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History and Traditions

Aston University received its Charter on 22 April 1966.

The Charter of the University outlines objectives appropriate to a technological university: "to advance, disseminate and apply learning and knowledge by teaching and research, for the benefit of industry and commerce and of the community generally: and to enable students to obtain the advantage of a university education, and such teaching and research may include periods outside the University in industry or commerce or wherever the University considers proper for the best advancement of its objects."

The emphasis given to the sandwich course system, and the maintenance of strong links with industry, arises naturally from the institution’s history.

1875
A School of Metallurgy was set up in the Birmingham and Midland Institute by G H Kenrick.

1895
The Birmingham Municipal Technical School separated from the Birmingham and Midland Institute. Dr W E Sumpner was appointed as Principal and classes were taught in chemistry, physics, metallurgy and electrical engineering.

1911
Commercial classes were introduced and grew into an independent School of Commerce by 1916.

1927
The Birmingham Municipal Technical School became the Birmingham Central Technical College.

1933
Acquisition of the Gosta Green site for the new Technical College and the Colleges of Commerce and of Arts and Crafts was approved.

1947
The Department of Industrial Administration was created.

1951
The Technical College was re-named the College of Technology, Birmingham. Work began on the Main Building at Gosta Green.

1956
Dr P F R (later Sir Peter) Venables was appointed as Principal of the College, which in the same year became the first designated College of Advanced Technology.

1963
The Robbins Committee on Higher Education recommended that the Colleges of Advanced Technology should become technological universities.

1965
The College came under the aegis of the University Grants Committee on 1 April 1965 and the draft Charter was submitted to the Privy Council.

1966
The Charter was formally sealed on 22 April 1966 and the first Chancellor of the University, Lord Nelson of Stafford, was installed on 10 May.

1970s

Dr J A (now Sir Joseph) Pope succeeded Sir Peter Venables as Vice-Chancellor in August 1969, and the next decade saw rapid growth of the University, with developments on the main campus and the acquisition of additional sites at Walsall, Handsworth and Saltley. Lord Nelson of Stafford was succeeded as Chancellor by Sir Adrian Cadbury, who was installed on 21 September 1979.

1980s

Dr Pope was succeeded as Vice-Chancellor by Professor F W (now Sir Frederick) Crawford, formerly of Stanford University, California, who assumed office on 1 July 1980.

Following sharp reductions in recurrent funding and student numbers imposed by the University Grants Committee in 1981, Aston clarified its mission to be a leading technological university, and devised a comprehensive strategy coordinating the planning of its academic programmes with optimum use of its finance and facilities. The University’s development during the 1980s was characterised by a rigorous pursuit of quality. Its structure and operations were streamlined, while the standards and quality of its academic programmes were greatly enhanced. Aston has emerged as a smaller but stronger institution.

A key feature of this regeneration was the application of Information Technology. Developments in Library and Information Services and computing provision during the 1980s saw Aston become one of the IT leaders in the UK university system. A new computing centre housing two DEC 8650s was opened by the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Mr Kenneth Baker, in November 1986.

Work proceeded on a comprehensive physical redevelopment programme to transform the campus. Major projects included the construction of a new entrance and sky lifts, integrating the Main Building with the South Wing, and the conversion of the Duke Street Garage into a new home for the Department of Vision Sciences. Diversion and narrowing of Aston Street facilitated the creation of a pedestrian precinct, University Square.

Among other initiatives taken by the University during the 1980s was the setting up of a Centre for Extension Education (now called the Continuing Education Service), opened by the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Sir Keith Joseph, in June 1984. The Centre pioneered the Tutored Video Instruction method of distance learning in the UK as a means of offering courses to students at home or in the workplace. In late-1981, in conjunction with the City of Birmingham, and with financial support from Lloyds Bank plc, the University established the Aston Science Park as a launch pad for high-technology companies. The University also set up a Technology Transfer Centre in cooperation with the West Midlands Enterprise Board.

A campus-wide Local Area Network was installed in 1988 to interconnect Aston’s distributed computing facilities and to permit eight-channel TV to be broadcast to some 2,000 rooms. This £4M development was backed by the University Grants Committee and the Department of Trade and Industry. It already serves the entire campus, and will be expanded to the Aston Science Park and to connect directly with cable TV ventures in the area.

1990s

At the end of August 1996 Professor Crawford retired. Professor Michael Wright, the former Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor and an Aston graduate, was chosen to succeed him. He oversaw the University’s next phase of strategic development, securing a dynamic and expanding role for Aston as a leading UK university for the new millennium.

During the academic year 1996/97 Aston redefined its mission: Aston University’s mission is to be an international centre of excellence in teaching, research and consultancy. Aston is focused on subjects of professional and vocational relevance in the sciences, engineering, business and the humanities.

In February 1997 the Privy Council approved the change in name from the University of Aston in Birmingham to Aston University. In August 1998 the academic faculties were restructured into four Schools of Study; Aston Business School, Engineering & Applied Science, Life & Health Sciences and Languages & European Studies.

2000s

In December 2006 Professor Michael Wright retired as Vice-Chancellor, and was succeeded by Professor Julia King. Working with staff and students, Professor King, is developing an ambitious new strategy to take Aston forward over the next 5 years.

The University Arms

Aston University crest

The University’s Arms were granted on 18 March 1955 by Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy and Ulster Kings of Arms to the Birmingham Corporation for use by the former College of Technology. They were designed to show the College’s connection with the City and with the teaching of technology.

The arms consist of a shield and crest. The shield has two sections – the field (the main background) which is coloured blue and a chief (the broad band across the top of the shield) of silver. On the field is a diagonal line of five gold diamonds joined one to the other, similar to the first quarter of the Arms of the City of Birmingham and incorporated in the Arms of the College to show its connection with the City. This was adopted by the family of Bermingham, which derived its name from the then hamlet of Birmingham, and provided the Lords of the Manor from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries.

On the chief is depicted an open book bound in red placed between two black hammers, showing the connection of the University with technology, the book representing learning and the hammers engineering and allied trades. The crest is also designed to stress the pursuit of knowledge. It consists of a red torch held erect by a forearm between two branches of gold laurel.

Having been originally worn on the helmet of a fully-armed person, the crest is always placed on the top of the helm. The method of joining the crest to the helm was usually concealed by decoration and, in the University’s arms, this is effected by the use of a wreath and a crown.

The wreath is silver, red and black, these colours being taken from the shield. It is surmounted by a mural crown (resembling a wall) which is reserved in modern grants for persons and organisations connected with public corporations. The cloth mantling which hangs down from the top of the helm is the survival of the cloak which was originally worn to protect the armour coloured in the two principal colours of the shield, blue and gold.

The motto of the University is the same as that of the City of Birmingham – "Forward".