As my weekend walking down the length of the country approached the Edge Hill battleground, I did a little light research on the English Civil War. This included reading The World Turned Upside Down by Christopher Hill, where I found an intriguing mention of plans for an expansion of higher education: ‘During the Revolution a new university was started in Durham, and others were proposed for London, York, Bristol, Exeter, Norwich, Manchester, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Man…’
This brought to mind the consideration being given by DiUS to setting up new ‘higher education centres’, ‘to bring the benefits of local higher education provision to bear across the country’, in so-called ‘cold spots‘. Most to the places on the Puritan list are well universitied up already, but there are a few exceptions. The list of modern cold spots includes Shropshire, suggesting that the University mooted by the Puritans is still needed.
Edge Hill has around 500 students on programmes taught in Shrewsbury, so perhaps we are belatedly realising the Puritan vision – like some New Model Army of HE…
Apparently it was also proposed that ‘Undergraduates should work their way through the university, earning their living in some useful calling part of the day or every other day’ (p300, referring to Several Sermons and Discourses by Wiliam Dell). This bit at least has come true, in that most students do paid work while studying. Hopefully this practice achieves Dell’s objectives, that ‘Youth be delivered from that Ease and Idleness, which fills the hearts of University-Students with many Corruptions, and noisome Lusts, whilst they fill their Heads only with empty Knowledge and foolish Notions’ (p646).