talk also highlights the importance ideas emanating from outside the British Isles have had in shaping the present-day English public schools and the transnational field that they are a part of.




3 May 2018, 5.30pm, IHR, North American History Room [Note room change]

British Government policy on the teaching and learning of Chinese

Tinghe Jin (Durham University)

Perspectives on the teaching and learning of Chinese in Britain have evolved in response to changing state and cultural ideologies. Religious, academic, military, diplomatic and community interests have exerted influence on the developments, ensuring that understandings of Chinese, as a modern language have never remained static. Since the mid 20th century, a series of official and semi-official reports have sought to address ways of attending to the shortage and quality of Chinese teaching and learning in Britain (for example, Hayter, 1961; Parker, 1986; HEFCE, 1999; CILT, 2007). Most of these reports have focused on the university as being the institution most suited to improving numbers of literate and fluent Chinese-speaking linguists. This paper draws on archival material in order to examine ideologies of Chinese Language Studies from national and institutional perspectives, contributing to the understanding of the factors influencing changes in Chinese Language Studies in university curricula.


7 June 2018, 5.30pm, N304, Third Floor, IHR

‘British ex-Service students and the rebuilding of Europe, 1919–1926’

Georgina Brewis (UCL), Sarah Hellawell (Sunderland Univeristy) and Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University)

After the First World War, British universities received an influx of students who had undertaken wartime service – whether as soldiers serving at the front, members of the field ambulance or VAD nurses. The Board of Education’s scholarship scheme for ex-service students helped produced a more socially diverse student body, a social transformation of higher education yet to be thoroughly investigated. The post-war enfranchisement of women coincided with further changes in higher education, exemplified by the University of Oxford’s decision to give full membership to female students in 1920. This paper investigates the war generation’s entry into higher education by focusing on one particular aspect: their contribution to reconstructing Europe by forging links with students from other countries, including former enemy nations. The immediate post-war years saw a plethora of international student initiatives, encompassing humanitarian efforts as well as the promotion of student interests at the international level. British university students were actively involved in these ventures; indeed, the very foundation of the National Union of Students (NUS) in 1922 was partly aimed at strengthening international links. Even when not active in such organisations, many British students engaged in internationalism, for example by participating in study exchanges and travel schemes. The paper will examine how young adults with direct experience of war experienced and fostered international dialogue and understanding. The paper is based on a collaborative project funded by an AHRC First World War Engagement Centre grant and co-designed with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the North East branch of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).



ICHRE Seminars 2017-8

ICHRE’s occasional seminars aim to provide a forum for established historians as well as early career researchers and postgraduate students to present and discuss their work. The seminar seeks to foster a culture of collegiality among those – at UCL Institute of Education and elsewhere – exploring education and learning from a historical perspective. Contact m.freeman@ucl.ac.uk for more information.


Wednesday 27 – Thursday 28 June 2018 (ICHRE’s annual free, two day summer conference)


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