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Building the University - 1970s

Engineering Tutorial with Professor Arthur Shercliff
Engineering Tutorial with
Professor Arthur Shercliff

A turbulent start

The first few years of the 1970s saw the University of Warwick struggling both with the aftermath of student unrest and increasing pressure on resources from the ever-increasing student population.

Despite ongoing financial constraints the campus continued to grow with the addition of the Sports Centre, Computer Centre, Senate House and new student residences. Work began on the Arts Centre in 1970, with the first phase including a theatre, studio theatre, music centre, bookshop and conference room. The development of the campus took a new direction with the introduction of the new Social Studies buildings in the mid 70’s, buildings which marked a move away from the earlier, boxier style of construction.

Student Unrest

Student unrest characterised much of University life across the UK during the 1970s. The student body at Warwick were active in protests throughout the decade. A rent strike in Spring 1975 resulted in a month long occupation of Senate House during the summer term. A year later the Student Union was protesting at increases in catering prices – a budget meal went up from 30p to 32p. Warwick students were active in the anti-racism protests towards the end of the 70s.

Students' Union meeting - early 1970s
Students' Union meeting - early 1970s

The growth of student democracy on campus was best demonstrated with the building of the Students Union, which opened in 1974. Previously there had been no formal Union building, though a large inflatable building had been used for student events.

Developing departments

The development of the campus was matched by the growth of the academic teaching and research departments. In 1970 proposals were put forward for new departments in Theatre Studies, Latin and Classical Studies, Psychology, Applied Social Studies and Statistics. Discussions began in 1974 for the merger of the University with the neighbouring College of Education. The merger was finally completed in 1978 and greatly improved the involvement in continuing community education and enhanced the University’s commitment to the region.

By the late 1970s the University was introducing courses in Film and Literature, Computer Systems Engineering and exploring the opportunities for continuing education and support for business and industry. Work began in 1979 on the conversion of Arden House to become a residential post-experience centre with the intention to provide self-financing courses in engineering and other disciplines.

University of Warwick Campus, 1976
University of Warwick Campus, 1976

Sudden Cuts

The growth of the University was managed against a background of financial concerns and an international monetary crisis. The inflation crisis of 1974/75 undermined the long term planning process but by the end of 1977 the financial situation for the University was beginning to brighten. Undergraduate applications were increasing by 20% in 1977 and numbers were expected to grow further into the 1980s. The change of Government in 1979 dramatically changed the outlook for Universities. Instead of growth Warwick now faced dramatic cuts and a reduction in expected student numbers, undermining the financial planning for the early part of the next decade.