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Coleraine at 50
Ken Ward recollections

Ken Ward recollections

Ken Ward was one of the first members of staff at Coleraine. He started in 1968 as an assistant lecturer in history, when the first building was known as ‘Phase One’.

After a long, rewarding career at the university, Ken retired as a senior lecturer 15 years ago.

Ken was involved in starting Communication Studies in 1978, which developed into the successful Media Studies programme.

He has many things to say about his time at Coleraine, but we picked out the best bits from these three key questions:

What is your most enduring/standout memory of life at the Coleraine campus?

“Many people don't know about this, but it has to be the fire in the chimneys in 1973, and being awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998.”

The tower block was originally built to support the chimneys, which, rumour has it, were made of wood inside. The boilers are under the podium, below the steps of the main building.

Ken said:

The fire started in the evening and they just went up.  Once the fire had started, naturally the lifts stopped working. People couldn't get down, and they couldn't get down the stairs either, because the chimneys were alight outside.

People made their way to the other side of the building to find that the doors were locked for security reasons.

Ken reflects that they were “extremely lucky” that no lives were lost and everyone got out. Travelling from Portstewart to Coleraine, Ken saw the chimneys alight from beyond the campus.

What was the best thing about working at the campus?

Collegiality and innovation.

Ken explained how Coleraine had a great sense of collegiality, he said:

It wasn’t just colleagues in your own department, it was working with colleagues in other departments, technical staff, and the administration. In Phase One we were all together for three years and you knew people who were scientists and economists in the Education Centre. There were a whole range of people you knew and got on with.

Innovation was the other highlight for Ken, which in a way, changed his whole experience of his working life. Ken explained:

Looking at it now, it was relatively easy to think about how to develop your courses.

He also spoke about how the University started out with a lot of new courses such as Environmental Studies, and a whole range of new areas which were new to UK universities.

Alongside two others, Ken was able to start Communication Studies which is now known as Media Studies.

He explained how it came together:

John Izod taught English and had an interest in film and film theory. For the production side of the subject we teamed up with Des Cranston – he had been involved in television and taught in the Education Centre which housed the TV studio, so the three of us came together and started this course.

Ken taught the ‘History of the Media’ and ‘Introduction to Media Studies’ which combined theory with history.

He said:

It was very much a case of learning as one went along – and as the course developed, specialists in all the fields were appointed.

What are your hopes for the campus as we look to the future?

The community

Ken hopes that the University will continue to ‘engage with the community’. He said:

It should have a relationship with the local population which essentially continues to see it as ‘their’ University.

Ken believes that the University should offer its resources to benefit others outside the campus. He finished by saying:

Looking to the future, the Coleraine campus will have to juggle its role in Ulster University and its link with the community - not an easy task, but I wish it well.

Interview by Coleraine@50 student ambassador, Lauren Wilson.

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