Barking campus built to cope with newcomers
THE OLD East London University campus in Longbridge Road, Barking, now known as Academy Central, will soon boast some of the borough s most contemporary flats. But when the land was first acquired around 1919 there was no intention of building a college
THE OLD East London University campus in Longbridge Road, Barking, now known as Academy Central, will soon boast some of the borough's most contemporary flats.
But when the land was first acquired around 1919 there was no intention of building a college there.
It was bought as part of one of the largest housing projects in Europe, the Becontree Estate, which was every bit as contemporary then as the Taylor Wimpey development is sure to be when it is opens in the future.
The London County Council purchased the 3,000 acres we know as the Becontree Estate, between 1919 and 1921, to provide housing for the working classes.
But there were hardly any schools for such a massive population, as people moved from the impoverished streets of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green to the clean country air of Dagenham.
By the 1930s the situation was getting out of hand and it was finally recognised that families needed more schools and colleges for further education in a hurry.
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London County Council dealt solely with housing, so between 1931 and 1946, it gave 24 acres of land to Essex County Council as the education authority.
The land, on the western edge of the estate, was specifically for secondary schooling, and became known as the Barking Campus.
Essex County Council built and opened a technical college and a secondary school in Longbridge Road, although the secondary school later moved to its own site in 1960.
In 1965 the college was renamed the Barking Regional College of Technology and the newly formed London Borough of Barking Council became the education authority.
After the council applied to the Department of Education in 1967, along with two other boroughs, the Barking Campus became part of the North-East London Polytechnic (NELP).
Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest and Newham were finally given the go ahead on July 15 1969.
It was the rise of the middle classes during the 60s that really kick-started the idea that higher education really was for everyone and not just for the privileged few.
The 'golden age' of student grants was just beginning.
In 1960 a national system was introduced whereby every student enrolling on a degree course for the first time became eligible for a grant towards tuition fees and maintenance.
Young people could now afford to choose a university away from home and the whole experience of higher education changed forever.
Many years after the NELP was formed, Waltham Forest withdrew from the agreement, and in 1986 Barking and Dagenham and Newham decided they would employ all the staff at the Polytechnic.
Then in November 1988 NELP became a Higher Education Corporation and was no longer funded by Barking and Dagenham and Newham councils.
It was renamed the Polytechnic of East London in April 1989 and then the University of East London on June 16 1992.
At the start of the autumn term 1999, a third site for the University, the Docklands Campus overlooking the Royal Albert Dock, was opened.
Adding to the university's sites in Longbridge Road, Barking and Romford Road, Stratford.
By the end of 2006, UEL was holding all its academic studies at campuses in Docklands and Stratford, and the Barking campus was closed.
UEL is, however, a partner in the nearby Barking Learning Centre.
The Barking campus is now being redeveloped for housing by Taylor Wimpey under the name "Academy Central" and promises to be one of the most environmentally friendly places in the borough to live.
The developers have kept the old building exactly as it was on the outside to preserve this fantastic piece of the borough's history.