Ruskin College Oxford


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History: Ruskin College was established in 1899 to provide educational opportunities for working class men, who were denied access to university education. It was deliberately placed in Oxford, the city in which its young American founders (Walter and Anne Vrooman and Charles and Mary Beard) had studied, because the city symbolised the educational privilege and standards to which ordinary people could never previously have aspired. Ruskin College became, in turn, a symbol of working people’s education. It served as a model for labour colleges around the world, and Gandhi made a point of visiting during a brief stay in Oxford in 1931 because he had been so inspired by the writings of John Ruskin on workers’ education, just as their own founders had been.

Address: Ruskin College is situated at Ruskin Hall, Old Headington, 3 miles from Oxford City Centre. The new purpose-built teaching facilities, library and café opened in October 2012. 

Ambience: As you might well expect, there's a passionate commitment to access, equal opportunity and activism. Students have a keen sense of social justice that is fostered by the college ethos; that education here is not for the simply self-interested. Ruskin students come from a wide range of different backgrounds but are all over 19 with few or no formal qualifications.

Who's the boss? Audrey Mullender, former professor of social work at the University of Warwick.

Prospectus: 01865 759 604, order one online here and follow @Ruskin_College.

UCAS code: R90

What you need to know

Easy to get into? Of course - widening participation is the name of its game.

Foundation degrees: Ruskin now offers two. They have recently be validated by Oxford Brookes University to run a foundation degree in business and social enterprise. This is in addition to the foundation degree in writing for performance.

Vital statistics: A small institution with 250 students. Offers everything from short courses (equivalent to GCSEs) to postgraduate degrees, specialising in certificates of higher education. All courses are validated by the Open University.

Added value: Close links with the University of Oxford mean that students are able to attend its lectures and use its libraries, as well as joining its student societies. The college's own library has around 40,000 books. Ruskin students have gone on to work in education, social work, social care, in the media, trade unions, management and politics. A £17m redevelopment is ongoing, and the next stage will include the provision of a new library.

Teaching: Ruskin has received glowing reports from the QAA and the ALI. In reviewing its social policy, and sociology courses, the QAA found the teaching standards and learning progression 'commendable'.

Any accommodation? Yes, residential places in recently-refurbished halls are offered on a first-come, first-served basis to those studying full time. Fees are £3,563 per year for catered accommodation.

Cheap to live there? No - it's around £90 per week to live out. Average rent in a shared house is between £250 and £450 per month.

Transport links: The college is a stone's throw away from the bus station. Oxford has excellent road and rail links to London, as well as west towards Reading.

Fees: Ruskin College charges £3,930 for its Certificate of Higher Education courses and £7,500 for all other higher education courses.

Bursaries: The Adult Education Bursary is available to students studying specific courses at the college. There is also a wide range of trade union scholarships. See the financial support page here for full details.

The fun stuff

Nightlife: Oxford during term-time is full of students. The town itself has numerous pubs and a host of music venues, theatres, cinemas and clubs, and Ruskin's active students' union also organises regular entertainment throughout the year.

Sporting reputation: Does not compete in the BUCS league but the University Sport Centre offers facilities including a pool and gym.

Glittering alumni: Ruskin has had more than its fair share of working class heroes: trade union leaders from around the world have studied alongside notable British politicians, most recently John Prescott.