The Department of Extra-Mural Studies of the University of Manchester had its origins in the University Extension movement of the late nineteenth century. Universities and colleges, responding to the lack of opportunity for formal higher education of many sections of the population, offered lectures and courses directly to the public outside the confines of the university. This type of education thus became known as 'extra-mural' education.
The first initiatives in this area began in the 1860s against a background of concern about current standards of secondary education. In 1867-8 James Stuart of Trinity College, Cambridge delivered lectures to working men and women in North of England. In 1873 the University of Cambridge began a formal programme of extra-mural lectures, to be followed by Oxford University in 1878. Their aim was to provide lectures and classes primarily in liberal education subjects to social groups lacking access to university education; workingmen and middle class women were seen as particularly important constituencies for extra-mural education.
Owens College became involved with University Extension in the mid-1880s. The College already provided an extensive programme of evening classes (evening students outnumbered the day students until the 1890s), but it had not been active in an extra-mural sense. In 1885 Arthur Milnes Marshall, professor of zoology at Owens College, presented a case for a series of extension lectures to the Victoria University authorities. The federal Victoria University had been created in 1880, and its constituent colleges were Owens College, University College, Liverpool, and Yorkshire College, Leeds. The University feared that extra-mural education in the North of England would be monopolised by Oxford and Cambridge, and they decided to meet this challenge with their own programme. The first "Victoria University local lectures" commenced in February 1886 with a series of lectures on natural history by Marshall at Withington, Manchester. Soon courses were being held in other parts of Manchester. In 1891, a University Extension Committee was set up with representatives from Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, to oversee the extension programme, and declaring the aim to be "to bring the University to the people when the people cannot come to the University".
Initially the Victoria University colleges ran a modest programme of around a hundred courses per annum, considerably smaller than those of Oxford, Cambridge and London. Lectures and courses were financed by local committees, who recovered costs by charging attendance fees. Centres were established across the region to support the programme, including at Openshaw, Ancoats, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Heaton Chapel, Colne (Lancs.), Southport, Blackburn, Bolton, Bootle, Wakefield, Denby Dale, and Ormskirk. Vocational and technical courses were popular as they were more likely to attract fee-paying students (for example, Yorkshire College, Leeds ran very successful extra-mural courses in agricultural education).
By the time that the independent University of Manchester was created in 1903, the situation was more favourable to extra-mural education. The Board of Education was providing some central funding, but, most importantly, the Workers' Education Association (originally known as the Association to Promote the Higher Education of Workingmen) was established in 1903 to promote extra-mural education for working class students. The W.E.A. developed into a body which could ensure the systematic planning and organisation of extra-mural education, working in alliance with the universities. For much of the twentieth century, the relationship between the universities and the local districts of the W.E.A. lay at the heart of extra-mural education. The W.E.A. popularised an intensive version of extra-mural education known as the tutorial class, which lasted for three years, with syllabuses designed by the W.E.A. itself. Courses in economics, history and social sciences proved particularly popular in the early years. The University of Manchester began its formal association with the North West District of the W.E.A. in 1909. A Joint Committee was formed, comprising seven representatives from the University and seven from local working class organisations (including W.E.A.), to oversee tutorial classes in the local region. The relationship between the W.E.A. and the University was cemented in 1911 with the institution of an annual reception for W.E.A. students at the University.
In 1919 extra-mural education received a substantial boost when a report issued by the Adult Education Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction described it as a "permanent national necessity" and advocated that universities form extra-mural departments. A department was established at Manchester in 1920. It was responsible for two strands of extra-mural work: the provision of tutorial and sessional classes in collaboration with the W.E.A., supervised by the Joint Committee for Tutorial Classes, and non-W.E.A. open lectures and courses in the Manchester region, supervised by the University's Extra-Mural Committee. In 1926 Henry Pilkington Turner was appointed director of the Department (he had previously been external registrar), and he worked closely with Eli Bibby, the secretary of the N.W. District of the W.E.A. Pilkington was succeeded as Director by Ross Waller (1899-1988), a University lecturer in English, during the 1936/7 academic session. Extension work prospered during the 1920s, with a greater range of tutorial classes being offered. Sessional classes, less advanced than the tutorial classes, were also popular. There were inevitable setbacks during the 1930s when the economic climate made it very difficult for many working class students to spare the time and money for such classes.
The Extra-Mural Department's role changed significantly during the Second World War, when it became involved in the education of armed services personnel (both British and Allied). The Manchester Regional Committee for the Education of H.M. Forces was established in 1940 to oversee this education programme, and the Department became intimately involved in the practical implementation of the programme. The Committee was responsible for providing thousands of classes and lectures during and after the War, its work coming to an end in 1959. Forces' education allowed for the employment of many more teaching staff, and required a variety of different teaching methods; the experience provided useful experience for post-war teaching methods at the Department. During the War the Committee acquired the use of Holly Royde, a house in Withington, south Manchester, to provide residential courses, and this was to develop into the Department's residential adult education centre in the post-war period.
The Department was able to expand its activities in the post-war period. It was recognised as a Responsible Body by the Ministry of Education which funded its non-vocational teaching with an annual grant, and this helped employ more staff within the Department. Residential staff tutors were appointed to organise extra-mural education in outlying districts including Blackburn, Burnley, Bolton, Wigan, Chorley, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, East Cheshire and North West Derbyshire. The Department also developed a fruitful relationship with the Lamb Guildhouse Association, established in 1938 for those interested in less formal adult education. The 'Lambs' used Holly Royde as their base, and made a significant contribution to its success.
In 1948 a new Joint Committee on Adult Education replaced the Committee on Extra-Mural Work and the Joint Committee on Tutorial Classes. In 1949 the Department's Director, Ross Waller, was appointed to the chair of adult education (Adult Education was an independent department within the Faculty of Education). During the 1950s the Department broadened its teaching scope by offering in-service and specialist training courses in such areas as social work and criminology. This was a response to changes, albeit slow, in the patterns of demand for extra-mural education. On the one hand, there was a need to provide more quasi-vocational courses, often accompanied by some form of credential, while on the other hand, there was increasing demand for less formal and intensive education than was provided by the traditional tutorial class, particularly from those students, who undertook courses in their retirement. Although the tutorial classes remained important until the 1960s, participation did begin to decline in the face of competition from the polytechnics and the Open University.
In 1960 Waller was succeeded by Werner Burmeister as Director of the Department, but he remained in post for only a short period. Waller then returned temporarily as Director until the 1964/5 Session when George Wedell was appointed Director. Wedell, like Waller, was also a professor of adult education. In 1963, the Department had moved to new accommodation in the Roscoe Building, having previously resided in offices above a bank at the corner of Oxford Road and Brunswick Street. In 1972, the Department established its own Departmental Board, following the revision of the University's constitution.
The nature and funding of extra-mural education changed significantly during the 1980s. The Department suffered funding cuts, with a consequent loss of staff tutors (the number of academic staff had peaked in 1977 at 31). Financial strictures meant that fee income from courses became more important. In 1986/7 a Central Board and Office for Continuing Education took over administrative responsibility for all continuing education at the University, with the result that the Extra-Mural Department lost its responsibilities in this area. Residential courses became less important with the consequence that Holly Royde was closed in the mid-1990s.
In 1992/3 the Higher Education Funding Council decided that future funding for continuing education should be based on number of students studying for an award. The University of Manchester meanwhile concluded that a new Centre for Development of Continuing Education would replace the Extra-Mural Department and the Office for Continuing Education and Training; this would supervise all continuing education conducted under the University's auspices. This brought to an end the role of the Department's staff tutors, and, following this, the Department was abolished in July 1994.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Centre provided a range of courses in adult education: it continued to teach the diploma in community and youth studies, provided a range of non-assessed courses for the general public, and in 1994 introduced a new certificate in continuing education for its range of assessed courses. In 1999, the Centre was renamed the Centre for Continuing Education, and was placed within the Faculty of Arts (after 2004, the Faculty of Humanities). In 2006, a major review of the Centre saw a radical reorganisation of adult and continuing education provision; the Centre ceased to be involved with the diploma in youth studies, and the certificates in continuing education were discontinued. Public education was dispersed among various agencies within the University, usually within the context of widening participation and public engagement initiatives.