Record

LevelSeries
Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)UB/MC/E
TitleRecords of Mason College Principal
Extent4 volumes and 6 files
Date1888-1901
DescriptionThis section comprises a series of letter books kept by the Principal to record outgoing correspondence, and sets of miscellaneous correspondence and other papers associated with the role. Records are predominantly those created by Robert Heath, who held the position from its creation in 1890 to 1900. While the letter books consist solely of correspondence relating to the academic management of Mason College, the miscellaneous correspondence includes some material relating to the Principal's involvement in the management of other educational institutions in Birmingham.

These records provide detailed information about the breadth of duties the office holder was expected to undertake. They complement the records of the Senate, described at UB/MC/D, but the letter books, in particular, provide a deeper insight into the organisation of academic life at the college during this period, and include references to individual students.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryThe post of Principal of Mason College was created in 1890 and the position taken by the chairman of the Academic Board which now became the Senate. The Principal was the chief academic officer of the college, and was responsible for the provision of courses and their scheduling, the organisation of examinations and the administration of scholarship and prize schemes. The post also involved the management of student academic welfare and providing testimonials for former members of the college. In addition to this, the Principal took on the duties of managing the academic staff and compiled the annual report of the Senate to the Council.
Heath served as Principal from 1890 to 1900 and in that time was instrumental in the expansion of courses offered by the college. He was influential in establishing courses for elementary school teachers in the early 1890s and the transfer of the women's section of the Birmingham Day Training College to the women's section of the Education department of Mason College, the Day Training Department, in 1894, which brought additional revenue to the institution. He was also involved in a failed attempt to form an agricultural department. This formed a major section of his 1894 report to Mason College Council. Heath proposed in December 1894 at a meeting of the Senate that an association should be formed for the promotion of a Midland University, and he was a member of the committee set up to discuss this. Records of these meetings are contained in the Senate minute book described at UB/MC/D/1/4. He was also involved in the campaign for the foundation of the University of Birmingham from 1898 and wrote the joint appeal letter with Bertram Windle, which appears in the volume of the Principal's letter books described at UB/MC/E/1/3, but both Heath and Windle were more sympathetic to the proposal for Mason College to become part of a federal university and were not as convinced as some of their colleagues of the importance of Birmingham having its own university.

The Principal's post was given to Oliver Lodge on the foundation of the University of Birmingham, and Heath became Vice-Principal. He was appointed Registrar of the new university in June 1900. Some of the former responsibilities of the Principal were transferred to the deans of the faculties. Edward Sonnenchein was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and John Henry Poynting was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science in June 1900, to join their colleague, Bertram Windle, who was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.