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Workers' Educational Association

Workers' Educational Association (WEA). Founded in 1903 by Albert Mansbridge (1876–1952), a cashier at the Cooperative Permanent Building Society, whose own formal education had ended at the age of 14. Mansbridge considered that the University Extension movement, established in 1878 and originally intended for the education of the working classes, had been largely taken over by the middle classes. To remedy this, Mansbridge launched an Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men, changing its name to the Workers' Educational Association two years later. He sought the help of Oxford and Cambridge for the new movement, which would provide high-level education for co-operators, trade union members, and reading circles. The creation of the university tutorial class, where students pledged themselves to attend courses for three years, was probably Mansbridge's greatest achievement. By the outbreak of the First World War the movement had proved a success, with every university providing tutors. But middle-class infiltration persisted.

Peter Gordon

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