University of Bradford Archive

Archive reference: UNI

The University of Bradford

The University received its Royal Charter on 18th October 1966. The pages for the archives of its predecessors, the Bradford Technical College and Bradford Institute of Technology tell the story of the University's development from 19th century beginnings.

The University's purpose was defined as "the advancement of learning and knowledge and the application of knowledge to human welfare", or, more poetically, from Shakespeare's Sonnet 38: "Give Invention Light". The first Chancellor was Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1966-1985), followed by popular businessman John Harvey-Jones (1986-1991), Bradford-born industrialist, Trevor Holdsworth (1992-1997), Baroness Lockwood (1998-2005) and cricketer turned politician and humanitarian Imran Khan (2005-2014).   Kate Swann was appointed Chancellor on 22 April 2015.

The first Vice-Chancellor was Dr. E.G. (Ted) Edwards, who had been Principal of the Bradford Institute of Technology. Ted Edwards gave the University its distinctive nature. He defied plans to charge high fees to overseas students, encouraged student involvement in governing, and made the campus a centre of the arts by introducing Fellowships in theatre, music and visual arts. The University developed the subject areas inherited from BIT, including technological and scientific subjects, management and languages. It also took a radical approach to building new areas of teaching and research, resulting in what was sometimes known as the Bradford Fringe, Peace Studies and the Project Planning Centre in particular. European and Yugoslav studies were also introduced.  Dr Edwards retired in 1978. He was followed as Vice-Chancellor by John West (1979-1989), David Johns (1989-1998), Colin Bell (1998-2001), Chris Taylor (2001-2007), Mark Cleary (2007-2013) and Professor Brian Cantor (2013-2019). Our current Vice-Chancellor is Professor Shirley Congdon.

The growth of the early 1970s ended later that decade as grants were frozen. The University was hit very hard by the cuts of 1981, losing 30 per cent of its central funding. 10 courses were phased out and their schools closed, including areas which had been core in early days: colour chemistry and textiles. Other significant changes took place in the early 1990s when universities began to take on the characteristics we see today: competition, semesterisation and modularisation, devolved budgets, and emphasis on research and knowledge transfer.  Now Bradford is characterised by the survival and thriving of many of the features of its early years e.g. the Ecoversity campaign which applies knowledge to making our buildings and practices more sustainable.

See the 100 Objects exhibition for many stories and images from the University's history.

The University Archive

This huge archive documents the above developments in detail. It is strongest for the early years until Dr Edwards's retirement. It contains University calendars, Senate committee papers and correspondence, correspondence and committee papers of University officers, minutes of meetings, newsletters, press cuttings and many photographs, prospectuses and publications.

Recently we have been able to make significant progress towards making information about the archive contents freely available. This has been an enormous project and there is much more to do.  Meanwhile, please contact Special Collections staff with details of any enquiry and we will do our best to help you.


Robert McKinlay: The University of Bradford: origins and development 1825-1966 (primrose cover) and The University of Bradford: the early years 1966-mid 1990s (chestnut brown cover). McKinlay was Vice-Principal of Bradford Institute of Technology, then Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University, so was ideally placed to write these definitive works.