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A Surviving University of Stamford

Simon

Oblivious
I was reminded this morning of the University of Stamford, a short-lived English university founded in 1333 by a breakaway group of lecturers and students from the University of Oxford. Oxford University and Cambridge University lobbied against it and they managed to convince the King to have the university suppressed in 1335. Further lobbying by this duopoly saw no new universities being established until the first half of the 19th century – with Durham, the University of London and University College London arguing over who gets that honour – whilst Scotland saw its four ancient universities being founded and scores on the continent.

So what happens if Stamford and/or one or more of the other failed proposals had been successfully founded? Do Oxford and Cambridge lose their preeminent positions, or become first amongst equals? Or do people think they would still be able to maintain their places in the social hierarchy?
 

MachiavelliJr

Well-known member
I was reminded this morning of the University of Stamford, a short-lived English university founded in 1333 by a breakaway group of lecturers and students from the University of Oxford. Oxford University and Cambridge University lobbied against it and they managed to convince the King to have the university suppressed in 1335. Further lobbying by this duopoly saw no new universities being established until the first half of the 19th century – with Durham, the University of London and University College London arguing over who gets that honour – whilst Scotland saw its four ancient universities being founded and scores on the continent.

So what happens if Stamford and/or one or more of the other failed proposals had been successfully founded? Do Oxford and Cambridge lose their preeminent positions, or become first amongst equals? Or do people think they would still be able to maintain their places in the social hierarchy?
Ooh, this could get interesting. I think there's definitely a good possibility of getting another medieval university in England - Oxford and Cambridge really struggled to meet demand in the pre-collegiate era, up to the late 15th century, and again in the 17th century.
Stamford or Northampton are early enough that either could almost be on a level playing field with Oxford and Cambridge; poorer, but only a couple of rich patrons away, not in a totally different universe as a later foundation would be.

Any foundation after the first big colleges at Oxford and Cambridge is always going to struggle financially, once the other lot have an All Souls or a Trinity Cambridge or a New College they've got the wealth to both lobby to squash their competitors and be more attractive to anyone with a choice. We think of Oxbridge as being expensive and socially elite but those are really Victorian things; if you're lucky enough to have a decent grammar school education or equivalent, you can study at Oxbridge right up to the late C18th for really very cheap. Unless of course you put up the money to match them, e.g. if Wolsey had put all his eggs in one basket with his Ipswich foundation, rather than the lion's share of the money going to found Christ Church...

A 17th-century extra English university is again very possible; Cromwell was actively in favour of one for starters and might have founded Durham had he lived a bit longer, though it's hard to see a very small, poorly endowed college in a relatively isolated town closely associated with the boogeyman doing very well in the Restoration even if it managed to survive - unless perhaps the Archbishop of York adopts it because he doesn't like Cantaur's monopoly on all things academic? Gresham's College could have easily evolved into a London equivalent of Edinburgh (as in, what Edinburgh was in the 17th century, a small, poor, cheap and local institution - not the late-C18th powerhouse, at least not straight away) if it could make the leap to actually having its own students, and perhaps end up as an umbrella for the Royal Society and some of the learned professions. The Oxbridge influence over its governance would be a problem but you could see Cromwell making it more independent, or some academically ambitious Archbishop deciding to support it with his own degree-awarding powers.

Once you get a little bit later the Dissenting Academies are basically universities in all but name - albeit very very small ones, even Warrington/Manchester at its height is only in double figures of students and 4-5 academic staff, about the size of an average contemporary Oxford college, at best less than half as big as either of the Aberdeens. Getting them the title and degree-awarding powers in the teeth of the Anglican Supremacy is going to be really, really hard but if someone rich enough wanted to endow one at a point where there's a real scare about Jacobitism at Oxford, it might be just about on the very edge of not being totally ASB.

ETA a totally different possibility is a military academy like the ancien regime ones in France. Weirdly I think this also might be a Cromwell thing if only because that's the only time prior to the Napoleonic Wars that it would be politically acceptable to have something so pointedly directed at building a self-replicating, professional, career officer corps. It's not exactly a university, but might evolve into one.
 
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MachiavelliJr

Well-known member
I wonder if somehow managing to get Northampton to survive for long enough that the North-South split that led to Stamford being created gives it enough ooomph to keep going long term might be the answer for a Third University.
Northampton is probably the best chance of a third ancient university but it is quite close to Oxford and doesn't actually have the Northern connections that Stamford did - though I suppose the Northerners might decide that any port in a storm would do. Being so close to Oxford it would be hard put to survive for 80 years but that's not a terribly long time, I'm sure there's some possible wrinkle in Church politics that could lead to its survival. Northampton would probably end up as a collegiate institution (given that the 1333 brigade founded a College or Hall at Stamford) but it might be like Glasgow or Trinity and only have one College - otherwise it's hard to see how it's going to be very different to Oxbridge for quite a long time, but come the Reformation or even the Lollards (Wycliffe had a lot of support in Oxford, one could imagine a Northampton sticking its neck out and taking a stronger position either way) anything might happen.
 

Simon

Oblivious
Looking through things institutions which did actually form, if perhaps not with university status, but closed down in short order are:
  • Northampton, 1261–1265
  • Stamford, 1333–1335
  • Durham, 1657-1660
Proposed institutions which were never founded, or in Gresham's case founded but never gained university status, include:
  • Durham, 1540
  • Gresham, 1596
  • Ripon, 1590, 1596, 1604
  • York, 1641
  • Manchester, 1641
  • Durham, 1651
  • London (to absorb Gresham), 1651
  • York, 1825
  • Leeds, 1826
  • Bath/Newcastle/Manchester, 1830s

Two other suggestions I've see are Norwich which was the second largest and wealthy city in England during late Middle Ages/Tudor period, and Canterbury or York for the Archbishoprics due to universities often being closely related to the Church. Norwich has the advantage of potentially having good access to the Low Countries but whilst it's more northern than Oxford and Cambridge I'm not sure it's far enough to placate those people from the North who were agitating for one later on. Canterbury being south-east of London is even worse, and Northampton whilst somewhat north-west of Oxbridge is still in a general arc with them. York is suitably located.
 

MachiavelliJr

Well-known member
Looking through things institutions which did actually form, if perhaps not with university status, but closed down in short order are:
  • Northampton, 1261–1265
  • Stamford, 1333–1335
  • Durham, 1657-1660
Proposed institutions which were never founded, or in Gresham's case founded but never gained university status, include:
  • Durham, 1540
  • Gresham, 1596
  • Ripon, 1590, 1596, 1604
  • York, 1641
  • Manchester, 1641
  • Durham, 1651
  • London (to absorb Gresham), 1651
  • York, 1825
  • Leeds, 1826
  • Bath/Newcastle/Manchester, 1830s

Two other suggestions I've see are Norwich which was the second largest and wealthy city in England during late Middle Ages/Tudor period, and Canterbury or York for the Archbishoprics due to universities often being closely related to the Church. Norwich has the advantage of potentially having good access to the Low Countries but whilst it's more northern than Oxford and Cambridge I'm not sure it's far enough to placate those people from the North who were agitating for one later on. Canterbury being south-east of London is even worse, and Northampton whilst somewhat north-west of Oxbridge is still in a general arc with them. York is suitably located.
I think Henry VIII deciding that the Papal authority to award degrees devolves on both Archbishops rather than just Canterbury is a good PoD to get a Renaissance Northern university, which would probably be at either Durham, Ripon or York.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
ETA a totally different possibility is a military academy like the ancien regime ones in France. Weirdly I think this also might be a Cromwell thing if only because that's the only time prior to the Napoleonic Wars that it would be politically acceptable to have something so pointedly directed at building a self-replicating, professional, career officer corps. It's not exactly a university, but might evolve into one.
Is there other staffing needs the state might be missing on through the old universities that could prompt it to open a specialized school that can later evolve into an university? I'm thinking of things like engineering.
 

MachiavelliJr

Well-known member
Is there other staffing needs the state might be missing on through the old universities that could prompt it to open a specialized school that can later evolve into an university? I'm thinking of things like engineering.
Oh, definitely - the Inns of Court filled the gap in legal training that the universities didn't bother with, and there were various workarounds for the lack of a proper medical school.

There are a lot of late 18th / 19th century technicial institutions that end up as universities much later - Strathclyde University for example wasn't chartered until 1964 but it was founded all the way back in 1796 as the Andersonian Institute teaching basically science and engineering. The idea there was basically a deliberate attempt to take the useful bits of Glasgow University (where Anderson was Professor of Natural Philosophy i.e. science), strip off all the "University" stuff (the notional four-year curriculum, the degrees, the Latin and Greek) and just do useful classes, so making it "a university" at that time might be rather missing the point.
 
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