Meeting diverse expectations: Department of Tutorial Classes, Sydney University, 1919 to 1963

Authors: Darryl Dymock and Ann Kelly; Griffith University

Edition: Volume 53, Number 1, April 2013

Summary: The University of Sydney has offered some form of organised adult education since the late 19th century. In 1914, that provision was formalised through the establishment of a Department of Tutorial Classes, the appointment of a Director, and a partnership with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). Right from that time, however, there was ambivalence and sometimes direct opposition to the role and sometimes to the existence of the department. As a result, successive directors of the department had to tread a fine line in balancing the expectations of the university with their passion for extending the academy into the adult community, while also satisfying the demands of the WEA. This paper reviews the period of three directorships of the Department of Tutorial Classes, between 1919 and 1963, and argues that the liberal adult education approach adopted by the university from its earliest days was sustained over those 45 years mainly because ongoing disagreement within the university about the purpose of the department and the status of the director, as well as continuing external pressure from Meeting diverse expectations 27 the WEA, ensured that the status quo prevailed, even when there were innovative adult education developments elsewhere, and opportunities for change presented themselves.


Keywords: tutorial WEA adult education Sydney

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This article is part of AJAL, Volume 53_1. The entire volume is available in .pdf for purchase here.

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