The year man walked on the moon and Teesside gained a poly
IT was the year the world was astounded by images of Neil Armstrong stepping tentatively on the surface of the moon and uttering those unforgettable words: “One small step for man … One giant leap for mankind”.
Back on Earth, 1969 also saw Constantine College become designated as Teesside Polytechnic. Maybe, not quite so earth-shattering, but still a significant step for higher education in Middlesbrough.
While some greeted the change as second best to gaining university status – that had to wait another 23 years - there was no doubting the ambition of the first principal, Dr John Houghton. He wanted to replace the years of consolidation and gradual expansion, which had been the hallmark of the Constantine College years, with rapid growth and a greater national profile.
When the new polytechnic was born in 1969-70, student numbers were hovering around the 3,000 mark. Dr Houghton wanted these to grow to between 6,000 and 8,000 students as soon as practical.
And while the support of local businesses remained important, the new polytechnic was also attracting students from a far wider social background and from a wider geographical area as it moved away from purely technical studies and into areas of personal development and liberal studies.
Increasing numbers of students also meant pressure on student accommodation and teaching facilities - and this became a central theme during the 1970s.
Acutely aware of the problems they faced, a ten-year plan of building and expansion was pushed through, at an estimated cost, then, of £1m.
Major redevelopment included the building of a tower block on the side of the original Constantine College building and a 100-unit hall of residence.
The college actually changed its name twice in the 1960s, first to the Constantine College of Technology, and then to Teesside Polytechnic.
The 1970s were not without their challenges as Dr Michael Longfield, who took over as director of the polytechnic was very aware. For despite building on its earlier reputation in the field of high-quality technical education and introducing new degrees in areas like computing, Dr Longfield felt there was a lack of understanding of what a polytechnic was meant to be in some quarters.
Looking back in 2002 at how things turned out, Dr Longfield recalled: “The Polytechnic came to be regarded by many within the local education authority as an over-ambitious technical college that was trying to live beyond its means and status”.
Matters came to a head in 1978 when the then Council of the National Academic Awards (CNAA) visited the polytechnic. The CNAA made it clear that, if the polytechnic was to continue in recognition as an establishment fitted to award CNAA agrees, the local education authority would have to change its policy and take positive remedial action without delay.