Parade Profile: Bob Rogers (BSc Engineering 1972)

Posted in: Engineering & Design, Parade profiles

Having studied at Bath in the 1970s, Bob had the unique experience of watching the University be built around him. This, alongside his valuable time on a sandwich course — a degree that includes work placement — made for a thrilling and varied university experience.  

With his university placements providing him with first-hand experience in the industry he was most interested in, Bob embarked on a thrilling career in engineering overseas — part of which he describes as a “front row seat to the greatest show on Earth.” 

Why did you choose to study at Bath?    

When it came time for me to start looking at universities, I was fortunately made aware of the recent arrival on the tertiary education scene of thin sandwich courses in various engineering disciplines. Being of a rather more practical nature, this seemed to be an attractive option, combining academia with practical experience in an industrial sponsor.  

On my first visit to Claverton Down, as part of an interview process I believe, there was very little of the actual University to be seen apart from a lot of mud and some very temporary buildings. Nevertheless, I put Bath at the top of my list and the rest is history! 

Bob RogersDid you have a particular career in mind when you chose to study engineering?   

I think my primary interest at the time was around fluid dynamics and hydraulics which also motivated me to apply to and be selected by Dowty Group as my industrial sponsor. I have to say I am eternally grateful for the fantastic exposure to industry provided by Dowty who ran a very substantial training operation ranging from craft apprentices through to graduate trainees. As student apprentices, we were given opportunities to experience everything from the shop floor upwards, while also drawing a weekly wage packet which, if I recall correctly, was around 14 pounds, a few shillings and some pence in cash in a perforated brown envelope!  

Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? 

Our cohort enjoyed a unique experience as the University was being built around us with constant expansion going on, making it an exciting environment to be part of. I certainly have many fond memories of my time at the University. Our first three semesters were spent at the old Bristol Polytechnic in Ashley Down as the school of mechanical engineering was still under construction, but we did eventually move into a completely brand-new facility while the University was a work in progress around us. There was much jubilation when the Student Union bar opened for business. 

University of Bath under construction in the 1970s
University of Bath under construction in the 1970s

What are some of your favourite memories from campus or in the city? 

Bath in those days was very different from the city of today. I can recall student share flats in some of the now most prestigious crescents, and very limited food and beverage opportunities the Saracens Head comes to mind. As sandwich course undergraduates, we spent half the year in paid employment, which meant many of us had cars enabling us to live off campus. I lived in Freshford initially a picture-perfect Somerset village in what is now an upmarket residence. I then lived in Batheaston. Even in those early days, the University was a remarkable place to study. 

One enduring memory I have is using the single mainframe computer to write our programs in. We would transcribe all the code using a punch card terminal, and then hand the batch of cards to the operators and come back 24 hours later hoping to find a nice functional print out.  

But all too often we'd find that a single key stroke had caused the program to crash! 

Describe your career journey since graduating.  

Upon graduating from the University, I embarked on two years Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), ending up attached to a tractor workshop on the Tungabhadra project in central India. This was of course quite an experience and one which I look back on with very fond memories. I came away from India with an enduring love of the country and its people and have since revisited many times.  

Under the arrangement with VSO, I was able to take cash in lieu of a return flight and so headed onwards through Penang and Singapore to Australia. After a few months I ended up taking a job in Hong Kong which has been my home ever since, working for a few years on marine engines and subsequently on the supply side of the airline industry. 

Share some of your career highlights with us.

I was extraordinarily fortunate to arrive in Hong Kong just as Asia was beginning its spectacular growth journey. Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and, of course, China, to name a few, were embarking on, at times, giddying rates of growth and modernisation. This provided ample career opportunities and it was the time and place to never say no to whatever opportunity presented itself the biggest one of all being the opening up of China.  

I have enjoyed a front row seat to the greatest show on Earth which included extensive business with the Chinese airlines and even establishing a factory just outside Shanghai. Hong Kong sits in the epicentre providing an extraordinary place to both work and have our home.  

How did your studies help to develop you, professionally and/or personally? 

I remain eternally grateful to whoever came up with the idea of university sandwich courses. I was never a going to be a rocket scientist but the combination of the academic and practical experience of a four-year sandwich course equipped me for a fascinating future career. I can say that I only ever underwent three job interviews (including VSO) and I think in each case my sandwich course background was a game changer, opening doors to remarkable opportunities. 

What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?    

Any combination of academic and practical industrial experience is worth its weight in gold.

And I would add that any opportunities to spend a part of one's university time overseas, particularly in non-European countries, are invaluable. In today's global world, having some form of hands-on experience in a different culture will always prove its worth. 

What motivates you to donate to Bath, and what would you say to others thinking of doing the same? 

Having had the opportunity to see the extraordinary Team Bath Racing Electric participate in a major Formula SAE event in nearby Zhuhai, China, I felt this was a group that deserved some external financial assistance.  

In subsequent years, including the difficult Covid-19 period, I have been able to witness this activity continuing to forge ahead both winning trophies and providing exactly the kind of practical education opportunity for current students at the University that will launch them into interesting and rewarding careers.  

Finally, despite living in Hong Kong, I do maintain a close link with Bath having a property which we use from time to time. This enables me to make relatively frequent visits to the University which, of course, has grown beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Every time I set foot on Claverton Down it brings back very fond memories of a remarkable university experience. 

Posted in: Engineering & Design, Parade profiles

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  • I was also part of the same cohort as Bob. In my case my sponsor was Rolls Royce Engines at Bristol .
    It was a wonderful time for all of us both at University and in the periods in Industry. A brilliant apprentice concept much missed. I stayed on at Bath to complete my PhD working under the supervision of Ted Bowns setting me up for a long and fascinating career culminating in the creation and development of my own technology company. I’m now long retired but always finding excuses to visit Bath.
    Congratulations and thanks to Bob for reminding us of that wonderful period of our lives.

    • Hi Alan,

      Thanks so much for your comment. We're so pleased you enjoyed the article and that it brought back some great memories.

      The Advancement Office