John Fulton became Principal of the University College of Swansea in 1947. As Swansea was a constituent college of the University of Wales, it had a Principal and not a Vice-chancellor, although the four principals took turns to act as overall Vice-chancellor of the University of Wales. Despite the difference in title, the role of Principal was very important. Fulton, for example, was the driving force behind some of the major changes that took place in Swansea during his twelve years in post.

Fulton was known for his energy, charm and persuasive skills. He was Scottish and had been educated at the University of St. Andrew’s and Balliol College, Oxford. During the war, he worked for the government. In the corridors of power he made friends with William Beveridge (author of the report that led to the post-war welfare state) and the future Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson and Fulton admired each other’s sharp minds.

A black and white photo of John Fulton taken in the 1950s

Fulton was also part of a group of scholars who were in the process of re-thinking the purpose and role of higher education and universities in the post-war years. During his tenure as Swansea’s Principal, Fulton changed the way students were taught, encouraging them to study more widely to broaden their minds. The scheme he introduced that is most often cited is the Fresher’s Essay, where first year students had to write something on a topic they were unfamiliar with before reading it to a tutor. Fulton himself often acted in that tutor role, inviting small groups of student into his study for tea and biscuits. He also put in place plans to expand the University site through Singleton Park. Many of the buildings that exist on the site today, which were built in the early 1960s, were part of Fulton’s plan for a bigger and better University. When he died in 1986, the centre-piece of this new campus, College House, was named in his honour, and it continues to be called Fulton House to this day.

An aerial photo of the building of College House in the 1950s

Building College House, c.1950s. © Victor Hopkins

A black and white photo of College/Fulton house in front of residences

College House1960s

Students sat at tables in the common room in College House in the 1960s

Common Room, College House, c.1960s. © John Maltby

The material is courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.