The History of Higher Education in Bloomsbury and Westminster

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Institute of Education, University of London

King's College London

London School of Economics

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Royal Holloway, University of London

School of Oriental and African Studies

Senate House Library, University of London

University College London

University of Westminster


The Institute of Education was founded in 1902 by the London County Council in conjunction with the University of London. For the next 30 years it existed as the London Day Training College. The college was open to 'duly qualified students of either sex who were engaged in, or intended to enter, any branch of the teaching profession; or who were making a special study of the theory, history and practice of education'. The College opened on the 6th of October 1902 with 58 students. Its inaugural meeting was overseen by its new Principal and the University's first Professor of Education, John Adams.


Professor Sir John Adams, first Principal of the London Day Training Centre, 1902-1922

Passmore Edwards Hall, site of the first LDTC lectures

Passmore Edwards Hall, c. 1902

The newly formed College had, as yet, no permanent home. In 1903 the LCC purchased a site in Southampton Row. While the building was being constructed, the College occupied a number of temporary homes. Classes were first given in LSE premises at Clare Market, while the staff occupied rooms in nearby buildings. In the years between 1903 and 1907, the LDTC was split across four sites: the Northampton Technical Institute in Finsbury; the College of Preceptors in Bloomsbury and offices in Southampton Row. The College finally moved into the new Southampton Row building in 1907.

The Southampton Row building was purpose-built for the LDTC. It contained a gymnasium and cloakrooms in the basement; a large lecture theatre on the ground floor, with staff offices on the mezzanine; student common rooms and a refreshment room on the first floor; a library, staffroom and classrooms on the second floor; classrooms, a manual training room and a display museum on the third floor; and a laboratory, art and nature study rooms and a kitchen on the top floor. There was only one staircase running through the whole building, and one LCC inspector commented that 'whenever the student population was on the move it was like Wembley after the Cup Final'. John Adams, who felt that his office on the mezzanine made him a little too available, had a secret staircase made which led into the caretaker's room. By prearranged signal, the caretaker would warn the Principal of an unwelcome visitor 'and while the visitor went up one staircase Adams went down another'.

The Southampton Row building, c.1907.

The Southampton Row building, c.1907

Percy Nunn, John Adams and Margaret Punnett

Percy Nunn, John Adams and Margaret Punnett

By this time Adams had built up a small but dedicated staff. Acting as, respectively, Mistress and Master of Method were Margaret Punnett and Percy Nunn. Their role was to 'have the personal oversight of the men and women students respectively, will give lectures on method and school management, will supervise the attendance of students at practising schools and preside at criticism and model lessons and generally act as tutors and directors'. In 1905 their titles were changed to make them both vice-principals. Other members of staff were recruited, usually as part-timers, to give lectures on particular parts of the curriculum or to supervise teaching practice.
The early students of the LDTC were young - between 18 and 22 - with a majority of females. Most had been educated in pupil-teacher centres. Initially, many of the students were academically ill-equipped to cope with the demands of a combined degree and certificate course, but by 1907 standards had risen and teachers were being produced for both elementary and secondary schools. Students were required to undertake both academic courses and practical teaching in local schools.

Students of Mr Dicker's music class

Students of Mr Dicker's music class, c.1914

The Londinian, magazine of the Institute of Education

The Londinian, Magazine of the LDTC

In 1909 the LDTC's academic status was confirmed by its admission as a school of the University. Higher degree work developed during the First World War and from 1915 a course of training for the University's MA in Education was provided on Saturday mornings and evenings during the week. This small beginning would eventually develop into a wide-range of research work in all aspects of education, culminating in the numerous research units attached to the Institute at the present time. By 1922, when Nunn succeeded Adams as Principal, the LDTC had become the 'intellectual and professional centre for London's teachers'. Adams himself was a hero to many of his students, as evidenced by the remark by Sir Robert Blair that 'There are 20,000 teachers in London, and the greatest of them is John Adams'.

Percy Nunn became Principal of the LDTC in 1922. He was renowned as a great teacher and could, as one of his colleagues once remarked 'teach the calculus to a class of whelks'. Under his stewardship, the LDTC became ever more involved in higher research and he employed research specialists such as Cyril Burt, Susan Isaacs and Herbert Russell Hamley. This introduced a new type of student - those undertaking study for professional development. The teaching of curriculum subjects also developed, with the introduction of the first course for the training of teachers in art in 1924.

Sir Percy Nunn, second Principal of the LDTC and first Director of the Institute of Education

Professor Sir Percy Nunn, second Principal of the LDTC and first Director of the Institute of Education, 1922-1936

Senate House

Senate House

In 1932 the LDTC was transferred to the University of London and became the Institute of Education. The steady growth in students who intended to teach abroad led to the creation of a Colonial Department in 1934; an Oversea Division was also set up in that year. Nunn retired in 1936 and was succeeded by Fred Clarke as Director. His leadership of the Institute 'was to be characterized by creativity, humanity and success'. Clarke also oversaw the move in 1938 from the Southampton Row building, which had become too cramped for the Institute's activities, into the north wing of Senate House. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War Two meant that the brand new building was taken over by the Ministry of Information whilst the Institute was evacuated to University College Nottingham. Some teaching carried on at premises in Portman Square.

In 1948 the Institute of Education became the lead body of an Area Training Organisation for London, a body which combined all of the area's teacher training colleges into a single body. This ATO was also known as the 'Institute of Education'. This period (1948-1975) saw the Institute become a multi-purpose organisation, undertaking research, advanced studies and overseas work, as well as initial training. It also saw the beginning of planning for a new building in Bedford Way, a process which began in the 1960s and culminated in the opening of the new building in 1977.

Current Institute of Education building at 20 Bedford Way

The present Institute of Education building in Bedford Way

Pupils at Steward Street School, Birmingham, 1930s (from the Schiller Archive, Institute of Education).

Pupils at Steward Street School, Birmingham, in the 1930s (from the Schiller Archive, Institute of Education)

The Institute of Education was granted a Royal Charter in 1988 and once more became a school of the University of London. As a graduate college of the federal University it now offers a wide range of courses including initial teacher education, further professional development and research degree programmes and is a major centre for educational research. Its Archive holds over 100 collections relating to education in the UK, dating from 1750 to the present day, as well as the records of the Institute itself. For further details of our collections and policies, see the Archives website.

^ Top