THE University of Bradford is preparing to mark half a century since it first opened its doors, becoming an integral part of the city in the process.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson, also the first chancellor at the University, helped open the institution in 1966 although it has been part of Bradford in different forms since the early 1800s.

With the 50th anniversary coming up, the University threw open its archives, including images of the early days, to the Telegraph & Argus.

A series of events, including lectures, awards ceremonies and dinners, will mark the 50th anniversary during 2016.

Based in the centre of Bradford, off Great Horton Road, the university has become a major part of Bradford life.

When it first opened it had just 2,694 full time students - now it has over 15,000 studying in the UK and overseas.

Over the years it has achieved many accolades - in the 1970s it became the first university in the world to set up a Peace Studies department.

And just this summer it was chosen to host the British Science Festival, which attracted thousands of people and hundreds of academics to the university.

The University's forebear, The Mechanics Institute, was founded in 1832 in response to the need in the city for workers with cutting-edge skills relevant to the workplace.

Competition from Europe meant Bradford's workforce had to up its game, and the institute was an important part of this. The institute became Bradford Technical College in 1882, and almost as soon as it was set up there was a desire for it to become a university.

In 1957 the college split, one side going on to become Bradford College and the other focusing on higher education and becoming the Bradford Institute of Technology.

Nine years later the institute was given its University charter.

Construction of the Richmond Building, the largest building on campus, began in 1963 near the institute, and the campus was built on an area of city centre occupied by run down housing.

Alison Cullingford, who runs the special collections library at the University, said: "At the same time there were a lot of universities coming into existence. Higher education suddenly went massive. There had been a desire for the college to become a university for some time.

"While some universities were built from scratch, we had been here for a log time, mostly with the same staff. It was just a matter of changing buildings.

"For a while there were discussions whether the University would set up a totally new campus on land in Tong, or even in Harrogate.

"Where the campus spread to used to be houses, the council was on board and bulldozed them to allow the university to grow, although the houses were already in quite a bad state."

She said originally there was much more student accommodation on campus, but as this has gradually moved off campus the university has become a much greener place. This year its open spaces were recognised with a Green Flag award, normally presented to parks, for its landscaped campus.

In the university's early years its main strength was engineering, but as the years went on it branched out, and in 1973 opened its Peace Studies department.

In 1996, the university joined with the former Bradford and Airedale College of Health, which then became the School of Health Studies within the university.

The university today has students from 150 countries, and Mrs Cullingford said there has always been a large international presence on campus.

She said: "The university has always been very cosmopolitan, and in the earliest days there was a large Irish and German presence.

"We've never had the typical student make up - 18 year old middle class students moving away from home. We have a lot of local students who live and study in Bradford and lots of international students.

"We've never seen international students as a cash cow, we've been inviting them to study here long before many other universities were and we don't charge them huge amounts of money to study here.

"The university and the city of Bradford are intertwined, they stand and fall together. When the city has bad publicity it effects. When there were the Bradford riots it put off a lot of students from studying in the city.

"I think the city needs the university, and the university needs the city."

Professor Brian Cantor, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “Our 50th anniversary is a significant milestone in our history and development.

"Over the last 50 years we have established a reputation as one of the world’s great technology universities, committed to delivering professional and vocational courses with great job prospects for our graduates, and to doing cutting-edge applied research that improves people’s lives directly.

"We believe fiercely in ‘Making Knowledge Work’. We look forward to maintaining and enhancing our contribution to society over the next 50 years.”