Higher education and the gendering of space in England and Wales, 1869–1909
The admission of women students to English and Welsh universities in the second half of the nineteenth century was not the only marker of change in what was a tumultuous phase in the history of higher education. This dissertation explores how the emergence of women as a new category of student occurred alongside the establishment of the first wave of civic universities, challenging the Oxford and Cambridge monopoly on higher education, and how the two processes were linked. With many of these new foundations advertising themselves as explicitly coeducational, I use a spatial lens to explore how the reality of coeducation was experienced by both male and female students through the physical space of the campus.
Through focusing on several different types of spaces – such as learning spaces, leisure spaces, and commuting spaces – I argue that physical space, as the site where men and women students interacted (or not, as the case may have been) in both academic and social settings, records the nuances and inconsistences that go undetected in official declarations announcing colleges open to all, without any distinction of sex. As institutions grew in both student numbers and finances, purpose-built campuses enforced spatial segregation between men and women in an explicit way, through the designation of separate common rooms, floors, entrances, wings, and even entire buildings. I will also argue that regulation of mixed-gender interaction also became more, rather than less, formalised over the period, with the rules and practices governing the management and behaviour of female students becoming increasingly entrenched as the civic foundations transcended their origins as provincial colleges and moved towards a more singular expression of the ‘modern’ university.