Godfrey Thomson Unit for Educational Research

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The Godfrey Thomson Unit for Educational Research, based at the Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre (later Moray House College of Education), is best known for the the production of the Moray House Tests, which were used for school selection throughout the United Kingdom and in the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1937.

Godfrey Thomson and Intelligence Assessment

The Unit took it name from Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson (1881-1955), who first became involved in intelligence assessment while Professor of Education at Armstrong College, Newcastle, when he was asked by the Northumberland Authority to develop the first British group intelligence tests for use in the Special Place examination. Devised by Thomson in 1921, the Northumberland Mental Tests were administered to a large number of eleven-year-old children who were candidates for free places in secondary schools, and are the precursor to the Moray House Tests.

In 1925 Thomson was appointed as both Bell Professor of Education at Edinburgh University and Director of Studies at Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre. He saw his university and college duties as merging, without 'an over-nice discrimination between the two halves'. Thomson continued his studies in statistics and psychometrics in Edinburgh, and soon established a test construction and research unit. Staffed by members of the University of Edinburgh Education Department, the unit was located in Room 70 in the Moray House building now known as Paterson's Land. Thus, the unit came to be known as 'Room 70' and the tests were called the Moray House Tests.

Moray House Tests

The tests primarily fall into three categories: Verbal Reasoning (M.H.T.), English (M.H.E.) and Mathematics (M.H.M.). By 1948 Moray House Tests were administered to two out of three British children and were used and recognised throughout the world. In 1949 one and a quarter million Moray House Tests were sold, making the University the largest supplier of tests in Europe.

Royalties earned from test sales were transferred into a research fund, later registered as the Godfrey Thomson Research Fund, which was established by Thomson to support continued educational research and assessment. In particular, money was invested in improving the tests, making them as fair as possible. Established on a formal basis in 1940 when a Deed of Trust was drawn up between Thomson and the University, the Fund was later administered by trustees, with the Professor of Education as Chairman and the Principal of Moray House College of Education as Vice-Chairman. In addition to test royalties, the fund also earned income from fees paid by county Education Committees for the analysing, collating, and assessing of the results from Moray Houses Tests administered to students.

The Unit post-Thomson

Upon Thomson's retirement in 1952, the Bell Chair of Education and the Directorship of the Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre were once again separated. John Gustave Pilley (1899-1968) became Professor of Education, while William Buchan Inglis (1901-1971) became Director of Studies at Moray House. However, the University Department of Education, including the Room 70 research unit, continued to be accommodated at Moray House. In September 1952 the unit relocated to Room 76, although it retained the moniker Room 70. At this time the unit employed eight staff members, six of which were paid through the Thomson Research Fund. In 1965 the Room 70 unit formally became the Godfrey Thomson Unit for Academic Assessment (University of Edinburgh). By the late 1960s the unit was lead by Albert E. G. Pilliner (1909-2003) and was no longer based at Moray House, instead occupying premises at Buccleuch Place, where it would remain into the 1990s.


Key individuals who worked for the Godfrey Thomson Unit for Educational Research include:



  • 'Test construction and the Moray House Tests', Scottish School of Educational Research [[1], accessed 10 June 2014]