.Bruce Burtch honored for conceiving unique college

San Rafael resident Bruce Burtch recently returned from a trip to Ohio University in Athens, OH, where he was a special guest at the 50th Anniversary of the Honors Tutorial College.

The Honors Tutorial College (HTC) opened in the fall of 1973 and is the only degree-granting college in the United States based on England’s Oxford/Cambridge tutorial system.

In 1970, Burtch, then an Ohio University undergraduate and member of the Honors College, received an academic scholarship to attend Trinity College, Oxford. Upon his return, Burtch suggested to Dr. Ellery Golos, dean of the Honors College, that the renowned tutorial system at Oxford might work within the academic structure of Ohio University. Golos arranged for Burtch to receive an Ohio University Fellowship Grant, and he returned to England in the fall of 1971 to research the Oxford/Cambridge tutorial system. 

Upon his return to the university, Burtch worked with Golos on introducing the concept of the tutorial system to faculty and administration members. On Dec. 15, 1971, Golos submitted “A proposal for a Tutorial System” to the university’s president. In this proposal, Golos stated, “We are indebted to Bruce Burtch, an Honors College student, for clarifying the structure and workings of the Tutorial System. He has thoroughly investigated the system at Oxford and Cambridge and has suggested adaptations for our use here.” The proposal was accepted, and the college was founded, welcoming its first 32 students in the fall of 1973. 

Today the Honors Tutorial College provides 35 programs of study, has a 1:1 student-to-faculty ratio in a tutorial, and provides an approximately $51,000 four-year scholarship value to each student accepted into the college. With a 94% graduation rate, over 2,000 students have graduated from this college. 

“The Honors Tutorial College started with a simple idea,” Burtch told the Pacific Sun. “Create a one-on-one relationship between a student and a teacher who specializes in the area of interest of that student. Both the student and the teacher receive great benefit from such a committed educational relationship.”

During the anniversary celebration, Donal Skinner, Ph.D., dean of the Honors Tutorial College (HTC), praised Burtch as the “foundational rock upon which this college was founded.” 

Skinner continued, “There is something truly poetic about the power of a student project having an unimaginable impact on the lives of others. Had Bruce not written that project, Ohio University would undoubtedly still have an Honors College, but it would be a rather common garden variety and not this model of education that is the best I have ever seen.” 

“To see HTC 50 years later, I feel so deeply honored to know that I played a role in that,” said Burtch. He retired in 2015, following a career focused on creating cause marketing and cross-sector partnerships for regional and national for-profit and nonprofit organizations. 

Burtch is the author of ‘Win-Win for the Greater Good,’ a guidebook on creating cross-sector partnerships. Currently, Burtch is executive director, pro bono, of San Rafael-based Social Impact Productions.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Actually, St. John’s College in Annapolis MD and Santa Fe NM has long had long had an Oxford/Cambridge-like approach, with tutors (rather than profs), seminars exclusively, and a f0cus on the Great Books read largely in the original (like the Greats program @ Cambridge). In fact, St. John’s MD is one of the oldest colleges in the US.

  2. St. Johns is an excellent college. Indeed, my college preparatory school roommate attended St. John’s because of their Great Books program. However, they do not utilize a one-on-one tutorial system, as does the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University. Quoting the St. John’s website: “All classes at St. John’s are conducted seminar style with 20 students or fewer and faculty facilitating the discussion.”
    The Honors Tutorial College is the only college in the United States, were all students are educated via a one-on-one tutorial session throughout their four-year degree program.

  3. For clarification, the Oxford/Cambridge tutorial system is a one-on-one tutor (don) to student educational format. Of course, students can attend lectures and seminars throughout the university, but the tutorial is the basis of their educational approach.

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