Higher Education Postcard: University of Portsmouth

This week's postcard from Hugh Jones' postbag reminds us that the entertainment of great hopes is sometimes rewarded

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

Greetings from the South Coast! The Portsmouth Municipal College was opened in 1908, on a site just behind the city’s Guildhall, in this rather splendid baroque-ish building.

In due course this became the heart of Portsmouth Polytechnic, and then the University of Portsmouth, but we need to go back a little earlier to find out the whole story.

As the Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette of 21 August 1869 reported:

TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION.- A meeting was held on Thursday last at the Green Row Rooms, Portsmouth, under the presidency of the Vicar, for the purpose of starting a school or classes for instruction in science and art. The meeting was attended by the mayor of Portsmouth, the Rev J S Blake of St Jude’s, Southsea, Mr G H De Fraine, Mr R Rawson, and many of the clergy and schoolmasters. Mr Buckminster attended from the Science and Art Department to afford information on the scheme of the Committee of Council for Scientific Instruction. After a most interesting speech from him upon the subject, and a discussion, in which the Mayor, Mr Rawson and others took part, a committee was formed for the purpose of carrying out the object of the meeting, and great hopes are entertained that before long a school of art or classes for instruction in science may be established here.”

The great hopes were indeed rewarded by the establishment, in 1870, of The Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and Art. Such institutes were relatively common across Britain’s towns and cities at that time, and reflected the growing needs of industry and the existence of a more affluent middle-class, willing and able to support education.

In 1894, when local authorities were empowered to fund technical education, this became the Portsmouth Municipal Technical Institute. And in due course new premises were needed: this is what you see on the card – the Portsmouth Municipal College, which opened its doors in 1908. As well as Municipal College, the building housed the Portsmouth Day Training School for teachers, and a public library.

In 1953, following a change of emphasis, it became the Portsmouth College of Technology, which in turn became the Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1969.

The University’s motto is Lucum Sequamur, or Let us follow the light. This has echoes of the City’s motto, Heaven’s light, our guide.

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