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Oral history project

Oral history project

1957 ceremony with a cow

The Worcester Spirit: Stories from the campus 1946 to 2016

In 1946 the City of Worcester Teacher Training College opened for the first time as an emergency training college to meet the demand for qualified teachers in a post-war Britain. Initially operating out of three single story Air Ministry buildings with a cohort of 240 demobilised servicemen and women, the college is now one of the fastest growing Universities in the UK with over 10,000 students, internationally recognised research and outstanding world-class facilities.

As part of our 70th anniversary celebrations we wanted to capture the voices and memories of those who have studied, worked and lived here over the past seven decades. The Worcester Spirit is an oral history project conducted by the University of Worcester that explores 70 years of teaching excellence and captures the stories and memories from the campus.

The following interviews were conducted over a period of 10 months by a small team of staff and current students and reflect stories from each decade since the institution first opened. As well as providing personal accounts of campus life, the interviews also make reference to the changes in higher education across the UK and the key decisions that transformed a small teacher training college into the University that exists today.

Friends studying education outside in the summer of 1976

The interviews

Over 40 interviews were with recorded and transcribed for the project and included recent graduates, Lecturers, Governors, Administrative staff and fellows of the University. Some of the interviewees include 103 – year-old Leslie Broughton who was one of the very first students on the campus in 1946, former Miss India and Bollywood actress Swaroop Sampat and University Vice– Chancellor David Green.

Through the voices of the staff and students who worked and studied at the University it is possible to encapsulate the feeling of the ‘Worcester Spirit’ and friendliness of the campus that still exists today. 

Listen to...

Tom Wilkes

Tom Wilkes talks about campus life

Tom reckons he got onto the teacher training course at Worcester because he impressed the technology tutors with a picture of a canvas canoe he’d just made. Tom started the course in 1968 with Technology as his main subject and English as his subsidiary.

He creates a vivid picture of campus life in the hippy days of the late sixties. For many it was a first taste of freedom and experimentation, but all on a small budget. This interview took place in room that was once a bedroom for two. For Tom it brings back memories of his first impressions of college life, ‘brew groups and Black Lady’ and trawling round Worcester factories begging for bits and bobs to use in technology practicals.


RAG week ball

Tom had (and still has) a tight-knit group of friends from his time at Worcester. He played for the third XI football team got involved in the RAG Committee, which ran RAG week (now Fresher’s Week) and put on a number of charity fundraising events including a student ball.

In Tom’s third year, when he was Vice Chair of the committee, they booked the band Hot Chocolate for the ball. Before the big day, the band became unexpectedly famous. Tom takes up the story...


Mary Wheway

Mary talks about choosing Worcester and the campus

Mary Wheway trained to be a teacher at Worcester between 1955 -1957. It was a two year course in those days and she remembers being interviewed by the Principal Mr Pierson, who she says put everyone at ease and was responsible for creating ‘the Worcester Spirit’.

In this extract Mary talks about the campus in those days, which consisted of a handful of buildings and a lot of green space. She shared a room in her first year but was lucky enough to get a single room in her second. Rules were devised by the students themselves and Mary recalls a relaxed atmosphere and a wonderful sense of freedom.


Remembering the course and staff

Mary did her first teaching practise at a primary school in Malvern a couple of weeks after starting her course. This was followed by three more teaching practises across the two years. In this extract, Mary describes the personal group system at Worcester, where students were assigned to a tutor.

Hers was Dr Westgate who had a flat in Henwick House. After leaving Worcester, Mary spent three decades teaching in different primary schools in Nottingham and Reading. She loved her time at Worcester and has been coming back to reunions for 60 years.


Leslie Broughton

Listen to Leslie Broughton

Leslie Broughton was one of the very first students to arrive on campus when the City of Worcester Teacher Training College first opened in 1946. After leaving school Leslie had trained as a mechanical engineer but when war broke out, he moved to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham with two jobs, working in the mortuary in the morning and as instrument curator in the afternoon.

When the war ended, Leslie jumped at the opportunity to apply for teacher training in one of the new emergency colleges set up in response to the post war demand for qualified teachers. In this extract, he explains how he ended up at college in Worcester instead of Birmingham where he’d first applied. He also recalls his first visit and an encounter with a man who he thought was the gardener.


The Methodology

The interviews were recorded at the University or the candidates houses and are in keeping with the guidelines set by the Oral History Society.

The transcripts from each interview are available to read here and are stored in hard copy at the Hive Library.