The demise of so many of the ARCA Colleges

Listed on January 10, 2013 in ARCA

Many people will be aware of the attrition on adult education over the past decade or so. First to go were the extra-mural departments of many universities. Then local authorities – pressured to divert funding to basic literacy and skills in new technology – gave up much of their really interesting programming. These changes are lamentable but they are reversible.

More disturbing, however, has been the closure and sell-off of the short-term residential colleges. In the last year or so we have seen Burton Manor, Urchfont and Belstead House close. These on top of Pendrell Hall, Wedgwood, Earnley Concourse, The Hill, Maryland and Grantley Hall – to name just a few of those which come readily to mind.

Common sense tells you that the closure and sell-off of these colleges is irreversible as the properties themselves were often grand houses that were originally bought cheaply in the 1940s and 50s and which now command high prices assuming buyers with deep pockets can be found.

Public policy is a strange thing and even stranger during an age of austerity. With an ageing population needing to be kept out of hospital then keeping the old brain-box working is crucial.

The short term residential colleges were brilliant at providing intensive and stimulating opportunities for all. Their passing is going unnoticed despite valiant local campaigns and other voices sounding in the wilderness.

Wayne Bennett, ARCA Chairman
January 2013