Then and now: From floppy disks to webchat, we look at how life for UWE students has changed

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black and white photo of student at computer circa 1979

From a time when Frenchay Campus’ only computer room boasted just ten ‘computer terminals’, it’s safe to say things have changed.

Many of UWE Bristol’s campuses opened back in the 1960s and 70s as Bristol Polytechnic. During the past five decades the facilities available for students use have drastically changed. From word processing to digital technology, we take a look at how life for our students has transformed over the years. 

Teaching facilities transformed

From science, sound and nursing to filmmaking and fashion, how we teach and the equipment we use has changed greatly over the years.  We’ve gone into our archives and matched up some before and after pictures from across our faculties to highlight some of the changes that have reshaped how students learn.

Midwife training, 1997 prospectus
Midwife training 2022 with simulated newborn mannequin on replica ward at our Skills and Simulation Centre at Glenside Campus

Fashion studio in 1980
Fashion studio in 2010
Film and TV studio in 1979
Film and TV studio in 2018
The audio room in 1979
The sound studio in 2018
The building of Frenchay’s science department
Biology students in the lab in 1980
Biology students in the lab in 2020

‘Computer Appreciation’

From a 1989 prospectus

Back in 1979 we ran one course on computer programming and one named ‘Computer Appreciation’. Frenchay Campus possessed one ‘line printer’, a ‘graph plotter’ and ten computer terminals.

The Frenchay computer room 1979

From Xerox machines, floppy disks and CD ROMs to artificial intelligence and smart technologies, things have certainly moved forward. Who remembers the sound of an AOL dial up, or when we were excited about the information superhighway?

The Frenchay computer room 1980

Nowadays laptops, smart screens and open-access learning spaces proliferate. There’s a whole department dedicated to Computer Science and Creative technologies. We run an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, a BSc in Digital Media and MSc Cyber Security to name just a few.

Systems Analysis course 1979

Computer room in 1995

Sport through the years

Long before Frenchay Campus’ Centre for Sport opened in 2006, the all-weather hockey pitch was one of the campus’ original features and the only place to go to play team sports. Now students have access to an array of state-of-the-art sports facilities including the Centre for Sport and Hillside Gardens, which provides two artificial floodlit pitches, undercover seating for spectators and dugouts.

Frenchay Campus hockey pitch in the 1970’s
The hockey pitch in 1975
Frenchay campus astro pitch in 2014

Hillside Gardens in the late 2010’s (part of Frenchay Campus)

The changing face of our best loved library

At the heart of student life, Bolland Library is an original feature and has been on Frenchay campus since its completion in 1975. In 1980 the library held over 100,000 volumes and subscribed to over 12,000 journals, now the library has around 165,000 volumes and 249,000 electronic journals.

Bolland library in 1979 and 1995.
Two students studying individually, 1982.
A student uses the microfilm reader, 1982.

In recent years the library has had around £1.9 million investment. Now there are ways to read the books of Bolland Library without even setting foot in it. With the database of access to online resources, over half a million books and e-books can be consumed remotely.

Tell us your story

What facilities did you use as a student or staff? Have things developed much since you were at UWE? What do you remember most vividly?  

We’d love to hear your stories. Tell us what you’re doing now, share an old photo.

You can get in touch through our memories form or post on social media – tag us and use #30yearsofUWE

Seriously good prizes for a great cause

Play our 30th anniversary prize draw for your chance to win one of 30 fantastic prizes, kindly donated from alumni and the wider UWE Bristol community.

100% of funds raised from ticket sales will go to the UWE Bristol Fund to support Student Hardship Grants.

Buy a ticket and find out more about other ways we’re celebrating 30 years of being a University.

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