Life and Death in Higher Education: The Rise and Demise of British Colleges of Education

By Clare Debenham

A social history based on new research of the expansion and subsequent decline of colleges of education in Great Britain.

ISBN: 9780718895495


Life and Death in Higher Education is the result of many years of research but is topical because of the current teacher shortage. At its peak in 1961 there were 40,000 men and women who entered colleges of education in Britain compared to 50,000 who entered traditional universities. There have been interesting histories of individual colleges but this book takes a holistic approach which was supported by the historian Professor Asa Briggs.

This controversial study is packed with fascinating facts that will intrigue and inform readers. As well as the relationship between colleges and schools social issues are analysed such as the role of working class teachers and the battles of women staff and students. New evidence is provided for the colleges’ expansion and their sudden closure.

The study draws on undiscovered official and local archival sources. An important feature is the testimony drawn from interviews from former college students, the oldest being 101 years.

This immensely readable book appeals to general readers as well as specialist historians of education. It is of particular interest to teachers, especially those whose institutions were originally colleges of education. Political scientists and sociologists will find much of relevance, as will feminists who have enjoyed Debenham’s last two published books.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 176

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Clare Debenham is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Manchester where she was awarded her doctorate in political science. The university supported her successful application for a Leverhulme grant to fund this research. Previous to her work at universities Debenham lectured at 3 colleges of education giving her special insights and access to networks.


Significant Dates in Teacher Education

1. The Context of Colleges of Teacher Education
2. The Political Context of the Colleges of Education
3. The Relationship of School-based Training to that Provided by Colleges
4. Struggles for Academic Freedom
5. Strong Female Principals and Feisty Women Students
6. Issues of Social Mobility
7. Control and Rebellion
8. Expansion and Closure of the Colleges of Education
9. Later Developments in Higher Education

Appendix: Archives of Colleges of Education


Endorsements and Reviews

Clare Debenham’s lively study addresses critical questions that concern our provision of well-qualified, skilled and committed teachers for schools today. Extensively sourced in institutional history and lived experience, a striking feature is the creative and influential role of many outstanding women. This book illuminates the formation of a key profession engaged in a vital task – raising new generations of healthy, skilful, socially-minded and democratic citizens.
Dr Peter Cunningham, Emeritus Fellow, Homerton College, University of Cambridge

This clearly written book offers a fascinating history of a neglected sector of higher education in Britain, the teacher training colleges and colleges of education that
were merged or closed in the 1970s. Did such a move contribute to the shortage of teachers today? Here, Clare Debenham provides an informative account of this
provocative issue.
June Purvis, Professor Emerita of Women’s and Gender History University of Portsmouth

Debenham provides a vivid picture of the life of the colleges, drawing on interviews and archival material, and uses their death as a starting point for some provocative analysis of how teacher training is best provided inside and, increasingly, outside higher education.
David Bridges, Times Higher Education, July 2021