Records of the Student Christian Movement

Scope and Content

Archives of the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland, formerly the British College Christian Union (1897-1965); records of the Student Volunteer Missionary Union (1892-1904) and materials relating to the World's Student Christian Federation, Student Movement House, Universities Camps Club and the Christian Auxiliary Movement.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Student Volunteer Missionary Union (SVMU) was founded in 1892 with 300 members. The Union's object was to interest students generally in missions and to encourage them to consider work in mission work overseas and it began to campaign in colleges for recruits. However, it soon became apparent that this work was only possible in those colleges where a Christian organisation or society already existed and a census of colleges found that only 17 had such a religious organisation. In 1898 the SVMU therefore started a central student organisation, the Inter-University Christian Union, whose object was to found Christian Unions in Universities and colleges. In 1898, the Missionary Department - the SVMU - and the Christian Union Department - were reorganised and united. A section for theological students, the Theological College Department, was also added at this date. The whole Union was then called the British College Christian Union (BCCU). This in turn was renamed the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland (SCM) in 1904 as a more appropriate name for the wider movement. The movement began as a university movement but it soon expanded to embrace technical colleges, teacher training colleges (including domestic science and physical training colleges), theological colleges and agricultural colleges. By 1924, there were nearly 200 Christian Unions affiliated to SCM as well as 65 theological colleges which were also associated with it.

The Movement rapidly broadened its aims. Its primary aim was evangelistic - "to bring all students to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord" - but as early as 1900 it began to be concerned at the need for work for amongst the poor in British cities and this concern developed into a growing and continuing interest in contemporary social and political issues. Another aspect of its work was in relation to foreign students and the promotion of friendship. Special secretaries in universities were appointed and the Student Movement House in London was established. The Movement also soon became much more inclusive and although the founders largely belonged to the evangelical section of the Church of England, it soon became inter-denominational and open to students of all denominations of the Christian faith.

The SCM was governed by a committee of undergraduates elected by the members and of graduate secretaries. Some secretaries - often referred to as travelling secretaries - visited colleges and helped to found and organise branches. Others were based in centres of large student population or were involved in promotional work and work amongst foreign students. The SCM also had a staff at its headquarters whose work included the organisation of its conferences which formed a large part of its work. Annual conferences, usually organised around a theme, are still part of the SCMs work. Today, the management body of the SCM is the General Council which is made up of seven students and three staff and its headquarters and staff have recently relocated to premises at the University of Birmingham on the Selly Oak campus.

The expansion in higher education in the late 1950s and 1960s resulted in the appointment of university chaplains who were then undertaking similar work to the SCM. A consequence of this was that the movement became more involved in current social and political issues and less with aspects of Christian belief and less involved with the students it existed to serve. However, in the 1970s and 1980s the SCM underwent a radical restructuring and change of emphasis and as a result a considerable number of new groups were formed. Since the 1990s the SCMs priorities have again been refocused because of financial pressures and the changes in higher education.

The Student Christian Movement is an international movement. There are many national student movements throughout the world and these are federated together through the World's Student Christian Federation (to which British SCM belongs) and this organisation enables ecumenical and inter-cultural dialogue between member organisations across Europe and the rest of the world.

Reference: Sources: SCM printed literature including Hugh Martin, The Student Christian Movement. A survey of its history and growth ( Student Christian Movement,1924 ). ; A brief sketch of the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland ( Student Christian Movement, 1909 ). ; Student Christian Movement website:


Ordered by a classification scheme; arrangement within each section is mainly chronological. A Annandale (headquarters) files (1-436) Including correspondence and working papers of staff and students planning conferences, campaigns, programmes of study and activities; B Annual reports: BCCU, 1896/97-1903/04 SCM, 1904/05-1955/56; C College reports, 1907-68 (1-65) London College reports, 1917-39 (66-74) Theological College reports, 1903-38 (75-82); D Delegates and Conference registers; E Student Christian Movement Press; F First Conference Estate; G Tissington Taplow papers; H - J Journals; K Kinematograph, AVA L Ledgers (and other financial records); M Minutes (1-137); N Printed handbooks, pamphlets and other printed materials; O Outsize, incl Student Volunteer Missionary Union registers; P Presscuttings (1-42) R Trust Association; S Student Movement House; T Theological Colleges Department correspondence; U University Camps; V Travelling Secretaries reports; W World Student Christian Federation [WSCF] (1-55); X Christian Auxiliary Movement [CAM] (1-33).

Access Information

Open. Access to all bona fide researchers. All papers held at the Orchard Learning Resources Centre will be viewed at the Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department. Please contact the University Archivist for further information.

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred to the Orchard Learning Resources Centre which was opened in 1997 following the merger of the Selly Oak Colleges Library and the Westhill College Library.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

When Annandale, the headquarters of the Student Christian Movement, was sold in 1974, the accumulated documents and records were initially transferred to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. They were subsequently transferred to the library of the Selly Oak College. The collection arrived in a very badly damaged and disordered state, having suffered several removals and a flood. During 1977-79, the archive was augmented by the transfer of other material from the new SCM headquarters at Wick Court, by the generous gift from Dr Tissington Taplow's daughter, of the rest of her father's papers and by a number of other smaller acquisitions and rescues.

Following the merger of the Selly Oak Colleges and the University of Birmingham in 1999 the custodial ownership of collections belonging to the Selly Oak Colleges and held at the Orchard Learning and Resource Centre (OLRC) was transferred to the University. These collections now form part of the University's Special Collections Department and are available for consultation at the Main Library on the University's Edgbaston Campus.


Further deposits are expected.

Related Material

The University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department holds a rich collection of archives relating to missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.