The history of International People’s College is a story of an Idea, of a Place, and of a Community that dates back to 1921.
The founder of IPC, Peter Manniche (1889-1981), a true visionary and an idealist who believed that if people from countries that had been former enemies in war could live, work, and study together in a Danish Folk High School – “højskole” – environment it would amount to mutual respect and acceptance. His idea was well received, especially because the horrors of World War I (1914-1918) were still very present in people’s memories. Peter Manniche received several honors in recognition of his many contributions – amongst these a distinguished nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and an Honorary Doctorate from Springfield College, Massachusetts.
Ever since its foundation in 1921, IPC has been a place that celebrated diversity and appreciated it as a precondition for fruitful learning about self, others, and the world. In Manniche’s mind, people of different cultural and social backgrounds were to meet at IPC in positive dialogue and in search of deeper human and spiritual values.
To this day IPC remains the one and only international Folk High School. IPC is a member of the Association of Folk High Schools in Denmark and enjoys special privileges so that it can maintain a unique body of students from all over the world.
The most recent years have brought a shift from the “international” to the “global”, caused by the increasingly interdependent and transnational character of the world today. However, the aim of giving each individual student the time and space to go through a personal development process while strengthening their global outlook and expanding their world view relates very closely to Manniche’s original idea for IPC.
When IPC was introduced in 1921 it consisted of a run-down Manor House, a small cottage, and a large farm building used as a barn for housing horses and livestock.
In the early years of the existence of the school, students carried out a significant amount of manual labor in order to turn the farm into buildings suitable for schooling and residence. In 1967, the old barn was replaced by a modern complex of buildings – a campus designed for up to 100 students to comfortably have meals, go to classes or sit by the fireplace without stepping outside. The renovated Manor House is now used by the IPC administration and occasionally for meetings and seminars.
IPC takes pride in having been called a home by thousands of students and staff members from all over the world during its more than 90 years of existence.
Each historical period brought together specific groups of learners; supporters of progressive education in the 1920s, unemployed workers in the 1930s, refugees and former soldiers in the years following World War II, Eastern Europeans taking advantage of periods of détente throughout the Cold War, students from countries and regions in conflict (Israeli and Palestinian, Indian and Pakistani, Chinese and Tibetan etc.), and students from societies that had gone through rapid transformation (South African, South-East Asian, former Soviet Bloc etc.). Just as important has been the presence of Scandinavian-, Western European-, North American- and Japanese students – in other words, every single student, independent of their social, cultural and educational background or age has been an important addition to the diverse student body of each and every term.
Apart from the students and staff members, IPC has welcome some significant guests such as; the first non-European Nobel Prize laureate for literature Rabindranath Tagore, first Prime Minister and President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta in the 1930s, her Royal Highness the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe, and her husband His Royal Highness Prince Henrik of Denmark visiting the new school buildings in 1967, the former Danish Princess Duchess Alexandra coming for the jubilee in 1996, and in 2011 the Nobel Price nominee, human rights advocate and activist, Cecil Rajendra. Also in 1949 IPC was the venue of the first UNESCO international conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) and it has hosted a number of international meetings and events since.
For a detailed history of IPC, please read Max Lawson’s The International People’s College 1921-96: A Celebration of 75 Years of Working for Peace and International Friendship, for sale at the IPC office.