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.
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 was acquired for the college.
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 4,000 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.
The University of Hertfordshire
After Prime Minister 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 University buses 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. In 2010, 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.
(Information gathered from HALS and UH Archives)