University College Hull was founded in 1927, and admitted its first students in 1928.
Initially its students, like those of many other UK and global universities, studied for University of London external degrees. The first cohort numbered 39 students; there were fourteen academic departments, each comprising of one person, to teach them. A student:staff ratio to make today’s strategic planners weep.
The brick building to the left of the card is the original building from that first cohort, known as the Venn building (as in the Venn diagram: John Venn, the mathematician, was a local boy.) The campus now is obviously much bigger than can be seen in the card.
The university gained its charter in 1954. Its motto – Lampada Ferens, or Bearing the Torch in English – also plays on the name of one of the university’s original benefactors, Thomas Ferens. Like many universities, local industrialists were significant in the development and funding of the university college, Ferens contributing £250,000 to the costs. His fortune came from Reckitt and Sons, manufacturer of household chemicals.
Famously, Philip Larkin was university Librarian at Hull from 1955 to 1985. A verse from his poem Toads has resonances for today’s higher education system:
Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on
May we speculate that the suited figure walking in front of the Middleton Hall is perhaps Larkin, mulling his USS membership?
The card was sent in 1975, but the vehicles in the photo suggest a picture taken in the 1960’s.