Tag Archives: Bradford Institute of Technology

57. Souvenirs of Student Co-operation: the Skopje Photograph Albums

This week, six photograph albums commemorating the University’s special links with the city of Skopje, in the former Yugoslavia.

Detail of cover of Skopje photo album (SKO)

Detail of embroidered cover of Skopje photo album (SKO)

On 26 July 1963,  Skopje was devastated by a massive earthquake.  Over 1000 people were killed and three-quarters of the city’s buildings were destroyed.  The following year a team of  students from Bradford Institute of Technology  (which soon became Bradford University) helped reconstruct the city.  Fred Singleton, recently appointed as a lecturer at BIT,  played a key role in arranging the reconstruction project: his enthusiasm for the country and its people were key in the later foundation of a research unit for Yugoslav studies at the University.  Skopje’s links with Bradford continue: the cities are twinned.

Reconstruction work after Skopje earthquake of 1963 (SKO/1)

Reconstruction work after Skopje earthquake of 1963 (SKO/1)

The albums were presented to Bradford University and its Students’ Union as “a souvenir of mutual exchange and cooperation” by Skopje students, following on from the reconstruction work and a later visit by Bradford students in 1966.  The powerful black and white photographs in the albums show Skopje pre- and post-earthquake, the reconstruction process, and the activities of the students.  The album bindings add to their interest, especially the embroidered textile ones like that shown above.

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49. A University for Bradford? Robert McKinlay’s Histories of the University

This week, two vital books for anyone interested in the University of Bradford’s story: The University of Bradford: origins and development and The University of Bradford: the early years.  Both were written by Robert McKinlay, Vice-Principal of the Bradford Institute of Technology and later Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University.  The books are incredibly useful and authoritative sources, as McKinlay combined huge experience and knowledge and scrupulous archival research.

The University of Bradford: origins and development, by Robert McKinlay, front cover

The University of Bradford: origins and development, by Robert McKinlay, front cover

Origins covers the period up to 1966, when the University received its Charter; Early years takes us through the 1970s, with an epilogue on the 1980s and early 1990s.  I draw extensively on both in writing about the Objects.  The former is particularly useful on this week’s theme: how Bradford came to have a University (and why it took so long).

Bradford’s University grew out of the 19th century demand for technical education and moral improvement that led to the development of Mechanics’ Institutes and colleges.  However, although we can trace the University’s history back to 1882 (founding of the Technical School) and even 1832 (the Bradford Mechanics’ Institute), it did not become a Chartered University until 1966.  This contrasts with the experiences of other cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool where the so-called “red-brick” universities were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why did it take over 100 years for the city to acquire its own University?

The full story is told in over 100 pages in Origins, which is recommended if you wish to know the twists and turns of the whole tale.  Here’s a summary!

Many influential people were committed to the idea of a Bradford University.  Harry Richardson, Principal of the College from 1920 to 1956, put huge effort into this cause, supported by Alderman Revis Barber and the local press.   Alderman Conway, Lord Mayor of Bradford, argued that University status for the College would offer huge benefits to the region, as he explained in this collection of his articles in the Yorkshire Observer.  There were occasional surges of enthusiasm and suggested initiatives involving other universities.

University status for Bradford Technical College by Michael Conway, title page

University status for Bradford Technical College by Michael Conway, title page

However these did not prosper.   The College’s narrow subject base and location in a textile city did not help.  We might point to a lack of local civic support (textile owners perhaps tend to trust instinct and to be hostile to sharing specialist knowledge), a mistrust of technological subjects as the proper study of a university, and the perhaps unfortunate narrowing of the College’s curriculum at exactly the time two Yorkshire universities were founded (Leeds and Sheffield).   Once other universities were established nearby, it would be harder for Bradford to make its case.  McKinlay also suggests that the strategies employed by those in favour were too vague.  Were they calling for an institute of technology or a university?  Was the debate about the naming of the institution or how it was governed?   Different arguments were made by different advocates.  All of which gave opponents “room to manoevre”.

Vice-Chancellor, Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor : E.G. Edwards, Harold Wilson, Charles Morris and R.A. McKinlay. Late 1960s.

Vice-Chancellor, Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor : E.G. Edwards, Harold Wilson, Charles Morris and R.A. McKinlay. Late 1960s.

The breakthrough came in 1956 with the White Paper on Technical Education, which aimed to increase graduate numbers in technological subjects by founding Colleges of Advanced Technology.  Bradford was to be one of these, a fitting retirement gift for Harry Richardson who had worked so hard for a university.  This began the process of taking the organisation out of local government control and paved the way for the transformation into a University which would run its own affairs.   Between the two books, we have the whole story in digested form: we are very grateful to Robert McKinlay for putting them together.

45. In t’Back Streets, Behind Tech: the Main Building of Bradford Institute of Technology

These images show the construction of the Main Building, part of Bradford Institute of Technology (BIT), which later became the University of Bradford.

Main Building of Bradford Institute of Technology under construction, February 1962

Main Building of Bradford Institute of Technology under construction, February 1962 (archive ref UNI B01)

BIT was created in 1956 as a College of Advanced Technology, hiving off higher education from the College; in 1966 the Royal Charter made it a University. BIT’s short life was dominated by the need to find space for expansion: growing numbers of staff and students and better facilities for research and teaching at this higher level.  The Main Building was part of the solution.  Eventually the Institute and the local council decided to expand the campus into the surrounding back streets, rather than move to a greenfield site as had been suggested.

Empty houses awaiting demolition, Main Building of Bradford Institute of Technology in background, February 1963

Empty houses awaiting demolition, Main Building of Bradford Institute of Technology in background, February 1963 (archive ref UNI B02)

As we see here, this required the demolition of many houses, with painful impact on the many people who had to move.

Main Building completed, September 1964

Main Building completed, September 1964 (archive ref UNI B10)

Main Building took four years to complete, beginning in May 1960, and was formally opened by Prime Minister and first Chancellor of the University Harold Wilson on 11 June 1965.  Now known as Richmond Building, it has housed University administration, many academic departments and student facilities, and is probably the most visible and recognisable University building even today.

Chancellor Harold Wilson at the microphone during opening of Main Building, June 1965

Chancellor Harold Wilson at the microphone during opening of Main Building, June 1965 (archive ref UNI PHW4)

(The title is taken from a quotation in Robert McKinlay’s The University of Bradford: origins and development).