Beyond the Lecture Theatre

Having been heavily involved in the rebuilding and running of one of my previous university’s oldest academic societies, as well as being a member of several music groups during my time as an undergraduate, I would be interested in exploring the extra curricular, social side of university in the 1960s.  I know from personal experience that clubs and societies allowed me to explore existing interests further, but also introduced me to people who I might not otherwise have met on my course. The issue of societies might be a particularly interesting area to explore amongst those who had joined Royal Holloway College and Bedford Colleges whilst they were still women’s only institutions, only for them to become co-educational in 1965.  For example, did new societies have to be established, keeping the sexes separate or did existing groups also allow men to join.  Also, what kind of range of activities were available to students, did university give them an opportunity to sample new pursuits or just build upon existing interests?

Moreover, having been a choral scholar, I would also like to explore changes in the chapel choir upon the introduction of male students.  Did the choir immediately begin to cater for lower voices or was that change made more gradually? Since membership of a choir can be quite regimented, it would be interesting to see how routines have changed – if indeed they have changed – since the 1960s.  Involvement in clubs and societies can be a vital part of the settling in process so I would also like to consider whether this has always been the case or whether, for the newly admitted male undergraduates, there was any difficulty in integrating into the existing student body.

The idea of interviewing former students of both Royal Holloway and Bedford New Colleges has the potential to create an invaluable resource about the history of the colleges academic and social histories.  Moreover if this model continues in future years of the MA programme, covering different decades it will offer insights into the expansion of access to higher education and university life throughout the twentieth century.