Research Projects

Averil Osborn Fund

For 2016-17 we have won some funding from Averil Osborn Fund to investigate the value of serious study in later life for both benefit to the individual, and the wider aspects of older people as citizens who are a contributory resource for society.

A team of researchers, all over 55, will be supported by academics who are experts in the study of ageing, and they will be coached and supported at 3 workshops, email and phone throughout the 12 month project.

The project will explore the meanings, social value and impact of serious study in later life by drawing upon the experiences and expertise of older learners.

We would like to hear from people who are interested in being interviewed about their own study (which can be any HE course, a Ransackers course, degree or post graduate, long term at U3A, City Lit courses). If you have done a Ransackers course, and are willing to be interviewed, please let us know. We’ll be doing some interviews face to face and we can also do some over the phone.

Contact:  Hilary Farnworth

Research in 2015:

We interviewed a sample of Ransackers about the projects and study experiences,  and we listed the subjects chosen by 187 people who studied on Ransacker courses at Ruskin College , Oxford. This was all done without funding.

We presented early findings at the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) conference, University of Northumbria.

Our broad aim is to get the issue of education and later life learning onto the radar of academics, policymakers,  and key organisations working with older people: there are studies into loneliness, health, IT use – but we’ve had a government that has slashed funding for nearly all education which does not lead to employment.

Some trends from our 2015 work:

1.    Women in particular had been prevented by family, class or social factors from attending HE courses in their youth

2.    IT experiences: most people had clearly benefitted and learned new skills but some had very specific learning needs and had not had these fully supported -we take note! Also smartphones were not really around then – and this is a whole new area of digital life.

3.    Many people reported changes to their life after completing their course: new friends, new confidence for volunteer roles and being more active in their community.

People often ask us:  What subjects did Ransackers choose to study and write their projects on? All topics were self-chosen: a unique aspect of the original Ransackers courses was that people chose their own topics for in depth study, and produced a written outcome

Now we have the first answer: from 187 Ruskin College projects done by Ransackers:  2004 to 2013:  32% were on historical subjects, including biography and family histories. Social issues was the next most popular broad heading at 26%, issues around ageing 8%,  health 7% .

Contact for updates on our research projects:    Hilary Farnworth

Some examples of Ransackers projects:

Anne Higgins
Ruskin College 2007
Stroke City - Derry/Londonderry
My title comes from the two separate communities in the city - Nationalist and Unionist, each using their own appelation. Nationalists used its original name "Derry"and Unionists, the revised name Londonderry, which came into being when Northern Ireland became British in 1920. The "Stroke" city concept was suggested by a local radio presenter, Gerry Anderson, some years ago.
This was a personal project since my father was born in Derry in 1912 and grew up there, but was forced to emigrate to England in 1931 aged 19, to find work. I wished to investigate the situation further to find out how it had come about.
Starting with a condensed history of Ireland as a whole, I then concentrated on the 20th century in Northern Ireland and in Derry in particular.
I round off  the project on a brighter note however, by looking at the Peace Process and also at the Music, Culture and Nostalgic songs of Ireland.
Stan Watkins
Fircroft College 2007
Stone corn milling 1800-1900
A brief history of the coming of windmills and the part they played in the industrial and economical development of England. From the time of the first great black plague in 1348, until the demise of stone milling in 1880.
The centre of research is the brick tower windmill at Berkswell in Warwickshire built in 1826, giving my own theories on how it was built in that period with the tools and materials available. The mill still stands today with much of the original machinery and equipment intact.