The University of Nottingham has a long history. From it's origins as Nottingham's first civic college in 1881, it's move to University Park in 1921, to gaining Royal Charter and becoming The University of Nottingham in 1948, as the university has grown the Faculty of Engineering has grown with it.
The existing Pope and Coates buildings, on University Park Campus, are named after Professor Joseph Pope and Professor Rex Coates, pictured right.
For more information about the history of the university in general, please visit a brief history of the university.
Professor Joseph Pope
Professor Reginald 'Rex' Coates
History of the Faculty: Professor Stephen Brown
Professor Stephen Brown has written two documents about the history of the faculty:
- Looking back: The Life and Times of the University of Nottingham Engineering Graduates Association, 1957 - 1972
- Engineering at Nottingham: A Fifty-Three Year Personal Reflection
To request either a PDF or paper copy of either of these documents, please contact Alumni Relations (see below):
A history of Engineering at Nottingham
In the early 1900’s, a flourishing Nottinghamshire coal industry led to a demand for quality part and full-time training and education provision and so, in 1910, the first, fully independent engineering department, the Department of Mining Engineering, was established in Shakespeare Street in the centre of Nottingham. A Department of Mechanical Engineering was also established around the same time, charging a termly fee of approximately £6.
Britain’s industrial revolutions and world wars have each, in their turn, ushered in new ages where the demand for greater technological advances has gone hand-in-hand with an ever-increasing thirst for knowledge and hunger for innovation. A century later and these traits continue to drive engineering at Nottingham into new and unchartered territory. From Global Positioning Systems to clean energy generation, solar-powered homes, advanced material development, our engineers lead the world’s thinking.
Over the last 100 years several names have become synonymous with engineering at Nottingham – names like Bulleid, Cotton, Hinsley and, of course, Pope and Coates. The last two great academics are commemorated in the names of two Faculty buildings on University Park.
During World War One, men and women were trained in the University College workshops on munitions work and Professor Bulleid of the Engineering Department was released to become Chief Engineer of the Admiralty School of Mines at Portsmouth.
Above: Bomb damage to the Shakespeare Street building, 1941. This building remained in use after the departure of most departments to Highfields.
After the First World War it was widely recognised that well-endowed and equipped universities could give a lead to their local industries in the discovery of new methods and processes. A big influx of day and evening students followed (by 1922 there were 100 engineering students) leading to the creation of the Faculty of Applied Science and later a School of Architecture and Department of Electrical Engineering in 1931.
The move to the University College’s new home at Highfields was delayed due to space problems and it was not until after the electrical engineering laboratories were opened in 1932 followed quickly by blocks to house civil and mechanical engineering, that engineering was embedded into the full life of the college and its relatively new surroundings.
Engineers found themselves in the front line of the war effort again from 1940-45 and it was members of the engineering and mining department who ran courses and instructed army personnel in fitting, turning, carpentry, joinery and blacksmith work. They also carried out valuable scientific military research to help the nation’s war effort. Post-war engineering students, many of them ex-servicemen, found themselves at the forefront of innovation as their country demanded more graduates in science and technology subjects to spearhead the reconstruction of British industry.
Engineering and technology were given new direction by a new Professor of Engineering at Nottingham, J A Pope, who was appointed (as Professor of Engineering) in 1949. This was shortly after the University College Nottingham was awarded its royal charter and became The University of Nottingham, enabling the University to confer degrees in its own name.
Above: The University Air Squadron flies over the campus, late 1950s
This was shortly after the University College Nottingham was awarded its royal charter and became The University of Nottingham, enabling the University to confer degrees in its own name. The Faculty of Applied Science at the time consisted of: the Departments of Mechanical and Civil Engineering (both under the direction of Prof Bulleid), the Department of Electrical Engineering, and the Department of Mining and Fuels.
It was Professor Sir Joseph Pope, who laid the foundations for the success of the modern Faculty that we know today. Pope believed that all engineering students should be brought together and taught the fundamental principles which applied to all branches of engineering. He also believed that the credibility of academic engineers hinged on their participation in the real industrial world. He established night classes and summer schools for local engineers to update their knowledge of relevant engineering processes.
Above: Members of the Engineering Society, 1959-60
Under Pope new areas of engineering opened up including metallurgy, and chemical engineering and the study of aeronautics and atomic energy. By the time he left in 1960 there were 352 full-time students in the Faculty of Applied Science including 60 postgraduates and he had overseen a major building expansion programme which included T1 and T2 (which later became the Pope and Coates buildings) and the Tower Block. T1 was to be a common first year teaching building and T2, a common second and third year teaching building.
By 1965 the number of undergraduates in the Faculty of Applied Science had doubled as engineering had branched into new areas (the Faculty of Applied Science eventually became the Faculty of Engineering in 1980). The Production Engineering Department was created a year later – its undergraduate course was the first of its kind in the country – and a new Department of Theoretical Mechanics welcomed its first students in 1964. Rex Coates became the first Professor of Civil Engineering at Nottingham in 1958 and developed it into one of the most dynamic and successful departments in the UK, noted for its entrepreneurial activities in successfully winning financial support from industry and commerce. It was Coates’ initial interest in surveying which led to Nottingham developing a specialism in space geodesy and ultimately to the Institute of Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy (IESSG) in 1988, now a globally renowned research centre housed in the new Nottingham Geospatial Building which was formally opened on the University Innovation Park opposite Jubilee Campus in 2009.
By the 1970s and 80s the Department of Mining Engineering had developed an international reputation and, with the continued support of the National Coal Board, it developed into a world-class centre of mining research, establishing itself as one of the most popular department’s of mining engineering in Britain. But traditional industry at home was suffering and this was an era dominated by new technologies in aerospace, microelectronics, computers, telecommunications. This led to an explosion in engineering research at Nottingham in the 1970s and 80s as new research centres developed to match modern industrial needs.
Above: Naming of Pope and Coates Buildings in the early 1990’s (Right to left: S F Brown, P S Pell, R C Coates, J A Pope, G Warburton, B C Clayton)
Engineering education came of age and departments took on new activities and foci. Joint Honours degree programmes with other engineering departments began to be offered and the number of postgraduates increased year on year.
Long-standing research collaborations with international industry have characterised engineering at the University throughout its history – whether it be collaborations with the Ford Motor Co or Rolls-Royce or the Pavement Research Group’s 50-year plus relationship with the energy and petrochemical giant Shell. During the 1970s Ford sponsored several research projects at Nottingham, a collaboration which led to the design and development of a range of engines that powered Ford cars and trucks for the next 30 years. Indeed, an increasingly entrepreneurial approach was adopted by departments such as Civil Engineering during the 1970s as the government of the day encouraged greater commercial exploitation of scientific and technological research.
The pace of change continued into the 21st century. In 2006 the University became the home of two Doctoral Training Centres (DTC) to support the training and research of the next generation of elite engineers. Today’s engineers and architects are leading the fields in a range of innovations including carbon capture and storage, low-energy buildings, geospatial science and polymer composite developments.