ARCA – A brief history

Listed on May 1, 2013 in ARCA

The idea of residential adult education was imported from Denmark in the 1930s but only took root after the Second World War. The concept of living and learning together was developed in the nineteenth century by Pastor NFS Grundtvig and others after seeing how students and tutors lived and worked together at Oxford and Cambridge universities. Residential adult education continues to be a key cultural idea in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.

ARCA originally stood for the Adult Residential Colleges Association and goes back to the early 1980s when a group of residential education colleges decided to formalize the informal network between college principals.

Many of the residential colleges had been formed in the late 1940s and 1950s whilst others started in the 1960s. The early colleges were often run by local authorities but soon other colleges from the private and charitable sector joined the movement.

In recent years the world of residential adult education courses has become enormously diverse.

ARCA reformed in 2010 to encompass professional providers of residential adult education courses whether they had premises or not; the Adult Residential College Association became simply known as ‘ARCA’.   This was in response the enormous diversity in existence in the field of residential adult education. Not only were course programmes provided at specialised centres but from experienced professionals offering courses in hotels and other types of residential facility.  Tutors interested in working in residential adult education could also promote themselves to course programme organisers that were members of ARCA.

At the ARCA Conference May 2013 it was decided that the association would be disbanded after 30 years in existence, but that support for residential lifelong learning course providers would continue thanks to online promotion via and an annual Standing Conference to be held at Knuston Hall.

If you have further enquiries about ARCA or are thinking of setting up a programme of residential courses you can contact Janet Dann via