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Guests united in praise of college
POLITICANS, writers, residents and current and former students attended the opening of Ruskin College’s new home to see its new facilities at last.
The college has spent £17m relocating from Walton Street to Dunstan Road in Old Headington, Oxford.
The college was created in 1899 to provide educational opportunities for working-class men denied access to university. It has moved into a new building and the refurbished 18th century Rookery Building, creating facilities including a cafeteria, library, classrooms, and offices.
The college became a symbol of working people’s education and a model for labour colleges, providing a breeding ground for union leaders.
Former alumni include deputy prime minister John Prescott and Trade Union Congress general secretary George Woodcock.
About 200 people flocked to Saturday’s grand opening including Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning, who opened the main building.
Mr Marsden said: “I am delighted to speak at Ruskin’s campus opening, a college with such strong links to the Labour party and wider Labour and Trade Union movement.
“It is an institution which has a close link to my own heart, given my time as an Open University tutor for adult learners before being elected to Parliament.”
He was joined by TV presenter Peter Thoday, who cut the ribbon of the new walled library.
Baroness Jay, daughter of former Labour prime minister James Callaghan, opened the library in the name of her father, who laid the foundation stone for the original college.
She described the event as a “triumph”.
She added: “The library and indeed the whole building far exceeded my expectations and every comment I heard was extremely positive.”
Science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss, who lives nearby, was also a guest.
Principal Professor Audrey Mullender said: “We have been packed.
“We are behind our wall here and I don’t think people do get enough chance to come and see us.
“Our new cafeteria is open to the public so people can walk down and have a meal or coffee which is another way of seeing us, and there will be guided tours of the walled garden in the future.”
She described the new building as “wonderful, light and bright” and stressed some facilities will be open for hire when not in use by the college.
She said: “We look forward with great enthusiasm and eagerness to our future.”