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UNESCO International Day of Education 2024 | Spotlight on Morley College, London

Wednesday 24th January 2024

Today marks UNESCO International Day of Education, which this year is dedicated to highlighting the role of those working in education and their active commitment to peace, eradicating hate speech and acts of violence as well as promoting a right to education for all, no matter what your background.

This notable day provides an opportunity to advocate learning for peace and inclusion which must be transformative, and equip individuals with the necessary knowledge, values, attitudes and skills and behaviours to thread the message of acceptance and harmony throughout their communities.

To mark this day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on one of our amazing Centres, Morley College, London, who provide opportunities to undertake OCN London Access to HE diplomas, as well as a variety of other short courses and qualifications.

We sat down with the College’s Head of School – Health, Education, Social and Applied Science, Dr. Fiona Murray to find out more about the history of the college and the team’s dedication to providing access to education and learning support for their communities.

Morley Memorial College, now Morley College London, was founded to provide lifelong educational opportunities for diverse communities in London. Founded in Waterloo in 1889, Morley is one of the UK’s oldest and largest specialist providers of adult education with a signature curriculum in arts, culture, and social and applied sciences.

Tell us a little more about your inclusion strategy and how you ensure that education is available to all at Morley College.

The driving force behind the founding of the college was the social reformer, suffragette and artist Emma Cons. Determined to improve the prospects of the people of Lambeth, Emma started a series of Penny Lectures at what we now know as the Old Vic Theatre on a wide range of topics beyond people’s day-to-day experiences. Examples include “The heart, and how it beats”, a lecture given by the science teacher and nature writer William Furneaux (latterly of Goldsmiths’ College), and “The telephone, or how to talk to a man a hundred miles away”, a demonstration given by William Carpenter on behalf of the Chemical Society of London. In facilitating access to ‘extramural’ education, Emma Cons believed the college should and could “bridge the chasm which too often separates people.”

Today, as Morley College London, we sustain Emma Cons’ belief in creating connections between our students’ ambition, potential and opportunity to succeed. The college is outstanding at breaking down the dispositional and situational barriers that adult learners so regularly face when returning to education. Morley is a place of strong social values and creativity, woven into the DNA of Morley from its founder, with a clear commitment to meeting the needs of students and the diverse communities from which they come.

Our students are drawn from our most local boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, and Kensington & Chelsea, but our personalised approach to learning and the student experience attracts students from across London and beyond. We are committed to learning being inclusive, to broadening participation, and to doing all we can to support people to keep learning: we champion lifelong learning.

What support do Morley College offer to support individuals to access education and training opportunities, such as Access to HE?

Morley College London offers a rich range of Access to HE courses including Science, Medicine, Health and Human Science, Humanities, Law, Social Science, Counselling, Fashion and Art & Design. Alongside that, we offer pathways into access through our community learning provision, essential skills in English, Maths and Digital. We are also the only Institute of Adult Learning to offer higher education courses supporting our adult students to take up flexible higher learning pathways following undertaking an Access to HE course. This provision was recently recognised with a Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, one of only six colleges to receive this rating.

How do OCN London align with the College’s purpose and values when it comes to education for all?

The transformative power of education has been hardwired into Morley’s DNA since its inception by a suffragette and an abolitionist, this very much aligns with OCN London’s origins and their ongoing commitment to access to education for all, broadening participation and enabling local communities to thrive through learning.

Our heritage is drawn through in the long standing ‘Penny Lectures,’ a lecture series open to all since the Victorian era alongside Morley Radio, our community radio station and podcast production house that is open for all students to engage with at our three centres.

We are the originator and organiser of the national Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour, which seeks to raise awareness and celebrate the work of unpublished authors from global majority backgrounds. The project is complemented by a series of curricular interventions in creative writing provision and the Morley Radio podcast series that further increases its reach.

Alongside careful curriculum development to enhance access – such as flexible learning in higher education – the college also contributes to initiatives locally, regionally, and nationally. For example, working locally with Southwark Works to develop needs assessment tools for digital skills in adults, or working with a local charity in North Kensington (Rugby Portobello Trust) to develop routes for local parents seeking to transition into full time training in Early Years.

OCN London are an essential partner and trusted friend when it comes to ensuring our curriculum is meaningful and relevant to our local communities and beyond.

In 2021-22 the college led a pilot for the Home Office to design an induction programme for recent Afghan evacuees to support access to education, training, and work.

As part of our commitment to supporting the career development of emerging artists, the Zsuzsi Roboz Scholarship was established 7 years ago and offers an annual bursary for artists of promise each year. The bursary pays for a year of Morley courses and 1:1 tutoring from Morley staff and nominated artists. The scholars exhibit their work in September in the Morley Gallery and alumni include the notable painter Oli Epp.

Is there anything particular you would like more people to know about the College and the communities you serve?

The college is a ‘Specialist Designated Institution’ (SDI). The 1992 Education Act gave a special designation to a select group of colleges and conservatoires reflecting their distinctive contribution to Adult, Further and Higher Education in the UK. Morley College London’s Specialist Designated Status has been in place since this time, reflecting the range, breadth, and depth of opportunity for adult learning.

On 3 February 2020, Kensington, and Chelsea College (KCC) joined Morley College London through merger to become one of the largest Institutes of Adult Learning in England, retaining its SDI status. The merged college operates from three main Centres in North Kensington, Chelsea and Waterloo and a satellite Centre at Stockwell.

The North Kensington Centre for Skills is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and inhabits one of the most diverse districts in London, with recently arrived migrant families alongside low-earning Britons. The Centre is located less than a mile from the site of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It provides provision in four curriculum areas: Arts and Applied Studies; Science, Health, Education and Applied Sciences; Business and ICT; and Essential Skills.

The Chelsea Centre for Creative Industries is a specialist Centre focussing on career-orientated outcomes through vocational programmes. The Centre is situated in the southern end of RBKC amidst a creative district. The Centre shares one of its two buildings with the English National Ballet School. The borough is one of the most unequal areas in the UK: Royal Hospital Ward enjoys one of the highest average earnings in the country, but nine bus stops away, the World’s End Estate has the third worst income deprivation (36.3%) in London. The Centre is configured around four curriculum areas: Art (Fine Art & Creative Discovery), Design (Fashion & Design), Media (Media Production and Photography) and Essential Skills.

The Waterloo Centre for Adult Education is one of the oldest purpose-built adult education centres in the country. The Centre is located on the border between the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark in London. It serves local students from Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham – drawn from communities within which there is significant ethnic diversity – and Lambeth and Southwark are ranked within the top ten most deprived boroughs in London, and the top 25 most deprived in England. There are over 100 languages spoken by the student body and the choice of courses at the Waterloo Centre is one of the most extensive in the country, with over 2,500 accredited and short, non-accredited courses for adult students on offer across twenty programme areas within four Schools: Visual Arts; Music and Performing Arts; Humanities and Applied Sciences; and Essential Skills.

Our Community Learning provision is also delivered in partnership with Lambeth Council and with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) from a wide range of community venues.


If you would like to find out more about Morley College, London and the variety of learning opportunities available, please visit their website at https://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/

For more information about OCN London’s qualifications and services portfolio, including Access to HE diplomas, please contact us at innovation@ocnlondon.org.uk or visit our products page at https://ocnlondon.org.uk/our-products/

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