[Uni Crest] A Brief History

The University of Leicester

A University college was established at Leicester as a memorial to the men of Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland who had served in the First World War. In 1919 Mr. T Fielding Johnson, a local worsted manufacturer, presented as an endowment to the College the site and the building which now bears his name. This building, originally the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum, of grey brick in the late Georgian style, dates from 1837. In 1907 it ceased to be used for its initial purpose, and during the First World War was commissioned as the 5th Northern General (Military) Hospital. A generation later in the Second World War it shared its accommodation with King's College of Household and Social Science (subsequently Queen Elizabeth's College, University of London), and for varying periods also with the BBC Home Guard, Civil Defence Service, Fighting French Committee and British Council.

Since 1945 adjoining and nearby sites along University Road have been acquired and developed, mainly for teaching and research but also for a new library, social and sports facilities, and the Students' Union. The buildings, in styles of architecture ranging from the neo-Georgian to the most contemporary, now form a conspicuous group on the skyline of Leicester, standing as they do on one of the highest points about a mile to the south of the city centre. Hand in hand with developments on the main site, halls and self-catering units for residential purposes have been developed at Oadby (by the University's Botanic Garden), Knighton, and on the Freemen's Common site in Welford Road, making available in all around 4,000 student places.

The first students - all ladies - were admitted in 1921, a class of nine of whom one was later to become University Librarian. Until 1945 the College remained a small society of about 100 students. With the end of the War, however, and the recognition of the College by the University Grants Committee, every aspect of its life began to develop rapidly. Since its inception the College had been linked with the University of London, its students reading for the external degrees of that University. On 1 May 1957 a Royal Charter of Incorporation was sealed "constituting and founding a University within the City and County of Leicester under the style and title of The University of Leicester". To a solid academic base in the Arts, Sciences, and Social Sciences there have since been added, most notably, the professional schools of Engineering, Law, Education and Medicine.

Growth has also brought with it change and adaptation: today's campus is very different from that familiar to the early founders. There are today at the University around 6,750 full-time undergraduates and 1,750 full-time postgraduates plus 880 part-time students. A further 2,800 students are now studying in the UK or overseas for postgraduate degrees by distance learning. Citizens of more than seventy countries study or work here, whilst the development of links with countries in Europe offers students opportunities to study and travel there as part of their undergraduate programmes.

Finally, students at Leicester study in and experience the atmosphere of a major research university. It was at Leicester that genetic fingerprinting was discovered. Its techniques and development have revolutionised forensic medicine and large parts of biological science. The University's studies of football hooliganism are known nationally and much valued by all tackling those problems. The Physics and Astronomy Department houses the largest Space Research group in Europe, whilst research into labour markets and employment is used extensively by government departments, trade unions and employers. These examples illustrate the ways in which undergraduate teaching is enhanced by the research activities of staff in all departments throughout the University.

The University is held in high academic regard and has an international reputation for research in a wide range of areas. It is particularly active in areas of intellectual enquiry which relate to topics of great importance and potential as we approach the twenty-first century: biological sciences, space physics, environmental issues, mass communication, social problems and medical research.

The University's Motto

Ut Vitam Habeant. Let Them Have Life.

[Leicester University]
Last updated: 06 October 1998 17:35
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