As part of a new series of features, running throughout the Co-operative College’s centenary year, archivist Sophie McCulloch explores interesting items from the past. This month she looks at the origins of the College and the key people who were instrumental in its creation, with material drawn from 100-year old editions of the Co-operative Educator and Congress reports.
The idea for a co-operative college had been discussed as early as the 1830s. However it was not until 1912 that Professor Fred Hall, who would become the College’s first principal, spoke about the necessity for a co-operative college.
He argued that there was no formal education aimed specifically at co-operators; in his experience, this was desperately needed. At Co-operative Congress in 1919, Prof Hall stated that, “co-operators … had their own special problems … that they could not solve … in any institution in the country”.
The solution, Prof Hall said, was that the movement must provide this itself. He called on supporters to help this become a reality by donating funds that could be used to bring a college to fruition.
At the Congress in 1920, Prof Hall pushed his idea further, declaring that employees of co-op societies deserved to receive unique training that was far removed from that experienced by employees of other businesses.
As a passionate supporter of young people, Prof Hall campaigned for tailored training to help them reach their full potential, saying: “We have a responsibility towards them […] and we should seek to develop them […] as well as to make them better employees”.
Many people believed a college would also be a fitting memorial to those who had lost their lives in World War I, with a prominent article in the Co-operative Educator of October 1918 proclaiming: “There can be no more noble monument to men who served us than a teaching centre that will fit others for human service”. A College was believed to be, “a memorial worthy of the co-operative movement”.
Established with the objective of being “a centre for higher education in specialised subjects required for the full equipment of the co-operator” the College continues this legacy with its range of programmes delivered here in the UK and across the world.
The unswerving commitment to providing education that equips, inspires and helps grow the co-operative movement is a legacy which the College is wholly committed to continuing for its next 100 years and beyond.