Bertram was among the first set of students at Ruskin and was
the first student to have later gained a place on the college faculty. He
studied for a Diploma in Economics and Political Science and would most likely have
joined the college on a Trade Union scholarship.
Previously Bertram had been Secretary of the Hanley Labour
Church, working as a cashier in the potteries, and was responsible for a
pioneering exposé of the effects of lead poisoning. He joined the college as a
‘working’ student in the caretaking post of sub-warden and was later promoted
to the faculty in May 1900, with mainly administrative responsibilities, but
did some lecturing.
In 1902 he became the General Secretary of Ruskin. He became
one of the main protagonists in the bitter internal dispute of 1908-9 and in
1910 left the college to become the manager of the new Birmingham Labour