Studying in the 1970s: Bath grad Bob Rogers shares his memories

Posted in: Bath

Alumnus and Team Bath Racing Electric supporter Bob Rogers (BSc Engineering 1972) shares his memories of plate glass, punchcards and black Bath stone...

"Thinking I'd like pursue a career in mechanical engineering, towards the end of my school days I became aware of the potential to take one of the new sandwich courses which were then being offered by six of the ‘plate glass universities’ – Bath being one of them.

"Oddly, there wasn’t a lot of plate glass in evidence when I came up Bathwick Hill for the first time. My interview took place at the preliminary building, which sat in a sea of mud and construction, but I didn’t let that put me off and Bath was my number-one choice on my UCCA (the precursor to UCAS) form.

"Again, not a lot of plate glass when I arrived in north Bristol in 1968 for the start of what would be 18 months in the old Bristol Tech building. Still, it was all new and exciting. Bristol offered plenty of opportunities for student life, along with the bonus of being able to go up to Filton Airport to watch Concorde undertaking its ground trials.

"There was plate glass at last – acres of it! – as we moved into our new Department of Mechanical Engineering, which at that time sat right at the end of the campus’ main concourse.

 

Not-so-beautiful Bath

"Bath in those days was very different from the UNESCO World Heritage city it is today, much of the beautiful sandstone was stained black from coal smoke. Like alumnus John Connolly, I too remember the Saracen's Head, which was very much a spit-and-sawdust pub but absolutely a favourite among the students.

"Much of the student accommodation comprised subdivided flats created in the iconic Bath Crescent and terraces. They often had very questionable plumbing and wiring, and were fitted with the ubiquitous ‘coin in the slot electricity’ meters that would leave you fumbling in the dark trying to put a half crown in the slot when the power ran out.

"As sandwich course mechanical engineers we spent 50% of each of the four years with our industrial sponsors. Of course, during that time we were paid an apprentice’s wage, so a fair number of us had cars, which opened up all sorts of accommodation possibilities.

"In our third year, seven of us rented an old mill house in Freshford, which is probably today a designer house but back then provided us with a truly remarkable student experience, while the fourth year saw us in Batheaston. Sadly, the traffic on London Road was as bad then as it is now!

 

A flourishing campus

"The campus was growing all around us. The first accommodation blocks arrived over the Parade; the Students’ Union bar and facilities appeared; and a central computer services facility opened. There were no such thing as laptops in those days – we’d go down to the centre, type out a stack of punchcards, hand them to the operators and come back a day later… all too often to find that the program had run circles around itself two lines in!

"Finally, like all good things, my time at Bath came to an end. I chose to do voluntary service overseas and just a few months later left for India, where I spent two years before travelling on to Australia and finally ending up in Hong Kong, where I still live today, 46 years later.

"I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have done a sandwich course, which provided me with an extraordinary advantage in starting a career in firstly the marine industry and then the aviation industry.

"I still have very strong links with Bath. We own property in the city, which we use from time to time, and I also like to maintain my connection with the University both through the alumni association here in Hong Kong and also as a sponsor for Team Bath Racing Electric."

 

Posted in: Bath

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