July 6, 2016, by Michael Jennings

Nottingham: a history of Britain’s global university

Professor John Beckett, Professor in our Department of History, writes about his recently published book – Nottingham: a history of Britain’s global university.

The University of Nottingham opened its doors for the first time in 1881, but in those days it was little more than a technical college with purpose-built premises in the centre of Nottingham. The founding fathers, driven by a belief in the importance of post-school education for working class men and women, would struggle to recognise the modern University with well over 44,000 students spread across three Continents. This book tells the story of that transformation.

University College (Trent Building) under construction, 1928

University College (Trent Building) under construction, 1928 (image from book)

In 1881 the newly opened institution was a University College. It gained a University Charter, which permitted it to award its own degrees, in 1948. By then it had outgrown its original premises in Nottingham, and through the philanthropic generosity of Sir Jesse Boot had moved to what is today University Park. It had also, in 1946, incorporated the Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture at Sutton Bonington. Even so, it had fewer than 2,000 students.

With its charter secured, and encouraged by favourable government policy, the new University expanded rapidly. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed the building of Science City, the Portland Building, and a number of new halls of residence, and then in the 1970s came the much-coveted Medical School. Student numbers rose steadily to more than 8,000 in the mid-1980s.

Students skating on the frozen lake, University Park, 1940s (image from book)

Students skating on the frozen lake, University Park, 1940s (image from book)

After some years of retrenchment during the 1980s as a result of government policy towards Universities, the relentless pace resumed. In 1999 HM the Queen opened the new Jubilee Campus on Triumph Road, and by then the University was looking overseas: new campuses were opened in Malaysia and China in 2005. A School of Veterinary Science and Medicine opened at Sutton Bonington in 2007.

By 2010 student numbers had reached 40,000 across the different campuses, with individual students coming from more than 140 countries worldwide. In 2012 The Times described Nottingham as Britain’s first truly global university. The founding fathers would be astonished!

History of UoN book

Nottingham: a history of Britain’s global university, written by Professor John Beckett and published by Boydell and Brewer, traces the story of the University from those early days to the present time, exploring life on campus for generations of students.

This is a thoroughly researched, beautifully illustrated and timely publication, which will be of interest to staff and students, alumni scattered across the globe, and anyone concerned with the development of UK higher education.

Discover the hidden secrets of your University and how it became the place we all know and love – order your copy today.

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