Homerton ushered into Cambridge elite

February 23, 1996

Homerton College, a specialist teacher training institution in Cambridge, is to become more like other Cambridge colleges after being given the go-ahead to admit students for the university's bachelor of arts degree for the first time in its 300-year history.

Founded in 1695, the college moved to Cambridge in 1894, becoming an Approved Society of Cambridge University when it introduced the four-year BEd degree in December 1976. Under new rules, it will remain an approved society, but from this October it will admit 15-20 students to read for a degree in a brand new tripos subject: education studies. The number is eventually expected to rise to around 60 students.

The decision - described by Homerton principal Kate Pretty as "a big day in the history of the college" - follows a fierce battle in Regent House, the dons' parliament (THES, January 5).

Opponents of the move feared that Homerton, which has less rigorous entrance requirements, would become a backdoor to the university and that education studies was insufficiently academic. "We already have several students with two As and a B at A level," said Dr Pretty. "The difference between the two cohorts of students is not all that the caricature would have it."

Right to the last, Dr Pretty was uncertain that the Homerton proposals would be approved. "The escalation of the debate had turned it into a science-arts split," she said. Opponents were headed by computer scientist Frank King, but also included such major figures as right-wing historian Correlli Barnett and English academic John Casey.

The turnout was huge by Cambridge standards, with nearly half of the university's 3,000 dons choosing to cast a vote. The motion to allow Homerton to admit typical Cambridge students was carried by 846 to 614. The motion to introduce a new tripos subject of education studies was carried by 850 to 596.

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