In January 1966 it looked as though Bradford might be at the point of achieving a century-old dream: its own University. Or was it?
First page of Bradford Institute of Technology’s Petition, July 1965 (Uni C04)
1868-1963 The fight for a University
As early as 1868, local Member of Parliament W.E. Forster was clear that “if industrial universities were to be established in large centres of manufacturing, Bradford would do its best to become one of those centres”. Such universities were indeed established: Leeds, Sheffield etc. acquired universities in the”red-brick” boom of the 1890s and 1900s. Lack of local support and political influence meant Bradford missed out.
Scheme after scheme for university status foundered over the next century. At last, in 1957, Bradford became Bradford Institute of Technology, one of eight Colleges of Advanced Technology, concentrating on university-level teaching and research. But the CATS lacked the independence, kudos, and funding available to”universities”.
This unfairness was particularly noticeable during the early 1960s, as so many new universities were springing up. These, as Robert McKinlay remarked in his histories of the University, achieved university status with all its benefits while often consisting of only a “Vice-Chancellor and a watchman’s hut”. The CATs, with years of high-level work, buildings, staff and students, were still at a disadvantage.
1963-1966. Hope for Bradford?
To put right this anomaly, Lord Robbins in his 1963 report recommended that the CATs be granted Royal Charters to become technological universities. It’s easy to assume that this meant the Institute’s move to university status was inevitable.
However, the lead article in the 20 January 1966 edition of Javelin suggests some students at least were not so sure. Was there “hope for Bradford”?
- An article in the Guardian had implied that Bradford would be a university by the following year: this seemed hopeful, as “surely such a reputable newspaper would not have raised our hopes by printing an untruth”.
- Aston University, another CAT on the same journey, was “nearly there”, having had their charter accepted by the Privy Council. Encouraging news!
- Vice-Principal Robert McKinlay had recently stated that a recent conference was probably the last to be held at BIT. “Does this indicate official optimism, or are we to assume there are to be no further conferences …?”
Of course it is possible that uncertainty about university status was being exaggerated for effect. Javelin reporters tended to be sarcastic and cynical! Either way, the signs were correct: Bradford would indeed become a University before the year was out.
Part II to follow: what else was happening around the Institute and the City in January 1966?