City Literary Institute

City Lit is an adult education college in Holborn, central London, founded by the London County Council in 1919, which has charitable status. It offers part-time courses across four schools and five "centres of expertise", mainly covering humanities and science subjects.

City Lit
City Lit in Keeley Street
Keeley Street

, ,

TypeAdult education college
Principal & Chief ExecutiveMark Malcomson

In 2011, City Lit was graded as "outstanding" by government inspectors Ofsted.[2] More recently, in 2016, it was ranked "outstanding" for "personal development, behaviour and welfare" and "good" in four other categories.[2]


In 1918, following the war, the London County Council wanted to strengthen non-vocational education. It approved the opening of five literary institutes: Plumstead and Woolwich, Marylebone, Dalston, Peckham, and City Literary Institute (City Lit). They took their first students in September 1919. At the time, it was a radically different approach to adult education. The City Lit's first four classrooms were leased from a teacher training college.[3] City Lit is now the sole survivor of London’s Literary Institute movement.

In 2005, City Lit moved from its building in Stukeley Street to new, purpose designed premises in nearby Keeley Street,[4] which are fully accessible [5] and include facilities such as studio spaces (for visual arts, drama and health and movement), "supported learning centre" (library), roof terrace with a herb garden, theatre and music recital room. Since then, they have also opened new photography, fashion and digital arts studios.

In 2019, City Lit celebrated its centenary with a year of events reflecting upon the previous 100 years. At the City Lit Centenary Awards, The Princess Royal was awarded the Centenary Fellowship for her outstanding contribution to adult learning.[6]

Accolades and criticism

In 2007 City Lit was the first adult education college to be given the Queen's Anniversary Prize, to mark its international reputation in stammering therapy.

In 2011 City Lit were graded "Outstanding" by government Ofsted inspectors stating "Teaching and learning are good with outstanding features. Learners benefit from teachers who are highly experienced, inspirational professionals. Learners are excited by their studies and in the best lessons they are active learners readily supporting others. However, weaker lessons are too teacher led."[7]

In 2014, proposed cuts and redundancies, including to university access, English and maths GCSE courses, and deaf education, attracted controversy. The Guardian reports a "senior source" blamed the government and warned "We got outstanding in our last inspection. How are we going to maintain that outstanding education with fewer staff?". Criticism was directed at the college's marketing budget and the expansion of short courses such as "graffiti" cross-stitch, beer tasting and burlesque. Principal Mark Malcomson said the advertising expenditure was intended in part to support "more charitable provision" in the future.[8]

The 2016 Ofsted report recommended that the "minority" of education which did not reach an adequate standard be eliminated, more challenging goals be introduced for students of greatest ability, English-language learners be provided with adequate lesson time to speak error-free English, and efforts made to ensure less able learners have learned and understood what was taught.[2]

In 2018, Rusell Aldersson, tutor in the Centre for Deaf Education was nominated for a Times Educational Supplement FE Awards Teacher of the Year award.[9]

In 2019, Fiona Pickett was awarded the Festival of Learning Tutor of the Year award.[10]

In 2019, City Lit was awarded the Festival of Learning President's Award for its outstanding contribution to adult education over 100 years.[11]

In 2019, City Lit Students Sylvia Rowbottom[12] and Dace Miksite[13] were named Finalist Winners at the Festival of Learning Awards for their commitment to adult learning.

Notable lecturers


City Lit offers subjects in the areas of art, drama, dance, creative writing, history and politics, philosophy, languages ranging from French and German to Persian and Korean, computing, counselling, music, and fitness.[15] Its courses are held across nine schools and "centres of expertise":

  • School of Humanities and Sciences
  • School of Languages
  • School of Performing Arts
  • School of Visual Arts
  • Centre for Deaf Education
  • Centre for Family Learning and Community Outreach
  • Centre for Learning Disabilities Education
  • Centre for Speech Therapy
  • Centre for Universal Skills

The college also offers specialist areas, including education for deaf adults,[16] courses for adults with learning disabilities,[17] and work in stammering therapy.[18]

See also

Other adult education providers in Camden, London include the nearby Mary Ward Centre, Birkbeck College (a university), and the Working Men's College.


  2., Ofsted Communications Team (28 January 2019). "Find an inspection report and registered childcare". Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  3. ""City Lit finally gets a £21m home fit for its heroics", TES, 5 September 2003". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013.
  4. "Our History". City Lit Help Centre.
  5. "Our Building". City Lit Help Centre.
  6. "HRH The Princess Royal received The City Lit Centenary Fellowship in recognition of her commitment to adult education | City Lit". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  7. "Ofsted Report 2011".
  8. Swain, Harriet (15 July 2014). "Redundancies at City Lit as college 'focuses on beer-tasting and burlesque'" via
  9. "Tes FE Awards 2019: Shortlist unveiled". Tes. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  10. "Fiona Pickett | Festival of Learning". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  11. "City Lit | Festival of Learning". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  12. "Sylvia Rowbottom | Festival of Learning". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  13. "Dace Miksite | Festival of Learning". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  14. Crace, John (19 April 2005). "Bright Lit's big city". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  15. "city lit annual review" (PDF). city lit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.

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