Our History

Established in 1919 by the co-operative movement, our core aim was to extend the provision of education to co-operators. The focus was on learning how to run successful co-operative enterprises and how to behave ethically as a co-operator. We began as a residential centre, with the first students coming from across the UK, Iceland and Australia. The idea of a college was not a new one, being first discussed in the 1830s.

Our first home was in Holyoake House, Manchester, with students living in local hostels. In 1945 we moved to Stanford Hall near Loughborough to increase the facilities for residential students. In 2001, with new and innovative ways of running programmes, we no longer needed the residential capacity and relocated back to Holyoake House.

We have established our reputation globally, developing into a centre of excellence for training, learning, consultancy and research. In the twenty-first century, we have renewed our connections with all sectors of the co-operative movement and beyond, providing high quality education for existing and emerging co-operators around the world.

"Education is desirable for all mankind, it is the life's necessity for co‑operators."

Professor Stuart, Gloucester Co-operative Congress, 1879