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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

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A Graduate College for the University of Kent

[Virginia Woolf College under construction] — The University of Kent at Canterbury, founded in 1965, is one of Britain’s younger collegiate universities. Although its college system started strong, it has not been well supported over the years as the university has expanded, and some of its original promise has been lost. My colleague Frank Cranmer has just sent me word, however, that Kent will soon open its fifth residential college, a graduate society to be called Virginia Woolf College.

Virginia Woolf College will house 544 graduate students—that’s a bit on the large side—and it will join the long-established Darwin, Eliot, Keynes, and Rutherford Colleges on the Canterbury campus.

The quality of life experienced by graduate students in big universities is often very poor. Unlike undergraduates, who through their courses necessarily build links across many different departments and who benefit from well-developed orientation and co-curricular programs, graduate students are often isolated in their departments, live alone, and even after several years may not be well integrated into the life of their institutions. Including graduate students within residential college systems ought to be a given, but in the United States it is not. Virginia Woolf College at Kent will join Abbey College at Otago, Ustinov College at Durham, and Green College and St. John’s College at British Columbia—not to mention the long-established graduate colleges at Oxford and Cambridge—as an example of how graduate student welfare should be supported in every university.

May Virginia Woolf College and all its members grow and flourish for many years to come, and may they spark a Kentish revival of the collegiate way of living.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2014