Institutional Impact in the First World War

The significant roles staff and students of the University of Glasgow played during the Great War, including those who lost their lives, is being discussed at a one-day conference at the university on 2 March.

University poppiesAttend the conference

Conference: Business as usual? Institutional Impact in the First World War. ‌
Date: Wednesday 2 March 2016
Venue: Senate Room, University of Glasgow

All welcome

For the full programme visit Business as usual? Institutional Impact in the First World War

Tickets cost £25 and can be booked through Eventbrite

UofG through the War

A high proportion of the University of Glasgow’s students and staff died while serving in the First World War, with 4,506 staff, students, graduates, and members of the University Officers’ Training Corps signing up. During the war 761 eventually lost their lives.

The university was a recruitment ground for the war, in the month of October 1914 alone 14% of male students signed up, while at an event at the Glasgow University Union nearly 300 students volunteered to serve with the Cameron Highlanders.

The impact of this on the University and its community is one of the research areas being presented at theBusiness as Usual? Institutional impact in the First World War’conference, hosted by the University of Glasgow.

Such was the clamour to sign up from university staff and students that by February 1915 a total of 1,255 men had joined the Officers’ Training Corp. By 1916, male enrolment at the university was 909: half of what it was in 1914.

Dr Tony Pollard, the University of Glasgow’s senior lecturer in History and Battlefield Archaeology, who is hosting today’s conference, said:  “The bravery of the students and staff was typical of the time. They felt compelled to take direct action and of course many of them ended up paying with their lives.

“The war draft had significant implications for the University, and the University had to adapt accordingly. In 1914 special arrangements had to be made for students who wanted to sign up to the war effort, particularly with exams. Final exams and graduations had to be brought forward in order to allow medical students to go off to serve. While many graduates were already pursuing a military career by 1914, there was a tremendous rush by other staff and students to sign up, so the impact on the university was considerable.”

And it was not just the men affected by the Great Wareffort.

Dr Jennifer Novotny, a research assistant in History at the University of Glasgow, said: “University of Glasgow women fulfilled a variety of roles during the war. Writing in the Glasgow University Magazine, women in 1914 showed frustration at the lack of opportunities to serve in contrast to their male colleagues and some rightly suspected that increased roles and responsibilities would be temporary. Despite this, they found ways to contribute to the war effort, from managing munitions work at HM Factory Gretna to running hospitals at the front or volunteering as part-time nurses at home.

“The university’s women’s college, Queen Margaret College, actively recruited women volunteers and collected data on their professional skills as part of the government’s call for qualified women to undertake the work of men absent on war service. Women were very conscious of how their war contributions could pave the way for gains in voting rights.”

Business as Usual?

Dr Novotny added: “The conference: ‘Business as Usual? Institutional impact in the First World War’brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines to examine the role of institutional involvement in an individual’s experience of the First World War.

“Throughout the day we will reflect upon how businesses, institutions and other corporate entities were impacted by the participation of staff, students and colleagues during the First World War, and how the war changed or redefined these communities.”

Some of the other areas being discussed are how the mining industry coped with a reduced workforce, the experiences of white-collar workers, the war’s impact on museums, and how unions and benevolent societies supported their members during the financially difficult war years. 

First published: 1 March 2016

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