What’s in a name? How we came to be called Schumacher College

by | Feb 20, 2023 | News & blogs, News & blogs: Schumacher College, Regenerative Economics, Transformative Education

Schumacher College was named in honour of the legacy of economist E. F. Schumacher, whose work prioritised a holistic approach to an economics that also contributes to healthy people and planet. This blog burrows deeper into the story of how the College came to take on Schumacher’s name, with the help of our founder Satish Kumar.

Students and staff mingle at our annual harvest lunch

Students and staff mingle at our annual harvest lunch. Credit: Josh Pratt

The story goes that the idea for a College based on Schumacher’s ideas began in the process of Satish being appointed the editor of Resurgence magazine. “Initially I did not want to become the Editor,” admits Satish. “When E. F. Schumacher suggested that I should become the Editor I said, “I want to go back to India. I am here in the UK only on a short visit.” Schumacher asked me, “Why do you want to go to India?” I said I wanted to work with the Gandhian movement in India.” Schumacher said, “But Satish, there are many Gandhians in India. We need one in England. So please stay here and make Resurgence a Gandhian magazine!” 

Schumacher worked with Satish from September 1973 to September 1977, submitting regular articles but also in an editorial capacity. “It was my pleasure and honour to work with him. So, when he died I established the Schumacher Society and a series of annual Schumacher Lectures. Eventually in 1991, I suggested to the trustees at Dartington that the new College we wished to establish should be named after him, as I wanted to honour his legacy.” Schumacher College was founded soon after, with the first course exploring another holistic idea, with James Lovelock teaching the first participants about Gaia Theory. 

Beyond the practicalities of setting up the College, E.F. Schumacher’s holistic thinking and activism seemed to inevitably lead to the coalescing of like-minded people in an educational context, working together to find alternatives to the world’s broken systems. As Satish notes “Schumacher was the first western economist to write an essay titled, “Buddhist Economics”, bringing economics and ethics directly together. As president of the Soil Association and founder of The Intermediate Technology Group he inspired all parts of the environmental movement. Therefore it was most appropriate that a new college, where education was to be nature-centred and where education of head, heart and hands was to be practiced, should be named after him.”

“Schumacher envisioned a future where humanity will see the interrelationship between natural, spiritual and social aspects of our lives. He wanted education to be of the whole person. Learning by doing was his particular passion. As he himself was a gardener, a cook, an intellectual, a meditator, an economist and an environmentalist, he wanted all young people to acquire multiple skills. This is exactly what Schumacher College is about.” 

Today, Schumacher College continues to live by E. F. Schumacher’s example of ecological and social transformation through our courses, community work and land management. Our focus on regenerative, ecological approaches to farming, economics, and the arts, draw on the ideas of Small Is Beautiful in various ways, repositioning and updating them for the ever-intensifying social and climate crises we face together.