Plate glass university
The term plate glass university (or plateglass university or plate-glass university) refers to any of the several universities founded in the United Kingdom in the 1960s in the era of the Robbins Report on higher education. In some cases these were older schools with new Royal Charters, now making them universities. Contrary to popular myth, Robbins was not responsible for their foundation, with most of the applications for reclassification already accepted by the University Grants Committee in the later 1950s/early 1960s.
Origin of terminology
The term 'plateglass' was coined by Michael Beloff for a book he wrote about these universities, to reflect the modern architectural design of the new universities which often contains wide expanses of plate glass in steel or concrete frames. This contrasted with the (largely Victorian) red brick universities and the older ancient universities.
- I had at the start to decide upon a generic term for the new universities — they will not be new for ever. None of the various caps so far tried have fitted. "Greenfields" describes only a transient phase. "Whitebrick", "Whitestone", and "Pinktile" hardly conjure up the grey or biscuit concrete massiveness of most of their buildings, and certainly not the black towers of Essex. "Newbridge" is fine as far as the novelty goes, but where on earth are the bridges? Sir Edward Boyle more felicitously suggested "Shakespeare". But I have chosen to call them the Plateglass Universities. It is architecturally evocative; but more important, it is metaphorically accurate.
Beloff's plateglass universities
- Aston University (1966)
- University of East Anglia (1963)
- University of Essex (1964/5)
- University of Kent (1965)
- Lancaster University (1964)
- University of Sussex (1961)
- University of Warwick (1965)
- University of York (1963)
Certain aspects of the design of these universities acknowledges the formation of the group; for example, at Sussex the first batches of student residences to be built were named after some of the other new universities, i.e. "Essex House", "Kent House", "Lancaster House", "Norwich House" (for UEA), and "York House".
Other universities sometimes referred to as plateglass universities
- Dates refer to the granting of a Royal Charter, and university status, not to founding of the institution.
- University of Bath (1966)
- University of Bradford (1966)
- Brunel University (1966)
- City University London (1966)
- Heriot-Watt University (1966)
- Keele University (1962)
- Loughborough University (1966)
- University of Salford (1967)
- University of Stirling (1967)
- University of Strathclyde (1964)
- University of Surrey (1966)
- University of Ulster (1968)
- Toynbee, Polly (2002-06-05) After the jubilation must come the reckoning, The Guardian
- Anti-ageism Laws Will Be Good for All, The Guardian (2003)
- Collini, Stefan (2003-11-06) HiEdBiz, London Review of Books, Vol. 25 No. 21, pp 3–9
- Sheffield University Library Collection