[Press and Publications] Milestone for the University of Leicester [80th Anniversary]

October 2001

No 136



  • The University of Leicester celebrates its 80th Anniversary during this academic year the University College admitted its first nine students, all women, on October 4, 1921.

    Now, with more than 17,000 students, the University is rated in the top 20 in national league tables and has an international reputation for its teaching and research. The University is famed for such revolutionary discoveries as DNA genetic fingerprinting and for its world-class research in subjects including physics and astronomy and archaeology.

    Leicester now stands as Britain's largest provider of postgraduate education - a far cry from those early days when students gathered for their first lectures.

    Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Burgess said: "The University of Leicester is entering a new era in its history.

    "Our 80th anniversary marks a watershed in our development an opportunity to reflect upon our achievements, to celebrate our successes and to build for the future.

    "In this context, we are pleased to announce a £31 million expansion and improvement plan, creating two new buildings which will house centres of excellence in biomedical research, space science and mathematics.

    Coupled with this development is the creation of new laboratories and purchase of new equipment that will advance the University's standing in areas such as heart research, green technology, archaeology and chemistry.

    Eminent figures including Lord Puttnam, Sir Harry Kroto, Paul Boateng and Sir John Stevens among others will deliver lectures at the University and, on November 12 in the presence of Lord Attenborough, the hall in the Richard Attenborough Centre a unique centre for the arts and education - will be named after Diana, Princess of Wales in memory of her visit to the University in 1997.

    The University has attracted a record number of students who will begin their courses during the Anniversary year. More than 4,000 students will start at the University, including some 2,400 undergraduates more than 400 more than last year.

    The University has achieved a record run of Excellent scores from external assessors for its teaching. In the last three years, every subject assessed has been rated excellent. Research income has topped £33million for the first time.

    The University has grown and developed over the 80 years and is now one of the county's biggest employers with an annual turnover of over £130 million. There are more than 220 undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and outstanding departments in Law, the Arts and Humanities, Social, Physical and Biological Sciences, Medicine and Education.

    The University also houses 45 specialist centres as well as National centres of excellence and the School of Historical Studies is one of the largest centres of its type in England and Wales. The pioneering departments of English Local History and Museum Studies are the only postgraduate departments of their kind in the world and the Centre for Mass Communication Research is one of the oldest centres in the field.

    Among the plans for the year are:

  • An 80s retro night in the Students' Union
  • An Anniversary Dinner on October 4
  • Civic Receptions
  • A live three-hour broadcast by BBC Radio Leicester
  • Special Anniversary Lectures
  • Art exhibitions and concerts
  • Sports challenges
  • The BA Science Festival
  • Reunions
  • The programme of 80th Anniversary Events is listed at www.le.ac.uk. A History of the University of Leicester follows.

    For more information, please contact the Press Office on 0116 252 2415.


    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, 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, 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 women – 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 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 schools of Engineering, Law, Education and Medicine.

    The University has established itself as a prominent member of the international academic community and has worldwide links in teaching and research. It is world-renowned for the discovery of the revolutionary technique of DNA genetic fingerprinting and houses the biggest university-based space research group in Europe. Leicester’s Centre for English Local History is also world famous and has resulted in excellent specialist resources in the University.

    The University is committed to offering an extensive programme of undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses which are firmly rooted in a strong research culture. The research environment has a major influence on the quality of teaching and contributed to the University achieving excellent scores in the three national teaching quality assessments conducted this academic year, which involved subjects offered at Leicester.

    During the past decade the University has experienced a period of significant growth, particularly in respect of postgraduate students. There are now more than 17,000 students registered on degree programmes with 55% of these registered for postgraduate qualifications. In addition, the University offers a wide range of continuing education and professional development programmes. Students from more than 100 countries are currently studying at the University.

    The University works closely with business and industry and, particularly in the field of Medicine, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, has established links with company research and development programmes- eg Rolls Royce. It has and international reputation for research in a wide range of areas. As a consequence academic staff of the University act as advisers to governments in Britain and overseas and to a wide range other organisations.

    The University recognises the importance of developing the campus. Recent years have seen the opening of new teaching and research buildings, a new sports pavilion at the University playing fields in Oadby, major refurbishment of halls of residence, the Student Health Centre and a new health and fitness club. It is intended to commence two major building projects for biomedical research and for the physical sciences later this academic year. The University has also been investing in new methods of teaching and learning using the latest communications technology for the benefit of its students.

    The quality of the University’s graduates is one of its major assets and reflect not only their personal achievements but also the University’s success and high academic standards. They are well placed to make contribution to society in the 21st century and to demonstrate the benefits of higher education to the wider community.

    Famous people who studied at the University include:

  • Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson
  • Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John Stevens
  • British High Commissioner to India Sir Rob Young
  • Director of the Institute of Employment Studies Richard Pearson
  • City businesswoman Carol Galley
  • ITN foreign correspondent Michael Nicholson
  • Television presenter Sue Cook
  • Television comedian Bob Mortimer
  • Presenter Pete McCarthy
  • Astronomer Heather Couper
  • Astronaut Jeff Hoffman
  • Gulf War hero John Peters
  • Landmines campaigner Chris Moon
  • Authors CP Snow and Malcolm Bradbury
  • Also associated with the University are actor and filmmaker Lord Attenborough and Television naturalist Sir David Attenborough whose father was Principal of the University College. Poet Philip Larkin was a former librarian at University and astronaut Dr Jeff Hoffman was a member of staff and is an Honorary Graduate of the University.

    [Leicester University] [*] Administration [*] Press and Public Relations
    Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
    Last updated: 02 October 2001 12:34
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