Highlands College is the States of Jersey’s higher and further education college, which also now offers a range of degree courses. It was developed from a missionary school run before and after the Second World War by the Brothers of Christian Instruction. A school was first established on the site, known then as Highlands, in 1894.
In 1891 a French Naval School run by a religious order which had been prevented by new laws from teaching in Brest, in Brittany, settled in Jersey and three years later acquired Highlands. After another three years they were replaced by the Jesuits, who ran a boys’ boarding school called Notre Dame du Bon Secours until 1923, when it was taken over the the Brothers of Christian Education from Ploermel, who set up a missionary school. During the German Occupation the buildings were used to house 180 occupying forces.
College of further education
In the 1950s and 1960s, the States of Jersey established a College of Further Education in a number of different buildings in Saint Helier. The college taught mainly craft skills such as construction, catering, motor vehicle and secretarial courses.
In 1970 the demand for missionaries had fallen away and the Brothers of Christian instruction sold the Highlands site to the States of Jersey. In 1972 the States of Jersey established Highlands College and over a period moved all further education to the campus that was also occupied by the Education Department. Extensive rebuilding has taken place on the campus to create excellent facilities in a wide range of vocational disciplines.
The original chapel is retained as the Great Hall in the centre of the building which is now owned by the States of Jersey and has reverted to its original name as offices for the island's Education Department and Highlands College, the island's higher education college. Anchors on the façade and a statue of the Madonna and Child show the college's past both as a naval college and Catholic institution. The former chapel built by the Jesuits features a magnificent hammer beam room and stained glass windows.
From Eileen Nicolle's A History of Highlands College
The history of Highlands College is bound up with the French Jesuits of the 19th century. After initially expressing an interest in opening a college in Jersey as a result of harassment from the French government in the mid-19th century, it was in 1880 that the Jesuit Father Chambellan arrived in St Helier and purchased the Imperial Hotel, later renamed Maison St Louis and now the Hotel de France.
In its heyday in the 20th century, well over 100 Jesuits were permanent residents at Maison St Louis. In February 1894 the French Naval Preparatory School were able to buy the Highlands site, formerly Cardwell House, which had been used as a private school for some years. This became the residence of the Jesuit teachers who were preparing students for entry into the elite Naval College of Brest.
Official statistics illustrate that out of 1,586 boys admitted by the Naval College between 1882 and 1900, 337 came from Jersey. The school was closed down in 1900 when a law was passed in France making it necessary for those preparing students for the Naval College to make an application to the education authorities in the county town of the département in which the school was situated.
As the buildings were now empty, the Jesuits began to send their novices from Laval to begin with a two year noviciate before joining the Jesuits. In 1903, after anti-Jesuit laws in France, the Jesuits decided to open a secondary school on the site of the former naval school.
Bon Secours College
Bon Secours College was opened and proved to be a big success. As a result, the school was extended in 1907 and then again in 1913-1914. In 1919 the College closed and the buildings were put up for sale. They were bought by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, a religious order of teaching brothers, who purchased the property on 9 June 1922. The college quickly became the headquarters of the Brothers of Christian Instruction and became an international study centre.
It received its first group of novices in August 1922, who soon fully fitted out their new home. For nearly 50 years Bon Secours, or Highlands College as it was usually called, housed the young men training to be members of the teaching order of brothers, coming mainly from France, England and Italy.
In 1970 there was a crisis in recruiting young men for the religious order of brothers and a reorganisation of the order's general administration, and Highlands College was put up for sale. The Education Committee were keen for the States of Jersey to buy the site for the purposes of establishing a College of Further Education in the island rather than building a new one from scratch.
They had opposition from the Finance and Economics Committee, who wanted to use the site for housing, and the Public Health Committee, who wanted to use the site as an annexe hospital, but Education won the day and on 23 September 1972 the States bought Highlands College from the Christian Brothers for £375,000 and the plans for conversion of the site were approved in January 1973.
Highlands has been established as the higher education college in Jersey, offering a wide variety of courses from vocational to the more traditional subjects, full-time to evening classes and encouraging the pursuit of lifelong learning. Highlands College keeps developing with innovations such as the Jersey Business School establishing itself as an integral part of island life.
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