The Early Years

Birmingham Municipal Technical School
Birmingham Municipal Technical School in Suffolk Street

The origins of Aston University are traced as far back as 1895 with the construction of the Birmingham Municipal Technical School.

The building was erected in Birmingham on Suffolk Street in response to the need for more thorough and industry-led technical education. At the turn of century the Technical School was educating over 2,000 students and was well used by the local community. 

In the day time the building was used as a school for boys, as there was no day release for employees from industry until 1919. Despite the demanding nature of evening study, the School flourished, with commercial classes being added in 1911 (by 1916 they would form an independent School of Commerce). 

Under the Principal, Dr W.E. Sumpner’s, leadership, the School covered practical subjects such as Building Construction, Typography and Telephony, as well as core sciences such as Physics and Chemistry. 

Early student record - 50th
Click to read an early student record

The Technical School went from strength to strength throughout the First World War and began to attract a much younger and keener demographic, educating Britain's youth according to the nation's needs.

By 1927 it was becoming easier for young adults to engage in part-time day education, presenting opportunities for additional courses and tutors at the school, encouraging more young people to enrol and better prepare themselves for work in industry. In recognition of greater engagement, growing credibility and an increasing range of courses, the institute was renamed the Birmingham Central Technical College and charged with educating Birmingham's workers for specific roles in industry.

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Gallery Origins

A Campus at Gosta Green

The approval of the Education Act of 1944 set about the construction of “universities of industry”, large-scale technical colleges that would address the local needs for scientific, management and engineering expertise.

In 1948, the city of Birmingham was given permission to construct a new building at Gosta Green, which would later become the Main Building that we know today. Designed by the architects Ashley and Newman in 1937 (later taken up by H Fitzroy Robinson and H H Bull, following the outbreak of war), the Birmingham College of Advanced Technology would occupy space alongside the Colleges of Commerce and Art, easing overcrowding in local colleges and mixing an array students from creative, scientific and technical backgrounds.

The technical college’s origins were firmly rooted in its ability to respond to the needs of industry. Whether it was the requirements of a local community or providing skills at the national level, the institution grew in popularity and continued to adapt to the needs of Birmingham while doing so. The following decade saw the expansion of the school, procurement of the site at Gosta Green, and the establishment of an industry-focused institution at the heart of Birmingham.

Forward to the 1950s!



Dr W.E. Sumpner

Principal of the Birmingham Municipal Technical School

Sumpner was appointed Principal at the opening of the Birmingham Municipal Technical School. Aston now has a lecture theatre named for him.




The '50s were a period of transition for the Technology College and marked the opening of the Main Building at Gosta Green.

Birmingham Municipal Technical School Magazine

Birmingham Municipal Technical School Magazine

Click to read the Editorial from the January 1905 edition.