Oxford and Working-Class Education is a report from a committee that looked at the potential for artisans and mechanics to study at Oxford University.
Thomas Hardy had wanted to study at Cambridge, but gave up hope knowing that he would not be able to afford the fees. He retained a sense of resentment throughout his life, which partly drove his personal studies in Greek, using the Greek New Testament. Hardy, like Jude from the novel Jude the Obscure, felt that his own learning was deeper and more diligent than that of many Oxford and Cambridge students whose wealthy families had sent them to university as a matter of course.
Details and conclusions of the report
The report begins by acknowledging that there has been ‘a great mass of experience derived from the attempts to organise higher education suitable to [workpeople’s] needs’, and that the absence of a consistent structure for this has been detrimental to the advance of workers’ education. The report ends by recommending two-year educational courses in centres outside Oxford, and concludes that qualifying students should then be able to go on to study as full students in Oxford colleges, with funding.
Within five years of the publication of Jude the Obscure (1895) philanthropists established Ruskin College – which was deliberately located in Oxford – specifically for the education of working-class men. The college is currently affiliated to, but is not a constituent college of, Oxford University. In the report, one year’s residential study at Ruskin College is recognised as a qualifying standard for acceptance into the university. Women were also accepted onto the qualifying tutorial scheme.