Records of Edinburgh University Extra-Mural Association

Scope and Content

The records are composed of minute books, log books, committee papers, annual reports, and syllabuses. There is: minute book of the Workers' Educational Association (Edinburgh Branch) from its founding 1912 through to 1919, and a minute book from 1919 through to the 1970s; annual general meetings of the Edinburgh Workers' Educational Association, 1937-1965; council meetings of the Edinburgh Workers' Educational Association, 1927-1964; minute book of the Executive Committee, Edinburgh Workers' Educational Association, 1926-1933; log books, Edinburgh Workers' Educational Association, 1921-1965; annual general meetings, 1978-1990s; staff meetings, 1960s-1970s; Policy Sub-Committee and Advisory Committee, 1970s-1980s; annual reports, 1930-1980s; loose programmes of classes, 1955-1970s; and bound syllabuses, 1920-1968. There is also a copy of the Diamond Jubilee book of the EU Extra-Mural Association, When work is done, 1971, by J. B. Barclay, and a copy of the Handbook of adult education in Scotland.

Administrative / Biographical History

The name, Edinburgh University Extra-Mural Association, was first recorded in June 1965, but it was simply the modern successor to a number of organisations providing adult education in Edinburgh throughout the 20th century. The first of these was a branch of the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) formed in the city in 1912.

The Workers' Educational Association was itself created by Albert Mansbridge (1876-1952) in England in 1903, but this too grew out of the University Extension movement and co-operative movement. Although the WEA expanded rapidly in England, its growth in Scotland was slower, due no doubt to the fact that in Scotland there had already been a long tradition of secondary education and it was easier for a Scottish child to go to University. In 1903 too, Scotland and its small population had four universities while in the much more populous England there were only eight.

The first attempt at setting up a branch of the WEA in Scotland was made in Glasgow in 1909, but by the following year it had been forgotten about. Another was set up in Edinburgh in 1912 and its first students were from the Post Office, from Nelson's printing works, and from the railway. At first, classes were held within the University but by 1916 these had moved to Boroughmuir School in the city to save money. An expansion of adult education occurred after 1918 and the passing of the Education Act, and by 1922 the Edinburgh branch had 1500 students attending 22 classes.

A crisis occurred in 1925 when the central body of the WEA sought closer liaison with the Trade Union movement. The Edinburgh branch of the WEA wished to be non-political, non-sectarian, and non-party and so seceded, becoming The Edinburgh Workers' Educational Association. The new EWEA immediately won recognition from the city's Education Authority and the University. During the General Strike, classes maintained an 89.4 per cent attendance.

Although the EWEA had set up on its own, the Scottish WEA continued to set up classes in other parts of Scotland. Although attempts were made to bring the bodies together again, into the 1930s this had not happened. Indeed in 1942, the WEA formed a new branch in the city. The WEA and the EWEA agreed not to overlap classes however.

By the 1960s, there was general confusion about the two bodies, one being recognised and given accommodation by the University through the Department of Extra-Mural Studies (EWEA) and the other holding classes in local schools (WEA). In 1965 therefore, the EWEA decided to change it name, and to apply to the University for the use of its name. This was granted and the EWEA became the Edinburgh University Extra-Mural Association.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Received from Bridget Stevens, Centre for Continuing Education, Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, February 2000, Accession no. Acc. 00/004


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Barclay, J. B. When work is done. The Diamond Jubilee Book of the Edinburgh University Extra-Mural Association. Edinburgh: Mackenzie and Storrie, 1971.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.