The new civic colleges of Victorian England were part and parcel of an active, dynamic era. Religion was undoubtedly a great stabilizing force in Victorian society. But, simultaneously, it was the subject of great controversy, and of controversy with tremendous impact upon all levels of education. Religious reaction to criticism and innovation produced additional higher education. Agitation for university reform and for new institutions was not entirely devoted to the destruction of Oxbridge prestige or the establishment of utterly different institutions. As the 19th Century advanced, Oxbridge and the Establishment evolved; the North and Midlands, mercantile, industrial, and non-conformist, created a new culture and its institutions. The significance of other British predecessors and supposed precedents for civic universities is debatable. The one fairly clear line of descent is from the Dissenting academies of the 18th Century. Mid-Victorian society was rearranging its institutions and creating new ones to serve a changing and growing variety of needs and people.