Looking back at the history of Angus College

Royal Visit: Her Majesty The Queen opened the brand new Community Access and Learning Centre in 2004. Her Majesty is pictured accompanied by Principal John Burt
Royal Visit: Her Majesty The Queen opened the brand new Community Access and Learning Centre in 2004. Her Majesty is pictured accompanied by Principal John Burt

With today (Friday) being the ‘vesting day’ of the new Dundee and Angus College now is a good time to look back at the history of Angus College

The first time Angus College opened its doors, Britain was embroiled in the Suez crisis and a brand new Ford Zephyr could be driven out of the showroom for £900.

The year was 1956 and at that time it was known as the Arbroath Further Education Centre and had been opened in response to demand from local engineering firms needing day release classes for their apprentices.

It wasn’t a glamorous start. Classes were held in a two roomed tenement flat in the town’s Ogilvy Place. The only heat came from coal fires and the students were supplied with soft shoes as many only had one pair of winter boots.

As for canteen facilities, they had to rely on a student picking up some bridies on the way in.

Bert Gillespie, one of the first lecturers said: “It was an exciting time. Obviously with only two rooms it was very difficult to teach the practical side of engineering, however we managed somehow, although it wasn’t long before we were a victim of our own success with demand for classes far exceeding our capacity.”

By the 1960s the college had expanded into a specially constructed site behind the then Arbroath High School and by 1975 courses had expanded to cover agriculture and trades of all descriptions.

The first female staff and students arrived shortly after thanks to the establishment of the department of commerce and general studies.

Technological advances saw the first microcomputers installed in 1979 and evening classes started to take advantage of the interest in them.

Under Margaret Thatcher’s education and employment policies, the college expanded to cope with an influx of apprentices and by the end of the decade the old high school had been completely refurbished and renamed the Isla and Esk buildings.

Further expansion in the 1990s saw outreach centres established throughout Angus in Montrose, Forfar, Brechin and Kirriemuir.

A new millennium brought new ideas and with John Burt at the helm a vision was formed to make Angus College the best community college in Scotland.

Students numbers increased 50 per cent, international links were forged across three continents, and Eastern European and distance learning students enrolled.

The Saltire Centre was expanded in a joint project with Angus Council, a new construction facility, a Learning Skills Zone and departmental upgrades were all undertaken with the crowning achievement being the opening of the Community Access and Learning Centre by Her Majesty the Queen.

In recognition of his efforts principal John Burt received an OBE and was also named as Angus Ambassador in 2004.

By the end of the decade Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education had given the college a statement of complete confidence in all areas and The Times had named them best educational employer in Scotland in the Top 100 Companies Awards.

John Burt concluded: “Nothing surpasses the achievements of our students- with well above national average outcomes and an outstanding record in winning national awards. This is both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.”