The Cambridgeshire Technical College and School of Art’s comprehensive calendar of classes 1954-55

Is there any institution that offers such a comprehensive range of courses in/around Cambridge today?

You can read the brochure here. The courses tell of a very different age, and very different relationships between local residents and local industries. The very strong links between specific courses and specific industries are much more clear to see than the more generic ones we see today – such as business studies. And who remembers in the 1990s the old GNVQ in ‘Leisure and Tourism’? My point being that leisure and tourism in a heritage city is inevitably very different to leisure and tourism in a holiday park or seaside resort overseas. That’s not to diss the learners who undertook those courses – it’s a reflection of shortcomings in central government policies as to their vision of post-compulsory education – whether further education or adult education/lifelong learning.

You can get a feel for the neighbourhood back in the 1950s from this map digitised by the National Library of Scotland.

What a shade of…fuchsia!

It’s lovely, isn’t it? Note the map below-right: A very different Cambridge?

Above – the covering pages. The map shows the site of the old Perse Boys – where I want to see a new large concert hall built. (See my Open Cambridge talk on Wed 14 Sept 2022), the car park on Emmanuel Road / New Square as was, and the ‘training college’ founded by Elizabeth Hughes that became Hughes Hall, Cambridge. (She was one of the organisers for the big 1899 National Union of Teachers Conference in Cambridge).

A governing body of civic heroes

When you look at the list of names in the governing body,

Above – contents, and the list of governors

The top six in the list below all served either as borough/city councillors or county councillors – or both.

…to name but a few.

(Some of you may be interested in this article about Alice Skillicorn’s relationship with her partner Dorothy Sergeant, at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence. See also this 2014 paper by Elizabeth Edwards).

A program of courses that covered a city and district

One aspect that is crystal clear in the brochure is the institution was not set up as a residential university that we’re familiar with today – i.e. Anglia Ruskin University that eventually succeeded it after some name changes and mergers (CCAT, then APU) in between. This is made clear both through its statement that the institution had no accommodation service, and that ‘in-county students’ (of the old Cambridgeshire County Council borders) paid lower fees.

“The College is non-residential. No responsibility can be accepted for providing accommodation, but the Social Supervisor keeps a register of addresses where students may be able to find lodgings.”

CCAT (1954, para 33)

And Cambridge had parking problems then as now:

Note the motor cycle complaints!

When we look at industry-specific courses, you can almost pick out the employers that graduates and those passing exams would have gone onto work for:

  • Industrial Printing – Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Newspapers
  • Building – Kerridge, Ridgeons, Rattee & Kett to name but a few.
  • Institutional Cookery – any of the large employers that had staff canteens
  • Local Government – Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Councils, and the smaller-than-today district councils
  • Banking – pre-dating the mergers and takeovers, there were far more branches than there are today
  • Scientific Instrument making – PYE, the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company
  • Radio Service Work – PYE
  • Civil Service clerical and executive grade – The Government Offices off Brooklands Avenue (Shaftesbury Road – where I started my civil service career in 2004)

And those are just to name but a few. They covered humanities, social sciences, economic, politics, music, performing arts, and many, many more courses. They started at GCE-O level with the age of entry to any college courses at 15 years old, and went all the way up to undergraduate degrees – with the University of London being the accrediting organisation. (Not being a university at the time, CCAT could not award/validate its own degree qualifications).

Physical education

They had sports covered too – even though it would be almost a decade before Parkside Pool was opened (in the early 1960s) and a further decade on when the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre opened.

Lessons for today’s local policy makers?

Many – something I’ll save for a future post. In the meantime, have a browse through the catalogue, and if you have any ideas on what Cambridge & Cambridgeshire could learn from, and provide for in the future, email any of your local councillors and ask them to lobby the Combined Authority on your behalf – as they control adult education and skills.

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in the history of Cambridge the town and the people who made our modern city, please support my research in bringing their records of achievement to wider audiences. Click here if you would like to make a donation to support my ongoing work.


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