top of page


Updated: Feb 18, 2021

With all the talk about Brexit, it may surprise you to know that, when the Course began, we all wanted to be IN, a part of a European community. From the beginning in 1965 until 1985 the course was called The Contemporary Europe Pre-University Course in Venice, in tune with an IN attitude.

At that time Art History was an almost unknown subject in schools and universities. The intellectual tone of the sixties was expressed in the new Sussex University’s inter-departmental concept, the Contemporary Europe School, combining philosophy, scientific advances, political theory, sociology, art, literature, music, cinema, looking at the changes from the old European hierarchies of thought and behaviour to the new. We followed that template.

A glance at our programmes in those years at shows typical lectures: The European Mind and Imagination ; What economics is about ; What is Philosophy ? The united Kingdom of Italy- the Political structure ; Scientific Method and the Social Science ; the Theory of the Modern State ; the City in History and Today …..etc..

Although in the early years our lectures on Art History were few, simply spending a long time in Venice immersed everyone daily in the quality and glories of great architecture and art and the civilized dolcezza of the Italian life style , just as it still does every year . In those days the course started as twelve weeks, moved to ten, giving time for film-making, theatrical productions and even football matches. As we reduced eventually to six weeks in Venice (plus one in London, one in Florence and one in Rome) , entirely for reasons of cost , and Art History had become popular in schools and universities, our programme has become more intensive and centred on the Arts : Art History, Music, World Cinema , Literature – with the options- Italian Language, Life Drawing, Photography Italian Cookery….. However , in spite of the prominence of the Arts , we still manage to show that there is life beyond Titian and Vasari , with topical talks on contemporary issues – on the scientific measurement of climate, Islam and the Arab world, and , by Cambridge scientists Malcolm Longair and Simon Conway-Morris , mind-blowing glimpses into black holes , dark energy , space-time, the big bang , evolutionary convergence theories- fields of awesome scale and significance , intellectually hyper-demanding, a revelation to most arts students.

So, as Charlie says in his Newsletter, Brexit may or may not affect our economy, but it will not stop the gravitational pull of Italy or, we hope, the appeal of our civilization mission.

On a different note altogether, I thank the editors of the latest 2016 Student Newsletter for their charming compliment to the family quality of our Venice Course.

Dear John and Charlie,

Thank you for the experience of a lifetime……….What makes this course unique is the bond between father and son extrapolating to bonds between pupils too. Thank you for letting us into your family: we have made so many brothers and sisters these past few weeks……

To our adopted father and grandfather

Lots of love

Grandfather emailed his thanks personally to all the editors but am told by Charlie that the young don’t look at emails any more – and I don’t do Facebook, Instagram, Tweet. Might they read this?


bottom of page