Celebrating 100 years of Swansea University

Laying the stone ceremony Image copyright Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Image caption Six months after the Royal Charter was signed on 22 January 1920, the laying the stone ceremony took place

A century ago, pen was put to paper on the Royal Charter which brought Swansea University into being.

Six months later, King George V visited Swansea to lay the first ceremonial foundation stone.

And in October 1920, the university opened its doors to its first intake of 88 students.

They included nine women, and degrees in metallurgy, physics, engineering, mathematics, chemistry, history and geology were offered.

Today it is home to 23,000 students in eight colleges across two campuses, offering more than 300 courses.

Image copyright Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Image caption The students' union council in the 1930s

Calls for a university in Swansea to provide training for the city's global metallurgy industries had been growing since the 1850s.

However it took Viscount Haldane of Cloan's 1918 report before Swansea was to become the University of Wales' fourth college.

In it, he said the city required "a university that would not simply educate young men and women, but one that would apply science to the needs of industry and give rise to a new generation of engineers and scientists who would drive the region's industrial growth and secure its economic future".

Sam Blaxland has been commissioned to write "Swansea University: Campus and Community in a Post-War World, 1945-2020" as part of the university's centenary celebrations.

His research has included oral histories from hundreds of students, who range in age from 20 to 100.

Image copyright Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Image caption The student running team in about 1930

"The first thing to say is that any project like this has in-built bias, as people who choose to respond - by definition - had a positive experience at the university," he said.

"Nevertheless, from whatever era of students I spoke to, the sense I got is that Swansea has been a special part of their life, with the location by the beach, the sense of community, and the way in which it felt like a local university with a global outlook coming up over again.

"Swansea was always a university campaigned for by local industrialists, like tin-plate manufacturer Francis Gilbertson, and I think it's always felt rooted in its community, even now it's home to many dozens of nationalities."

Peter Stead, who was an undergraduate from 1961 to 64 and who taught at Swansea in various spells until 1997, said the 1960s marked a period of change for the university.

"In the early 1960s the student numbers multiplied, with the building of the first campus halls, and for the first time we saw an international intake of students, from Europe and South America.

"In some ways it was still quite old fashioned. As tutor of Lewis Jones Hall I was responsible for arranging seating plans for nightly formal dinner, and when I displeased someone the cake they threw at me trickled down the refectory wall for years; I actually think it remained there and was painted over.

"But the 60s was also the decade the university found its voice, and I was pleased that it was us who led the demonstrations against apartheid when the South African rugby team played Swansea."

Image copyright Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Image caption Swansea University's bay campus was opened in September 2015

In 2015 Swansea University opened the £450m bay campus - home to the College of Engineering, the School of Management, and the Computational Foundry - which doubled the size of the grounds.

Last year the university sacked four members of staff, including vice-chancellor Richard B Davies and dean of the School of Management Marc Clement.

But the university said it would not affect centenary celebrations and they are looking forward to the next 100 years.

"Swansea University faced a challenging time last year which saw a great deal of upheaval for the organisation," it said in a statement.

"However it is testament to the resilience and professionalism of both academic and professional staff that the university has navigated its way through some difficult times and now in 2020 we look forward to celebrating our centenary.

"The university was established in 1920 to meet the needs of industry in south Wales but now as we step into our second centenary... Swansea is now one of the eminent universities for industrial partnerships in the UK, with a true global reach."

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