University of Wolverhampton history

  • 19th Century roots

    The roots of the University of Wolverhampton lie in the 19th Century growth of the Mechanics’ Institute, which provided vocational and general education for working men, and the School of Art, established in 1851.
  • School of Art

    In Wolverhampton, the Free Library developed technical, scientific, commercial and general classes, while the School of Art, had been developed into the Municipal School of Art in new buildings by 1885.
  • College of Art

    The College of Art was opened in Castle Street and a School of Practical Art was built in Darlington Street and opened by Lord Hetherton in 1883.
  • Students' and Teacher's Union

    The Students’ and Teachers’ Union was established with the main objectives being: 1) To bring together present and past students and teachers of the college, representing various professional interests 2) To promote social and sports activities generally 3) To represent the general body of students and if necessary negotiate on their behalf with the Governing Body and its Officers.
  • Scholarships

    The Schmidt Bequest allowed £1,100 for ‘Scholarships, free studentships and prizes’ to be awarded to students of the College of Art. This equated to £19/10-per annum which financed several free places at the College.
  • The war effort

    Principal Dr. Coales was seconded for six months to the National Physical Laboratory to give technical assistance in the making of aeroplanes to help the war effort, but this deprived the College of its much needed strong leadership.
  • Ministry of Munitions training

    The Ministry of Munitions sought training of girls and disabled soldiers for metal place fitting for aircraft, and the Technical College could recoup the fee for this service from the Ministry of Pensions. In the first year 35 people had taken up courses. An offshoot result of this was a request for Women Workers to have a place on the College Governing Committee.
  • The Deanery (3)

  • The Deanery (2)

  • The Deanery

    The Old Deanery (purchased for £6,000) was demolished to make way for new College premises (The Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College). The cost of the new College, (complete with equipment) was approximately £163,000. Additional adjacent land was purchased for £5,350. The College premises on Wulfruna Street now consisted of: Library, Assembly Hall, Gymnasium, Students’ Common Room and Refectory as well as 23 practical rooms and 28 class and lecture rooms including; Domestic Economy Rooms, Lecture Rooms, Drawing Offices, laboratories and workshops for Engineering and Building, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Metallurgy, Pharmacy, Bakery Science, and various other classrooms, staff rooms and administrative offices.
  • MA under construction

    The site where MA is situated was well under construction, with the Deanery, Institute and School being demolished.
  • Laboratories opened

    Engineering and science laboratories were opened.
  • The Royals

    Father and son played pivotal roles in the formation of the University. Firstly, His Royal Highness, Prince George, laid the foundation stone for Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College. Over fifty years later, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent opened the Stage VIII development of Wolverhampton Polytechnic on 1st July 1983.
  • Opening the Technical College

    The Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College is opened.
  • Provision for the under privileged

    The Wolverhampton Local Authority, Annual Report stated that “The College makes ample provision for the general education of young men and women not privileged to obtain their higher education by residence at a university. Particularly it is the local home of higher scientific and industrial studies”. This is an ethos we have nurtured and sustained to the present day.
  • Industry

    There were growing associations and pacts with local industry. Useful gifts of equipment, tools and machinery from many firms were recorded, and the practice grew of placing little metal plates upon the machines as reminders of their generosity. Unfortunately, all machines have been replaced over the years due to Health and Safety Legislation.
  • Housecraft flat

    The Head of the "Women's Department", Katherine Challen, arranged for the caretakers flat at the top of the building to be converted into a ‘housecraft flat’ to teach housewifery. The idea was to maintain a kind of ideal home where the best examples of normal activities of the various sections of the Women’s Department could be brought together.
  • College links

    Wolverhampton was to become the centre for the new advanced work in commerce. Strong links with district colleges were forged.
  • Forefront of Knowledge

    The College, always keen to be at the forefront of knowledge and learning, held special summer courses and lectures on subjects of topical interest, such as television and the "SS Queen Mary".
  • Beginning of research

    The College was producing students of a high calibre – records in particular show a high number of students graduating with degrees in Engineering from London University. Research work was also at a high level, and the College accepted graduate students as honorary members of the College to allow research projects to proceed.
  • Student life

    Opportunities for enjoying student life were generous, with the Student Common Room, gymnasium and refectory, and finally the addition of playing fields.
  • Mix of students

    The Women’s Department and the Commerce College were helping to diversify not only the instruction available but also the social activities and the mix of students – bucking the all-male trend. The proportion of men (2,033) and women (1,111) was significant, with a third of students being women. Women had their own Women’s Common Room and special accommodation.
  • New Engineering Workshop

    A new workshop development of 8375 square feet was purchased on Stafford Street for the Engineering department at a cost of £18,700. It was deemed that this area was urgently needed as conditions in the existing laboratories and workshops were becoming dangerous.
  • The Students' Union voice

    Wolverhampton students in the College of Technology requested and wrote separately to the Department of Education and Science specifically seeking a) autonomy for the Students' Union b) representation on panels and committees c) the right of equal student membership on disciplinary committees. The response received was as follows 'Provision should be made for the association or other independent body representing the students to conduct and manage its own affairs and funds. The arrangements should enable representations on matters of proper concern to students to be made on their behalf to the governing body, the Director of the Board as may be appropriate.
  • Classes during air-raids

    Upon the breakout of the Second World War, classes were cancelled until air-raid shelters had been provided. The Air Raid Precautions Committee issued the following guidance: "If a warning had been sounded, students would be better to remain (…) in their homes. If, however a warning was given while the building was in occupation, students would be asked not to add to the confusion on the streets but to take shelter in the safest zone of the building". It can be debated where this "safest zone" would be…perhaps beneath Marble? The College was not put on a list of buildings that would receive special warnings regarding air raids.
  • War-time enrolments

    Enrolments inevitably dropped due to the start of the war, however over 1,700 students began courses, with part-time enrolments increasing by a marked 22%. However during the war there was a reduction in total enrolments (2,921 in 1938/39; 1,702 in 1939/40). There was however a swift pick-up of engineering students in 1939/40. In 1940 the Principal reported to the Board of Education:-"In this first winter of war there are 653 individual Engineering students on the books. This far exceeds any number recorded in the successful sessions up to and including 1935/36. It was in 1936/37 that the number of Engineering students first exceeded 500 - in fact it rose to 729.
  • War production line

    Full-time students were able to defer call-up, however when the war was underway the right disappeared. The onset of the war caused an increase in the number of engineering students to a record of 729, this had a positive effect on the national engineering output. An even more impressive contribution was made by turning some of the engineering machines into production-line equipment; prompted by ‘Memorandum 20’, which the Government had issued to institutions, encouraging them to go in for manufacture in collaboration with Government agencies.
  • War-time Students' wanted to study

    Classes were cancelled at the beginning of the war until air-raid shelters had been provided: admissions were then rationed according to shelter capacity. By October of 1940, it was decided that due to strong student opinion, students would be given the option of remaining in the classes and continue working at their own risk after the sounding of the warning siren. This followed varying practices across colleges on different sites in Wednesbury, Smethwick and Dudley. Unofficial "spotters" were used by those classes that chose to continue.
  • The war effort

    Wolverhampton was one of three provincial centres originally selected for the delivery of wireless mechanics’ courses to aid the war effort. Other war emergency activities included food education lectures, training of army tradesmen, courses for women supervisors, instruction of tool-room trainees, Ministry of Labour courses for foremen/women, ATS clerical instruction, WAAF cook-butchers’ courses, intensive RAF courses for RAF non-commissioned officers likely to reach commissioned rank, fuel efficiency lectures, courses on statistical control or quality, REME engineering cadet course, lectures on personnel management and modern production technique. By 1944 there were 50 air crew trainees in the college
  • War created subject change

    Student numbers were not markedly lower during the war, partly due to a change in the subjects provided. While demand for commerce and building courses dried up, engineering flourished. It is estimated that during the war half of the College’s work was “service” work, and half “normal”. When the war ended enrolment figures surpassed anything that had gone before – exceeding 3,000.
  • Magnificent Music Department

    An immediately successful and popular music section was created, with 135 enrolments in its first year that then formed a string orchestra. The Governors took advice at the highest level – consulting Sir Malcolm Sargent and appointed the venerable elder statesman of the music world, Dr Percy Young as Director of Music. Dr Young began to assemble instruments, orchestras and choirs to bring the finest talent to the College, which was further enhanced by a donation of a comprehensive library of music. The new music section is noted as being the first to be located in a major technical College.
  • Vaughan Williams visit

    The College was establishing an excellent reputation for its musical activities, and attracted Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Harriet Cohen and others either to hear or give performances of their work. Vaughan Williams attended a performance of “Riders to the Sea” in early 1950.
  • Growing student numbers

    Mr. Charles Leslie-Old began his appointment in September as the new Principal. During his term student numbers grew from 3,892 in 1951-2 to 6,236 in 1957-8. The rise in student numbers produced an interesting effect of reducing the cost of class entry per student from £6/2/ - in 1949-50 to £4/18/6 in 1950-1.
  • The Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology

    The College’s name was changed to the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology, and work of the High School of Commerce was partially transferred to the College.
  • Fraser Collection

    The ‘Fraser Collection’, which consisted of over 5000 British fossils and rocks representing most periods of geological history, was donated to Wolverhampton and housed in the Technical College. The collection enhanced the importance of the College in the area of geological studies and led to growth in the work and study of both civil engineering and various geographical studies.
  • Lost music by Elgar

    The music department continued to excel, and in the summer of 1954 the College Orchestra gave the first performance of an unknown work by Elgar, discovered and edited by the Head of the Music Department at the request of the trustees of the Elgar estate.
  • Computerised WITCH

    In 1957, Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology was awarded one of the earliest electronic digital computers in the UK. The machine had been developed at Harwell, and was used in the design on Britain's first nuclear power stations. The college renamed the computer as WITCH - Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell. The computer was a great source of pride at the college, and was used for under-graduate teaching until 1973 when it was finally retired to Birmingham Science Museum. The machine is now being restored to working order and is on display at The National Museum of Computing. The computer and associated documentation are now at 'The National Museum Of Computing' at Bletchley (TNMOC), and they and the Computer Conservation Society (the CSS - which is a specialist group of the British Computer Society - the BCS) have started on a restoration project to get the original machine operational again.

    The Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell (WITCH), originally known as The Harwell Computer[1] and later as The Harwell Dekatron Computer,[2][3] was an early British relay-based computer. In 1957, at the end of its life at Harwell, the Oxford Mathematical Institute ran a competition to award it to the college that could produce the best case for its future use.[5] The competition was won by the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College (which later became Wolverhampton University) where it was used to teach computing until 1973.[5] The computer was renamed as the WITCH, the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell.[5] The WITCH computer was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry, Birmingham in 1973 and was displayed there for many years. The museum closed in 1997. The computer was disassembled and moved into storage at the Birmingham City Council Museums Collection Centre.[3]
  • Building the old MC

    Mr Robert Scott came into office with major building plans on the agenda. The National Foundry College block was completed and a new block was erected that housed a new refectory, Students’ Union, a lecture theatre and a boardroom for management students.
  • Raising staff aspirations

    The quality and extent of research and development work by members of the academic staff, aided by research assistants and technicians is attested in each successive annual report in the sixties, demonstrating continuous growth. The Principal was anxious to encourage staff members to increase their own academic credentials in order to be ready for the avalanche of high level work in store for them. The policy of supporting this work by means of time allowances and payment of registration fees was ultimately to pay off in impressive upgrading of the qualifications of staff members which was paralleled by research achievements of real value.
  • Walsall Campus

    Walsall Campus was developed in true 60's retro style accommodating a teaching block, gym, music studios and performing art.
  • Spot on research

    National publicity was obtained through a research achievement by Mr M H Matthews on a machine which was capable of pin-pointing the target spot for brain surgery.
  • Expanding College

    A difficulty which the College experienced over many years of its existence was the dispersal of its works into many different premises in the town. The problem was acute in the sixties when the College’s development was overtaxing its resources. The College was beginning to accumulate equipment and materials for its use on a scale unknown previously.
  • Acquired slide show

    The Art College acquired a slide collection from RC Price which became the basis of a growing library of slides.
  • Replacing the WITCH

    The computer and associated documentation are now at 'The National Museum Of Computing' at Bletchley (TNMOC), and they and the Computer Conservation Society (the CSS - which is a specialist group of the British Computer Society - the BCS) have started on a restoration project to get the original machine operational again.
  • A university town

    An ad hoc committee was set up to look into the possibility that “Wolverhampton was well positioned geographically to be considered a university town”.
  • Degrees on offer

    By this stage the College was able to provide BA degrees with options in English, Geography, History, Music and Economics; BSc degrees in Botany, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Economics. Within a year the Diploma in Computer Technology rapidly became an honours degree. The College of Art had grown to include department for 1) Painting Decorating and Interior Design 2) Industrial Design 3) Dress 4) Printing (a School) 5) Architecture 6) Art History 7) Fine Art.
  • Rag week short lived

    The Student and Teachers’ Union ran the refectory and also put on an annual Rag to raise money for charity. The event ran into difficulties with the town’s people during the sixties and for a few years the Rag was banned. “The 1965 Rag was called off after buildings and streets were daubed with giant bird-like footprints in cream and blue paint.”
  • First degree Ceremony

    Lord Kings Norton, Chairman of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) presented the degrees at the first degree ceremony.
  • Building block

    The purpose built Art block was under construction. It was one of the first of its kind in the UK housing many disciplines of art under the one roof.
  • Student strength

    During the upheaval of the sixties, Wolverhampton students tried out their strength a little. They supported the NUS Grant campaign and on the 16th March they processed through the town. But their really effective effort was directed towards ensuring student representation in College government and a fair hearing in disciplinary matters.
  • Merging Colleges

    The College of Technology and College of Art were amalgamated to form one of the first of the polytechnics.
  • Officially a Polytechnic

    The College became Wolverhampton Polytechnic. "This instrument records the designation of this Institution as a Polytechnic on the 1st September 1969. In commemoration of this on behalf of HM Government I hereby set my seal." (Signed Edward Short, Secretary of State for Education and Science). The formal opening ceremony took place on 14th January 1970.
  • The Chaplaincy

    The Governing Council authorised an integration and expansion of certain existing welfare services into a Polytechnic Advisory Service to provide health, legal and general counselling together with a Chaplaincy Service and an accommodation register. The first full-time Chaplain was then appointed.
  • Teacher Training developments

    Mergers with Teacher Training Colleges in Wolverhampton and Dudley in the 1970s added to the expansion of the Polytechnic, additional growth in 1989 on Walsall Campus when we acquired the Teacher Training College site.
  • PR Department

    “Bigger Poly is to be doom of many homes” was published 9th September in the Express and Star following news of an expansion in North Street and Birchfield Street that concerned local ratepayers. However, the fact that funds for the Poly were from a National pool, and staff and students would bring prosperity to the area were not easily conveyed by the Polytechnic. The Polytechnic Publicity Office was established to combat similar misunderstandings and deal with external enquiries and internal communications.
  • Campaigning for new Library

    The Polytechnic's Library was cramped and inadequate. The first SU President, Paul Disley, led a campaign to demand better library facilities. The students managed to persuade the Express and Star to take photographs depicting them hopelessly crowded together in the Library area. When the magnificent red brick 'Robert Scott' Library was opened in 1977 it marked the triumph of the campaigners to provide one of the best Polytechnic libraries in the country.
  • The new Robert Scott Library

    The Robert Scott Library was opened after years of student campaigners complaining about the little study space available in the old Library, which had depleted due to the steady growth of books and resources being added. The Authority was persuaded and they then provided one of the best Polytechnic libraries in the country.
  • Accommodation needs

    Self Catering Hostels (Randall Lines and later Lomas Street) were obtained to lessen the bottleneck problems experienced with student accommodation, making 1,300 residential places available, a number that was of a greater proportion of the student body than that in other Polytechnics.
  • City accident

    When the City Council building was erected a accident occurred damaging the fasard at top roof level of MA building, further damage was also made to the entrance of the bridge interconnecting MA with Robert Scott Library.
  • Student and staff welfare

    The Chaplaincy Centre was opened for use by both staff and students, which marked an extraordinary and interesting development in welfare within a public institution. Senior members of local churches were heavily involved and the Senior Chaplain the Reverend Geoffrey Wynne was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.
  • Foundation stone

    The opening of Stage VIII of Wolverhampton Polytechnic by His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent on the 1st July, fifty years after his father, Prince George, laid the foundation stone for Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College in June 1933.
  • Walsall Campus

    Walsall played a part in the institution’s expansion as we took over the site of the Teacher Training College.
  • University status

    Wolverhampton Polytechnic became the University of Wolverhampton.
  • Telford Campus

    The University was further expanded by the construction of the ambitious new Telford Campus, which includes in its grounds the 18th Century, Grade II listed Priorslee Hall; the oldest building under the University of Wolverhampton’s banner. Telford Campus taught students from the Business School and Engineering and Built Environment.
  • Nursing facilities

    The University expanded further by the amalgamation of two local nursing colleges (The United Midlands College for Nursing & Midwifery and the Sister Dora School of Nursing) to form the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Walsall Campus.
  • Science Park

    Wolverhampton Science Park opened; a collaboration between the University and the local council, with its main aim being to forge links between local businesses and the University’s research departments. The Science Park houses The Creative Industries Centre, The Technology Centre, The Development Centre and other business and technology support services.
  • WOLF

    The University of Wolverhampton was the first to establish a virtual learning environment: WOLF (Wolverhampton Online Learning Framework) a system used by students and staff to support learning in most subject areas. It provides online space for tutors to make reference materials, notes, videos and documents related to a subject available. WOLF is built with Microsoft technologies and can be used on multiple operating system platforms. In 2008 an upgraded version ‘WOLF2’ was launched.
  • New City Campus Building

    The University announced plans to rebuild and revitalise its campuses. This included many teaching buildings being erected on City Campus with specialist facilities (new MC building).
  • Healthy builds

    The School of Health moved into MH building at City Campus and an upgraded WP building at Walsall Campus; this move away from Hospital based sites gave better facilities for students and more access to central university services. The School’s Mary Seacole Building has a Clinical Skills Centres where life-sized models are used for clinical skills practice. There’s a general practitioner room, lecture theatres, PC suites and a social learning space.
  • Student Village

    At Walsall the Student Village opened with 338 new study bedrooms, a courtyard and social areas.
  • Exciting technology build

    The School of Computing and Information Technology benefits from specialist labs and facilities for software games development and mobile computing, while the power and precision of the Centre's virtual reality and rapid-prototyping resources complement the cutting edge work of the School of Engineering and the Built Environment. The state-of the-art teaching building the 'new Technology Centre' where theory can be put into practice. It has more than 500 high-specification PC's.
  • Online ASSIST

    The University is one of the first in the UK to offer students direct online help from Learning Centre staff through its use of ASSIST software.
  • MX erection

    City Campus North Administration and Teaching Building was erected, providing space for a 120-seat lecture theatre, 4 elliptical 35-seat learning pods and the bringing together of many administration departments to work all under the one roof.
  • Education and Teaching Building

    A new building at Walsall Campus, which can accommodate over 1,100 students is arranged over four floors and provides a combination of specialist and open access IT facilities and office accommodation for the School of Education.


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