History of the University of Hertfordshire

By Helen Tyler

The site of the first campus and the creation of Hatfield Technical College

The original campus for the University was at Roe Green in Hatfield, however, it was not a University, it began as a Technical College. From the late 17th century the land at Roe Green was owned by the Gape family of St Michael’s Manor in St Albans. In the 1920s they sold the land to Hill, a farmer, who then sold it to Alan Butler. Alan Butler was the chairman of the de Havilland Aircraft Company and lived at Beech Farm nearby. In 1944 Alan Butler donated ninety acres of land at Roe Green on the condition that it was to be used for educational purposes.

In 1946 the Ministry of Education approved the plans for the Technical College and an adjoining secondary technical school, Hatfield School, on the same site. In 1948 the building commenced. The first principal Dr W.A.J Chapman started on the 1st January 1949. In the spring of 1952 the staff were appointed (33 full-time and 66 part-time teachers). In September of the same year the Hatfield Technical College was opened with 1,738 students. In December the college was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. The college was the first large technical college building to be put up in England after the war. Students attended the college on part-time or full-time courses.

Photo:Hatfield Technical College

Hatfield Technical College

UH Archives

A College of Technology

In 1958 the Technical college was re-designated as Hatfield College of Technology. By 1960 the college was offering four year sandwich Diplomas in Technology. In 1961 the college was named as one of the regional colleges in England and Wales by the Ministry of Education. The Governors purchased a digital computer in 1962, which cost £29,201 and meant a Computer Science degree could be set up. The Council for National Academic Awards was formed in 1965 and Hatfield College was recognised for thirteen Honours Degree courses.

Sir Norman Lindop became the Principal of the College of Technology in 1966. A year later L.E. Haines was made Chair of Governors, but died shortly afterwards and was replaced by F. Bramston Austin. In the same year Bayfordbury is acquired for the college.

Hatfield Polytechnic  

1969 saw Hatfield College of Technology become Hatfield Polytechnic, offering Honour Degrees in Technology. The next year an observatory was added to the Bayfordbury Campus and W.A. Hill was appointed to the board of Governors.

Wall Hall and Balls Park Teacher Training Colleges merged in 1976 and became Hertfordshire College of Higher Education. In the same year Hatfield Polytechnic took over Balls Park. By 1977 over ten per cent of the students attending the Polytechnic were from more than forty different countries. The number of students in that year was four thousand in total. The Students’ Union Social Centre was opened in 1977.

In 1980 T.G. Mercer became Chair of Governors and two years later Dr John Illston succeeded Sir Norman Lindop as the Director of Hatfield Polytechnic. A new sports hall was built on the Hatfield Campus in 1984 and the number of students at the Polytechnic in that year had grown to more than five thousand. The number of staff, in the same year, had increased to 824 members.

Professor Neil Buxton became the new Director of the Polytechnic in 1987. In the following year, Sir Ron Dearing and Professor Buxton signed an agreement that gave the Polytechnic accreditation from the Council for National Academic Awards. Hatfield Polytechnic was one of only twenty-one Polytechnics, Colleges and Scottish Central Institutions to be accredited at the time. Hatfield Polytechnic was also, in this year, one of only eight polytechnics accredited for research degrees. In 1989 the Polytechnic was given corporate status.

Photo:Hatfield Polytechnic

Hatfield Polytechnic

HALS

The University of Hertfordshire

After John Major announced in 1991 that Polytechnics were to be abolished, Hatfield Polytechnic announced its intention to apply for University status. In 1992 the Polytechnic became the University of Hertfordshire. It was the first University to run its own bus company by making Universitybus public. The Hertfordshire College of Health Care and Nursing Studies and the Barnet College of Nursing and Midwifery merged with the University in 1993.

In 1994 the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans was chosen to hold the graduation ceremonies of the University. The same year saw the first publication of League tables and Hertfordshire was named as the top new University. In 1995 The Law school was moved to St Albans. Sir Ian MacLaurin was appointed Chancellor of the University in 1996 and in 1997 the Learning Resource Centre was opened.

In 2000, Olivia de Havilland, cousin of Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, visited the University to mark the inauguration of a project to build a new campus which was to be named after Sir Geoffrey. The 50th Anniversary of the University was celebrated in 2002, by which time 21,695 students were attending the University. In 2003 Professor Tim Wilson succeeded Professor Neil Buxton as Vice-Chancellor of the University and the de Havilland campus was opened.

In 2008 the University was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award. In both 2009 and 2010 the University was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award. Last year Professor Tim Wilson announced his intention to retire from his position as Vice-Chancellor after over nineteen years of being at the University. Today, the University has more than 24,000 students attending a wide variety of courses and has become one of the success stories of those Polytechnics who achieved University status.

Photo:University of Hertfordshire

University of Hertfordshire

UH Archives

(Information gathered from HALS and UH Archives)   

 

 

This page was added by Helen Tyler on 05/03/2011.
Comments about this page

Does anyone know where the archives for these earlier years of the college are kept? Is there an Archivist, also was there a student newsheet? I have a general interest but am particulalry interested in the 1958-1960 period, and I believe the College put up a team for the London to Paris 50th Anniversary air race in 1959, and that they came third. Is there a report or photographs? Thank you in anticipation.

By Douglas Wemyss
On 16/12/2011

There is an article in Flight magazine 31st August 1959 http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%201869.html in which Derek Mott was given a consolation prize of £100 (quite a lot at the time, and presumably on behalf of a team) for "Students initiative and inginuity in building their own cars and aircraft". I believe but cannot confirm that Derek Mott was president of the Student Union at about that time, so was this a college team?

By douglas wemyss
On 21/12/2011

There were two teams from Hatfield College entered into the Daily Mail Bleriot Centenary Cross-Channel Race, the only college or university teams to enter. The teams raced from Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe, the object being to make the return trip in the shortest possible time. There was also a prize for the team completing the course by the most original method. D. Mott received his prize of £100 for completing the course in two cars and an aeroplane, all built by fellow students at the Technical College at a cost of £460. The other team drove from London to an airfield by motor mower, flew a Tiger Moth across the Channel and thence by mower again to Paris, before repeating the journey in reverse. Details can be found in The Times newspaper of 20th July 1959 and a new book on the History of the University of Hertfordshire 'Sixty Years of Innovation' to be published in September 2012 by the University of Hertfordshire Press.

By Julie Moore
On 03/09/2012

Rather late to say thank you, but thank you. I confess I hadn't checked for a reply since 2011!

By Douglas Wemyss
On 27/02/2013

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