1960s at Aston
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.

Inauguration Celebrations

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).

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Gallery Inauguration

Rapid Expansion

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.

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Gallery Students 1960s

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.

Aston has vital role to play - news cutting - 50th
Click to read Birmingham Post article on the Charter



Sir Peter Venables

Principal of the College of Advanced Technology (1962-1966)

Venables went on to become Vice-Chancellor of Aston University (1966-1969) and would later help to found The Open University.

Aston's first PhD - new cutting - 50th



The 1970s at Aston saw rapid expansion and a broadening of academic programmes offered by the University.



Lord Nelson of Stafford

Aston University's first Chancellor (1966-1979)

Both Lord Nelson and his wife gave the University much support in its formative years. The Management Centre (a forerunner of Aston Business School) was named for him.


Click to view the Chain of Office

Click to view the Chain of Office