University of St Mark & St John

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The University of St Mark & St John - Marjon - is a Church of England Voluntary University. In 2013 Marjon received legal confirmation of University title and is now officially operating as the University of St Mark & St John. Its constituent Colleges, St John's (1840) and St Mark's (1841) were founded to meet an urgent educational need for trained teachers at a time when government made no direct contribution to higher education

In 1991 the then College became affiliated to the University of Exeter, which accredited it to run undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to degree awards of the University.

In 2007 Marjon received Taught Degree Awarding Powers which provided it University College Status and the ability to accredit its own degrees. With this new status, the College was once again retitled as it is now known, University College Plymouth St Mark & St John.


Battersea College was founded in 1838 by James Kay-Shuttleworth (ne Kay). It was the first ever teacher training college, later taken over by the National Society in 1841 and renamed St John’s College. St Mark’s College (aka Stanley Grove College) was founded by the National Society in 1840 and located in Chelsea. The first Principal was the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, son of the famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1926 the two colleges merged on the Chelsea site to become the College of St Mark & St John, or as the students started to refer to the new college, Marjon. In 1973 the College of St Mark and St John moved to Plymouth.

Both founding principals were eminent Victorians who developed the first national school system, and the training colleges needed to train the teachers. Kay–Shuttleworth also established the first school inspector system. Both did much to devise new methods of teaching, many still well-known today, including the use of phonics to teach reading. Both were well connected with Victorian high society of the time, and were known to novelists like Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Kingsley, Elizabeth Gaskell and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, and to philosophers and politicians like T. Carlyle, JS Mill, Gladstone, Earl Grey, and Earl Russell, as well as the Coleridge circle of poets and writers.

Dickens proposed to establish a ‘ragged school’ with Kay-Shuttleworth, but became critical of his method of teacher training which he regarded as too concerned with dry facts. He satirised Kay-Shuttleworth’s views in the novel Hard Times, in the characters of the dour Mr Gradgrind, and the obsessive Mr M’Choakumchild.

Kay-Shuttleworth was a social reformer as well as an educator (he saw education as the best way to stamp out pauperism), and was controversial enough to attract the critical gaze of both Marx and Engels, who wrote about him in some of their most famous publications.

Coleridge stayed in Plymouth 1824-26, in lodgings in Union Street, and it was here he met his future wife, Mary (nee Pridham). He proposed while walking with her in the countryside at Greenbank. He later taught in the village school at Buckfastleigh, and became Master of Helston School 1827—40. Derwent married Mary in St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, on the 6th December 1827.

The College archive contains many papers and articles written by both Principals, as well as a host of other material, from early lesson plans and exam papers to articles written for the College magazine by old boys serving in the Boer War and the First World War.

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