The first year on campus

Posted in: Bath

Graduating in 1969, John Connolly was one of the very first students at the University. He shares his memories of a one-building campus, favourite pubs and photos in the days before selfies.


"Claverton Down campus opened its doors to students for the first time in September 1965 and Bath University of Technology received its Royal Charter in 1966. It was one of several ex-Colleges of Advanced Technology that were turned into universities at that time.

"There were about 1,600 students at the Bristol College of Science and Technology campus, and some of their second-year students joined the freshers at the only Claverton Down building which existed at that stage. It was a small square building, but had the basics – including a refectory, a students’ common room, a small library, admin offices, lecture rooms and laboratories. It even had an office for the Students’ Union.

"In total, there were about 220 of us students on campus and the first-year subjects (all BSc degrees) were Economics and Administration, Sociology, Applied Biology, Biochemistry and Horticulture.


Doing the maths

"My own degree, Econ/Admin, was a precursor to the now very popular MBA course. The modules included maths and statistics, econometrics, computing, industrial psychology, international business and a language, as well as the main subjects of economics, marketing, accounting and corporate finance.

"The latter was the reason I chose Bath, as I’d been on a Management Development Programme with United Steel Companies for two years after my A-levels and knew I'd be returning to a career in industry, probably involving finance. Bath was by far the most beautiful of the cities where I could study for a similar degree and it proved to be an excellent choice, never once regretted.

"There were originally about 20 students starting my course, from all sorts of backgrounds. The oldest of our group was about 29, married and with a couple of children; the youngest was only 17 and straight out of public school. I was 21, a grammar schoolboy from the West Riding of Yorkshire and sponsored by United Steel Companies.

"By the time we graduated, our number had been whittled down to about eight – in those days students could be failed and asked to leave!


City life

"Most of the second-year students still lived in Bristol, often at home, but in Bath there were no halls of residence and so first-years were staying all over the city in guest houses, small hotels and ‘digs’. The result was that if there was a party or any sort of social gathering, it was just announced on the notice board outside the common room and we all turned up.

"The city made us very welcome and soon the University scarf could be seen in all the pubs and bars. The Saracen’s Head on Broad Street soon became a regular meeting place, and we economists often went to the tiny Old Green Tree on Green Street. I’ve gone back to it fairly often over the past 50 years as, despite having lived for nearly 40 of those years near Barcelona, I still have friends in the area.

"We also had many good nights at a little nightclub called the Keel Club in Bathampton, by the river, as the owner offered membership to students.

"In those early days, the Students’ Union wasn’t very radical, although I do remember we gave Enoch Powell a rowdy reception when he visited Bath.

"The Union tried to work closely with the University to improve conditions and facilities at Claverton Down but the main action was still in Bristol, which continued to operate until about 1970.


Snap happy

"In those days, there were no digital cameras, and the mobile phone was decades away. You had to load a film into a camera, take your pictures and then have the film developed by Boots the Chemist, never knowing how it would come out. Obviously, there were no such thing as selfies.

"The result is that there are very few photos of what we did, except at graduation time and the annual formal ball. My daughter takes more photos in a week than I took in four years at university!

"Both academically and socially, I learned an enormous amount at Bath. It stood me in good stead, both in my career in banking in the UK and then Spain, and subsequently in my second career as a university lecturer in Corporate Finance on master’s programmes in Barcelona.

"I still feel very privileged and proud to have been one of the first students at the University and have never once regretted my choice to study there or what to study."

Posted in: Bath

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  • Lovely account. Incredible to think that only 5 years later we had a thriving campus community of all engineering disciplines, management science a thriving Pharmaceutical School and a Foreign Languages course that still has me scratching my head
    - not for it’s worth
    - but how did a technology university attract those sort of literary people. ( Didn’t do me ANY harm in the overall scheme of my development )
    And to realise I thought my professor was shooting at unrealisable dreams when he chaired the first group to give a scholarship to a close to international competition standard athlete ( a canoeist )
    I told him if he wanted Loughborough - Ho reach there ( it still had to produce Seb Coe but I was aware of people like Cive Woodward - who distinguished themselves there )

  • By the time I started in 1973 there were a few more buildings, but the Bristol connection was still strong because quite a few staff were transferred from Ashley Down to the Bath campus. A coach brought them over each morning, and as I was living in Bristol I used the coach quite often. The tale is still told (though I don’t know if it’s true) that UWE was born out of a fit of pique among Bristol and Avon councillors, miffed at the loss of Bristol CAT to Bath, created Bristol Polytechnic which morphed into UWE in 1992.

  • I spent a lot of time in the Kingston restaurant : pie, chips and peas for 3 shillings and sixpence in 1966.

  • How refreshing to hear John's recollections - brought it all back. I was one of those 220 students, it was almost possible to know who was who within a very short time. I do remember my B&B in Swainswick with some fondness although the commute woulod have been difficult without my old Hillman Minx!