Grand Opening of Ruskin’s 21st century College

23 Oct, 12

Students and staff at Ruskin College are excited about unveiling their new and superbly redeveloped premises to the public at Ruskin Hall, Old Headington, OX3 9BZ, on Saturday 27 October, in an all-day grand opening.

There is a creative full programme of events throughout the day starting at 10.00am, followed by a gala evening of celebration which will conclude at 8.30pm. The open day will afford the opportunity to see and hear something about the subjects taught at Ruskin as well as enjoying the atmosphere surrounding the restored walled garden, a brand new three-storey mosaic made at Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) classes, an exhibition introducing Native American month in November, a world premiere play about the first black woman to win a Nobel prize, and the gala evening at which Peggy Seeger will top the bill.

The ribbons on the garden, the main building, the library and the mosaic will be cut between 10.30 and 1p.m. with major speeches at noon.

Principal of Ruskin, Professor Audrey Mullender, said: ‘We are so proud to be able to invite everyone to our re-launched college. It is a very important day for us and we want everyone to share it. As a result, we have kept everything simple, with no charge and no need to RSVP – just come along to all or part of the proceedings and enjoy them with us. Come and see what we are able to offer learners and maybe even return later, as a learner yourself.’

Among the many VIPS and celebrity guests you will find; Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for FE, Skills and Regional Growth, who will make a major speech on education during the session from 12 to 1p.m., gardening TV presenter Peter Thoday and Baroness Jay of Paddington – daughter of the late Lord Callaghan.

The physical move from Walton Street to Old Headington took place at the end of September before the students returned for the new academic year, and is part of a £17m redevelopment programme to make the Ruskin’s facilities fit for the 21st century.

The college now enjoys a new academic building incorporating an expanded library, named after former Prime Minister James Callaghan, who made an important speech at the Ruskin Hall site in 1976 , as well as new classrooms, seminar rooms, offices and a cafeteria that will be open to the public.

Cliff Thomas, Regional Director of Leadbitter’s Central Construction division, who built the new college premises said: “We’re delighted to have completed this first-class education facility for Ruskin College and to see it in use by the College’s students and educators. This stunning new academic building blends well with its surroundings, and we hope it will be an attractive and versatile addition to the College for years to come.”

The 18th century Rookery building alongside has been completely refurbished and made accessible by means of a lift that serves both the old and new buildings. Earlier 17th century fireplaces and the 18th staircase in the Rookery have been revealed in their full glory and sit proudly alongside 21st century interactive whiteboards and the 40,000-volume Callaghan Library.

Principal architect, Phyllida Mills, Partner at Penoyre & Prasad LLP added: “It's been a rich and rewarding journey and we're very proud to see Ruskin staff and students really inhabiting and enjoying the new and refurbished buildings.“

Ruskin’s notable alumni include former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Rodney Bickerstaffe, Norman Willis and Labour MP Dennis Skinner.

Ruskin College is known as a ‘second chance’ adult education college that specialises in providing ‘return to learn’ opportunities for adults with few or no qualifications. Ruskin welcomes students who not only want to develop themselves but also want to ‘put something back into society'. Ruskin has deep-rooted historical links, nationally and internationally, with the Labour and trade union movement.

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