The inauguration congregation marking the college's new status as a university
The 1960s marked Aston’s transformation from the College of Advanced Technology into a university. Thanks to continuing support from the city of Birmingham, the transition was fairly smooth, but not without challenges.
One area that sparked considerable debate was what to name the new university. Here are some of the suggestions that didn’t quite make the cut, two of which pay homage to famous technological innovators:
- Watt University
- Murdoch University
- Technological University of Birmingham
- Birmingham Technological University
- The University of Aston in Birmingham
- University of the West Midlands
- Faculty of Technology, University of Birmingham
The University of Aston in Birmingham was chosen on the basis that it referred to the geographical heritage of the Main Building. In fact, “Aston” actually refers to the old parish of Aston (the heart of which was Gosta Green) rather than the nearby modern day district.
In March 1966 the university charter received royal assent and was finally approved six weeks later. The University of Aston In Birmingham was born. The occasion was marked with a service at St Phillips Cathedral, a full academic procession, and an inaugural dinner (the latter remains a tradition today).
How Aston staff were informed about the Charter.
The academic congregation during the inauguration of the new university
The congregation enters St Phillips Cathedral for a service that will mark the transition from a college to a university
May 9th 1966. As part of the Charter celebrations, a service of Dedication and Thanksgiving was held in the Cathedral of St Phillip's in Birmingham. During the service an address was given by the Rt. Rev Leonard Wilson in which he stressed that a university education does not only impart knowledge, but teaches people to recognise and follow truth
Aston University's Charter Celebrations in 1966. Pictured centre: Lord Nelson of Stafford (wearing the Chain of Office previously worn by the Mayor of Aston Manor) and his wife greeting guests; to the right are Sir Peter Venables (Vice-chancellor) and his wife
Chain of Office formerly worn by the Mayor of #Aston Manor. In 1966 - at the suggestion of Birmingham's Lord Mayor, Alderman George Corbyn Barrow - the City of Birmingham gifted this finely wrought regalia to Aston University
Having been granted university status, new opportunities presented themselves for the expansion of the site at Gosta Green. Architects’ plans in 1967 show the development of Lawrence and Dalton Towers, the Library as well as the South and North wings, developments that anticipate the swelling of Aston’s student body to 5,500 by 1970. Determined that Aston University would continue to serve the people of Birmingham, an underpass network was created towards the end of the 1960s to ensure that the campus would never cut off pedestrians from the city centre.
The Advent of Student Welfare
A growing political mindset and increasingly vocal student body was demanding that greater emphasis be placed on the student experience. To deal with the unrest, the university appointed George Austin to lead on student participation and under his leadership the University founded support services, including a health centre, counselling facilities and the Careers and Appointments office.
Dr P. Cauthery - a physician demobilised from the Medical Service of the RAF - was appointed in October 1965 to start an in-house Health Service at Aston University
Biology Lecture in the Main Building during the 1960s
Pharmacy at Aston in 1968
Pharmacy at Aston in the 1960s
Electrical Engineering lab on the ground floor of the Main Building
Engineering student at Aston in the 60s
Mechanical Engineering at University of Aston in Birmingham
Mechanical Engineering Department in 1960s
Music recital in the Great Hall
Aston's Student Guild in the 1960s - In-tray looking considerably fuller than its counterpart!
Physicists R Latham (right) and Professor Braun. Ernest Braun joined Aston University in #1967. He was Professor of Physics (1967-84) and Head of Technology Policy Unit (1977-84) and the first Pro- Vice-Chancellor for Cultural and Recreational Policies (1972)
Production Engineering at Aston in the 1960s
Written on the back "Production Engineering Advanced Processing XAB Dip-Tech project in Spark Machining, 1960. Name of Student: Mr Parr
Controversial at the time, Aston was one of the first universities in the UK to adopt a free of charge sex education programme for all its students. Dr Philip Cauthery was the pioneer behind the health service at Aston and ran the lecture series “Know Thyself”, which received fierce opposition from some colleagues. Despite criticism, the lectures were extremely popular and were adopted by other universities in the late '60s and '70s.
The 1960s set the pace for expansion at Aston that would continue until the end of the following decade. The period saw a redefining of the student-teacher relationship, away from the old pupil-master dynamic to something more complementary and recognisable with today’s standards. The '70s would continue to place emphasis on teaching for industry and improved student welfare, delivering new sports and arts facilities, as well as brand new accommodation, which would mark the origins of campus life.
Click to read Birmingham Post article on the Charter