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The Co-operative College - Origins and Development

Established in 1919 as an adult and staff training centre for the co-operative movement, the Co-operative College was initially based in the Co-operative Union building, Holyoake House, Manchester. Under the guidance of the Principal, Professor Fred Hall MA, it attracted large numbers of students, including many from overseas co-operatives.

During the second world war, the Training Centre on the top floor of Holyoake House was destroyed during the Manchester Blitz, making replacement premises imperative. The College operated from its hostels near Manchester until the end of the war when Stanford Hall near Loughborough came on the market. It was purchased for £54,000 using funds raised in 1944 and 1945 by co-operative societies.

The College, together with the Education Department of the Co-operative Union, relocated to Stanford Hall in time for the start of the first term of the 1945/6 session. In 1946, Dr Robert Marshall, OBE, MA, became the Principal and Chief Executive Officer and built up the reputation of the College as a national and international educational institution. Over many years growing numbers of students from former colonial territories and Commonwealth countries attended College programmes. The College also ran residential courses in social/economic subjects for adult learners, and a wide range of retail and management courses for co-operative employees.

A major review of how the College could best meet the needs of the Co-operative and mutual sector in the 21st century followed the appointment of Mervyn Wilson as Chief Executive and Principal in January 2000. This review recognised that the contemporary needs of the sector required a responsive and flexible provider, and not a large residential facility. Stanford Hall was sold and the College relocated to its original home, Holyoake House in Manchester, in September 2001.

The Co-operative College today is dedicated to the promotion of co-operative values, ideals and principles within co-operatives, communities and society. The College designs, develops and delivers programmes of training and education to help individuals and groups achieve the level of skill, knowledge and understanding required to translate co-operative ideals into effective practice.

The Co-operative College is governed by a Board of Governors comprising appointed representatives from the Co-operative and Mutual sector and Higher Education. The Board reports to the Board of Directors of Co-operativesUK in their capacity as Trustees of the Co-operative College.

Details of the college staff are contained in the Staff Who's Who and the college associates, who deliver the majority of the college courses are shown in the Associates Who's Who.

The initial business plan was developed following the fundamental review of the College and its operations that took place in 2000, which led to the sale of Stanford Hall and relocation in the North West. The plan focused on how the College would meet its charitable objective through expanding its work with the consumer co-operative societies in the UK, whilst extending its provision to the wider co-operative and mutual sector nationally and internationally.

The fifth revision of the plan for 2006-2008, with the operational plan for 2006, takes account of the success in building a range of educational and training programmes for co-operative and mutual organisations in recent years, and identifies the steps required over the next 12 months to continue to progress towards the achievement of the vision.

More information is available in the Strategic Plan which you can download in pdf format (389kb).