This exhibition charts the development of university adult education in the 20th century, drawing on records at the University of Nottingham. University College, Nottingham was a pioneer in providing education for working class adults: in 1920, the first university department of adult education in Britain was established. In 1922, it appointed Robert Peers to be the first professor of adult education in the world.
Over the next 70 years, the Adult Education Department worked with unions, employers, local councils and voluntary organisations, offering courses in workplaces and communities across the East Midlands. Many of its students and staff were leading figures in the labour movement locally and nationally.
The department also shaped the region in the development of local historical, archaeological and geological societies. It provided a location for civic discussion and voluntary action in towns and, perhaps especially, villages.
Adult education classes and students supported trade union organisation in many industries, particularly mining, and many students became leading figures in trade unions, community organisations, and local and national politics.
Drawing on the records of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), University College Nottingham, the papers of Ken Coates and many others, this exhibition showcases how adult education enriched the lives and culture of ordinary – and extraordinary – people, and helped build a fairer and more democratic society.
Event location: Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD