Northumbria University - What Could Have Been (Allegedly)
DISCLAIMER: The author of this page takes no responsibility for the accuracy of this story. It may be true or may just be a story. The only fact known for sure is that local television picked up on a version of the story back in 1992, when Newcastle Polytechnic was converting to a University.
The Misnaming Incident
It’s 1992 and Newcastle Polytechnic has decided to follow other polytechnics in the United Kingdom and become a University. It’s looking for a new name to reflect its location, however, there is already a ‘University of Newcastle upon Tyne’ (anecdotally referred to as ‘The Other Place’) and this name cannot be used. Thus suggestions are invited and a firm favourite with the new Chancellor is ‘City University of Newcastle upon Tyne’. Even when it’s rumoured the new name has been suggested by a student from ‘The Other Place’, it sounds a perfectly good name and besides, there’s a lot of work needed for the changeover to worry too much about the name.
What could have been (???).
So all the stationary for the new university is prepared and signs are made to replace the old polytechnic signs around campus (the situation is literally workmen with screwdrivers and drills in hand), the cost of which can only be guessed at. The Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is informed and the new ‘City University of Newcastle upon Tyne’ is ready to start receiving applications from students for the coming year.
A sudden look of horror suddenly comes across the faces of senior staff when it is pointed out to them what the initials of the new university would be with the favoured name. Whether it was another (or the same) student from ‘The Other Place’ pointing it out or a last minute call from UCAS noting that the code designation for the new university would be ‘C.*.N.T.’ is unclear. However, the name ‘City University of Newcastle upon Tyne’ was quickly dropped, especially when the name change was reported on local television. The name ‘University of Northumbria’ was hit upon just in time for forms to go out and UCAS to start accepting applications.
There was a follow-up problem in that no one knew where the ‘University of Northumbria’ was, hence there was another hurried alteration and for the next ten years the new university was known as ‘University of Northumbria at Newcastle’. Only in 2002 did the current name of ‘Northumbria University’ come into use alongside the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Blinking Eye) style logo.
No-one knows what happened to all the stationary or signs that were prepared, as these apparently disappeared without a trace. The tale was not talked about by senior staff at the university and many see the story as an urban myth rather than actual fact, so effective was the cleaning up exercise so the story goes. However, over a coffee or a pint, the story still continues to be told.
However, one can only imagine what would have happened had the initials of the new university’s name had not been pointed out. Imagine all those students receiving their degrees and potential employers noting the initials come Milk Round (job application) time. “So you’ve got a 2(i) from ‘C.*.N.T.’?” they might have thought to themselves.
This is more about one of those all too human blunders we are all capable of making and not spotting, because we’re too busy, too many things on our mind or simply we somehow don’t see what is in front of our own eyes. Even the brightest of us can miss the blindingly obvious!!!
It has to be pointed out that this is not a go at a university where many people have had a very good education, a really good student experience and has largely handled itself in a very professional manner in its dealings with students, local industry and funding organisations. The fact it is a multiple winner of the Sunday Times 'Best New University' award speaks for itself. (Click 'HERE'' for more on Northumbria University.)
Other Universities that nearly came a cropper!!!
If tales are to be believed, Northumbria was not the only University to nearly come a cropper (think of the initials here).
Trent Polytechnic eventually became Nottingham Trent University, however, rumour has it that it was nearly named City University of Nottingham on Trent.
Portsmouth Polytechnic became University of Portsmouth, however, South Hampshire Institute of Technology was also allegedly considered (possibly suggested by University of Southampton students).
In 2013, The "University of Newcastle upon Tyne" tried to trademark "Central University of Newcastle upon Tyne" and "Research University of Newcastle upon Tyne", but stopped in the nick of time when it was realised they'd be nicknamed "C*nts and Runts". This is all the more surprising given Northumbria University's above discussed naming problems 21 years before - this Huffington Post article has more information. So Northumbria University's rival in Newcastle does not escape the misnaming bug.
Meanwhile in Argentina, I wonder if the Universidad de Morón's academics realise how their institute's name reads in English? I guess the name is unintentional negative advertising!!!
And there's more...
Northumbria University allegedly got the nickname the 'Transvestite University' during the 1990s due to three members of staff at the time undergoing gender reassignment treatment. One of the gents opting for the chop allegedly came across as a pretty convincing and attractive redhead. The curiosity aroused amongst students also led to one class being led by one having 60 students turning up at the beginning of the term when there were only 30 students enrolled on the course.
Northumbria also came a cropper when a student experiment on the effects of caffeine led to 30 grams of pure white caffeine powder being measured out instead of 0.3 grams. Thankfully, I'm glad to say no-one suffered permanent damage from that experiment - once again, the Huffington Post has more information.