Workers' Educational Association

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The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) seeks to provide access to education and lifelong learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular those who have previously missed out on education. The International Federation of Workers Education Associations (IFWEA) has consultative status to UNESCO. Archbishop William Temple was a strong proponent of workers’ education.

Albert Mansbridge (10 January 1876 - 22 August 1952) and his wife Frances (née Frances Jane Pringle,1876 - 1958) established An Association to promote the Higher Education of Working Men in 1903 (renamed 'Workers Educational Association' in 1905), funded by two shillings and sixpence from the housekeeping money.


The WEA is divided into nine regions in England (each matching a Government Office region), a Scottish Association and over 500 local branches. It creates and delivers about 14,000 courses each year in response to local need across England and Scotland, often in partnership with community groups and local charities. These courses provide learning opportunities for around 85,000 people per year, taught by over 2,500 professional tutors (most of whom work for the WEA part-time). These figures make the WEA the largest voluntary sector provider of adult education in Britain.

The WEA is a national charity and is supported by the Government through funding from the Skills Funding Agency in England, and in Scotland by the Scottish Executive and Local Authorities. It also receives fees from learners on many of its courses and is often successful in funding bids from government, lottery and other sources for educational projects in local communities around the country.

There are also Workers' Educational Associations in Northern Ireland and in North and South Wales. Since 1992/3, these have been entirely separate organisations from the WEA National Association, which now operates only in England and Scotland.

WEA London Region

It runs a wide range of local courses all over London, from Basic Skills to Beethoven; from Community Interpreting to Contemporary Literature; from Digital Media to Dance; from E-learning and Egyptology to English as a Second Language, and from Health and Safety to Helping in Schools.

These courses all share its common values:

  • Creating equality and opportunity, and challenging discrimination
  • Believing in people, communities and their potential to change through education
  • Putting the learner at the centre of everything we do

See some of its work at Galleryonline or try an online course for free at its Learning Online Moodle site.

London Region Website

WEA Scotland

The first Scottish branch of the WEA was in Springburn, Glasgow, although this only lasted until 1909 at that time, the Edinburgh and Leith Branch coming into existence on 25 October 1912 after a meeting held at the Free Gardeners' Hall, 12-14 Picardy Place, Edinburgh. The meeting was chaired by Professor Lodge and addressed by Albert Mansbridge and Dr. Bernard Bosanquet. The meeting was attended by 200 people, including Mr James Munro, M.A. who became Secretary of the newly formed branch.[1][2][3]

WEA Northern Ireland

The Workers’ Educational Association NI ceased to function inJune 2014, when it ran into a cash flow problem and its bank refused to extend credit. It provided adult education in community and workplace settings. Its title was somewhat misleading as it provided education for all types of people and in particular tried to reach out to those who missed out on learning first time round. It worked mainly with those over 18.

Some background ...

  • It was set up in Belfast in 1910 and part of a wider network of WEAs, the first of which started in England in 1903.
  • It operated across Northern Ireland and in the Border Counties in the Republic. It has around 6,500 learners in any given year.

Its courses were organized mainly in venues such as community halls, arts centres and training rooms in workplaces.

The WEA NI’s Vision is a prosperous, creative and cohesive society where everyone is a learner. Its Mission is to make learning irresistible.

Its values are:

  • When it comes to learning no-one should be left behind
  • People learn best and create most when they are open to difference
  • Working collaboratively is second nature to the WEA
  • Everyone receives a quality of service
  • Actively listening to learners is core to its business
  • Innovation and risk taking are essential

The WEA NI's Vision, Mission and Values have shaped its Strategic Plan ‘Irresistible Learning’ which sets out its objectives up to 2013.

visit [1] for more info.


WEA branches for North and South Wales were established early in the 20th century. Coleg Harlech was founded in 1925 as a residential college for workers' education, and in 2001 merged with WEA (North Wales). Further mergers in 2014 unifed North and South, then in 2015 WEA Cymru merged with YMCA Community College to form WEA YMCA Community College Cymru.

WEA in Australia, New Zealand and some regions of Canada

In 1913, the University of Melbourne invited Mansbridge to visit Australia to help set up branches there. The Mansbrige family arrived on 8 July on a 17-week mission aimed at forming branches of the association in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and Tazmania and WEAs were initially set up in all states.[4][5][6] As of 2012, the WEA in South Australia claims to be ‘Australia's largest non-government adult community education organisation’ and the WEAs in New South Wales and Victoria are still operating.[7][8]

During this trip the Mansbridges then made a brief visit to New Zealand where WEA branches were established in 1915.[9][10] Five branches are still operating along similar lines to those in Australia.

Early work was patterned on the WEAs in the UK. However, given the different demographic arrangements in Australia, and in the absence of other adult education providers, the WEAs in Australia became general adult education agencies. In the 1980s a range of other training providers started offering adult education thereby changing the role of the WEAs. The WEAs in Australia have many clubs and societies associated with their operation. A typical example is the WEA Film Study Group based in New South Wales.

There are also some branches in Canada which have presently and currently opened in March 2014 although however its services has been established since 1917 (98 years old) and is part of the WEA International; it operates mainly in Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax as well as St Johns. it is currently operated under the Canadian government licenses and jurisdictions of division branch companies ltd.' (LLC)

See also


  1. 2003: A Century of Learning 1903 - 2003 Timeline. Workers' Educational Association Scotland. © WEA ScotIand. ISBN 0 902303 511
  2. Scotsman newspaper 28th October, 1912
  3. "Free Gardeners". 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Graham Marsh, ‘Mansbridge: A Life; A Biographical Note to Celebrate the Centenary of the WEA’, 2002 at (assessed 11/09/12), pp.5.
  5. T.W. Price, ‘’’The Story of the Workers'Educational Association 1903-1924’’’, 1924 The Labour Publication Co. Ltd. London. p.53. ASIN: B00116OMME
  6. Bernard Jennings ‘’’Albert Mansbridge The Life and Work of the Founder of the WEA’’’, 2002 University of Leeds. p.126. ISBN 1 901981 11 8
  7. ‘About the WEA’ at (assessed 11/09/2012).
  8. ‘Get Involved’ at (assessed 15/07/2015).
  9. T.W. Price, ‘’’The Story of the Workers'Educational Association 1903-1924’’’, 1924 The Labour Publication Co. Ltd. London. p.53. ASIN: B00116OMME
  10. Bernard Jennings ‘’’Albert Mansbridge The Life and Work of the Founder of the WEA’’’, 2002 University of Leeds. p.126. ISBN 1 901981 11 8

External links



New Zealand



Further reading


Lawrence Goldman, past President of the former Thames and Solent District WEA, has written:

  • Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education Since 1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)
  • 'Intellectuals and the English Working Class 1870-1945: The Case of Adult Education', History of Education 29:4 (1999), 281-300
  • 'Education as Politics: University Adult Education in England since 1870', Oxford Review of Education 25:1-2 (1999), 89-101
  • 2003: A Century of Learning 1903 - 2003 Timeline. Workers' Educational Association Scotland. © WEA ScotIand. ISBN 0 902303 511

Joe England (ed.), 2007 'Changing Lives: Workers' Education in Wales 1907-2007'


  • Darryl Dymock (2001). A Special and Distinctive Role in Adult Education. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-567-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>