Higher Education Postcard: University of Bradford

This week's postcard from Hugh Jones' postbag comes from a university which began life as a Mechanics’ Institute.

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

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Greetings from Bradford!

Like many UK universities, Bradford’s origins lie in the first half of the nineteenth century, with the establishment in 1832 of a Mechanics’ Institute (which, delightfully, still exists and provides library and meeting spaces in the heart of Bradford).

Mechanics’ Institutes were a product of the rapid urbanisation of the UK at that time, and social movements (often associated with nonconformist religion) to improve people’s lives through education and temperance. In Bradford, the local industry was textiles and from 1863 the Mechanics’ Institute provided professionally-run courses.

The 1878 Paris Exposition (and more specifically the apparently poor reception there of Bradford’s textiles) gave impetus to the establishment within the Institute of a Weaving School, which became the Bradford Technical School.

In 1882 the Technical School moved to purpose-built accommodation, as the Bradford Technical College. The failure of local magnates to pay for the College led it its being taken over, in 1899, by the Town Corporation (enabled by Technical and Industrial Institutions Act 1892 which empowered local authorities to govern and financially support technical education).

Bradford Technical College developed and grew, but was too far behind developments in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to be granted university status at that time. In 1956 it became the Bradford Institute of Technology, designated a College of Advanced Technology by the government. In 1962 the Bradford Corporation relinquished control, the Institute being accountable to the Ministry of Education.

University status was finally achieved in 1966.

One of the many wonderful things about Bradford University is its Peace Studies department. This competes at football, on a semi-regular basis, against the War Studies Department at King’s College London for the Tolstoy Cup. The match was first played in 1994; Peace currently leads War 8-4 in the series, although, perhaps ominously, War has recently had the better of things.

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