This book chapter reviews nineteenth century, higher education initiatives and their users. It makes the argument that the period has been unfairly denigrated for its failure to extend the publics who accessed higher education because critics have overly focussed on the working classes. This attitude hides the considerable widening of higher education to the middle classes, to women and to some of the working classes; in 1800, virtually none of these had any higher education but by 1900, there had been revolution. All these groups could, and did, reach higher education and many of these then opened the doors for further middle and working class extensions in the twentieth century. All this was done though reform of the old universities, the initiation of the new, ‘civic’ universities, university extension classes and the university settlements. These ‘top down’ developments combined with efforts from outside the universities, including working class colleges, co-operatives and clubs, the adult education movement, middle class mechanics institutes and literary and philosophical societies. Collectively too, from all these emerged new curricula and teaching methods while libraries offered self-help learning. Thus nineteenth century higher education defeated policies defining higher education as a private good for very restricted publics and established its raison d’etre as a public good for ever-widening groups
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