The Making of a University – book review

The Making of a University – book review

We are pleased to bring you this great review from John Hargreaves.

Dr John A. Hargreaves graduated from the University of Southampton and has taught in secondary, higher and adult education in West Yorkshire. He completed his MA and PhD as a part-time student at Huddersfield where he is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in History. He gave the Annual J.H. Whitley Lecture for the University at Halifax Town Hall in 2015.

John O’Connell, The Making of a University. The Path to Higher Education in Huddersfield, University of Huddersfield Press, 2016 ISBN 978-1-86218-054-3

John O’Connell’s eminently readable and characteristically trenchant survey of the foundations and development of the precursor institutions which became the University of Huddersfield from 1992 is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how Huddersfield ultimately acquired such a prestigious centre of higher education and how its distinctive ethos and commitment to serving the needs of the local as well as a global community developed during its formative years from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. This development encompassed among other bodies a mechanics’ institution, a female educational institute, a college of technology and a polytechnic, each phase of which is analysed within the context of wider educational change and the more localised factors shaping the development of Huddersfield and the emergence of Kirklees during a period of spectacular expansion rising from an average annual increase in its higher-education student numbers from about four per cent to sixteen per cent in 1991-2.

The author, a former secondary school teacher who became Head of the Department of History and Political Studies at Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1972 and Head of the Department of Humanities and Dean of the Faculty of Arts with the designation of professor from 1984 meticulously researched the book in his retirement from 1989, assisted by former colleagues, particularly Professor Brendan Evans. The late Professor O’Connell contends that whilst in one sense the University of Huddersfield can be termed a post-1992 university, such a description fails to do justice to the historic roots ‘ranking the university alongside civic universities with more easily recognised older traditions’ so vividly evoked in the authoritative text. Moreover, this is enhanced by an abundance of carefully selected, relevant images, many in colour, illustrating landmarks in the remodelling of the accommodation for learning from nineteenth-century gothic to the more angular twentieth-century styles. In addition, there is also a gallery of predominantly bearded and whiskered Victorian educational pioneers such as Frederic Schwann, Edmund Eastwood, G.D. Tomlinson, Frank Curzon and George Jarmain, though not the redoubtable George Searle Phillips, who O’Connell considers even more influential than the prosperous exporter and bibliophile Schwann during this period. They appear together with a host of later national figures including both Margaret Thatcher, who performed the designation ceremony for the Polytechnic on 23 April 1971, Anthony Crosland, who announced the inclusion of Huddersfield amongst his confirmed list of polytechnics on 5 April 1967 and no fewer than three photographs of Harold Wilson, a frequent visitor to the expanding institution over the years, whose association with the University continues through an annual lecture series.

You can order your copy by visiting our online store, and if you are a staff member, student or alumni of the University you can also enjoy an impressive 50% discount.

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