Plymouth University

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This article is about the university in England. For the school in New Hampshire, USA, see Plymouth State University.
Plymouth University
University of Plymouth Coat of Arms.png
Latin: Universitas Plymouthensis
Motto Indagate Fingite Invenite (Explore, Dream, Discover)
Established 1992 – University status
1862 – School of Navigation[1][2]
Type Public
Endowment £425,000[3]
Chancellor Jonathan Kestenbaum
Vice-Chancellor David Coslett (interim)[4]
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 26,930[5]
Undergraduates 23,585[5]
Postgraduates 3,345[5]
Location Plymouth, England, UK
Coordinates: 50°22′27″N 4°08′19″W / 50.374121°N 4.138512°W / 50.374121; -4.138512
Campus Urban
Colours Terracotta     
Dark Blue     
Black     [6]
Affiliations Association of Commonwealth Universities, University Alliance
With Plymouth University.png

Plymouth University is a public university in the South West of England, with over 26,900 students and is 15th largest in the United Kingdom by total number of students (including the Open University).[7] It has 2,905 staff making it one of the largest employers in the south west.[5] The main campus is in the Devon city of Plymouth, but the university has campuses and affiliated colleges all over South West England.

Whilst the University has been known as Plymouth University since June 2011 as a result of a rebrand, the formal name and legal title of the university remains "University of Plymouth".[8]


The University was originally a Polytechnic Institute, with its constituent bodies being Plymouth Polytechnic, Rolle College, the Exeter College of Art and Design (which were, before April 1989, run by Devon County Council) and Seale-Hayne College (which before April 1989 was an independent charity). It was renamed Polytechnic South West in 1989 and remained as this until gaining university status in 1992 along with the other polytechnics. The new university absorbed the Plymouth School of Maritime Studies.

In 2006 part of the remains of the World War II Portland Square air-raid shelter were rediscovered on the Plymouth campus.[9] On the night of 22 April 1941, during the Blitz, a bomb fell here killing over 70 civilians, including a mother and her six children.[9] The bomb blast was so violent that human remains were found in the tops of trees. Only three people escaped alive, all children.

The University's first Vice-Chancellor was John Bull. He was succeeded by Roland Levinsky until his death on 1 January 2007, when he walked into live electrical cables brought down during a storm.[10] He was temporarily replaced by Mark Cleary (now VC of the University of Bradford),[11] and then by Steve Newstead. Wendy Purcell became VC on 1 December 2007. She was placed on leave on 2 July 2014 by the University's governors while an internal review is conducted.[12] A month later the Higher Education Funding Council for England requested an independent external review of the university's governance.[13]

The University was selected by the Royal Statistical Society in October 2008 to be the home of its Centre for Statistical Education.[14] It also runs courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology,[15] and Earth, ocean & environmental sciences.

In August 2014, the University was instructed by HEFCE to undertake an external review of its governance after vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell was placed on leave.[16]


When university status was gained in 1992, the university was based in various locations. Under Vice-Chancellor Levinsky the university began a policy of centralising its campus activities in Plymouth.

The Exmouth campus – Rolle College – housed the Faculty of Education and relocated to the new Rolle Building in August 2008. The decision was unpopular with students and the town of Exmouth itself, there were several protest marches and a campaign to keep the campus open.[17]

Recently completed developments include Portland Square, a library extension, refurbished and new laboratory and teaching facilities in many of the campus buildings, halls of residence near the Business School and a new £16 million Peninsula Medical School headquarters at Derriford, in the north of the city.[18] A new maritime centre has been constructed behind the Babbage Building to house civil engineering, coastal engineering and marine sciences.

An exception to the trend of centralising activities are the University's extensive activities in education for the health professions. In addition many of its students are taught at Further Education Colleges throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, such as South Devon College. A new building which opened in 2008 is shared between the Peninsula Medical School and the Faculty of Health, Education and Society.

The Roland Levinsky Building

Roland Levinsky building[edit]

The Roland Levinsky Building, designed by architects Henning Larsen with Building Design Partnership, is clad with copper sheets in a seamed-cladding technique, is nine storeys high and has 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft) of floor space.[19] The Faculty of Arts, previously based in Exmouth and Exeter moved here in August 2007. The building contains two large lecture theatres, the Jill Craigie Cinema, used by the film students to display their films and for showing of films to the public; three performance rehearsal studios; digital media suites; and a public art gallery which displays work by local artists groups, students and famous artists.

Student accommodation[edit]

University-managed accommodation in the first year of study is guaranteed for all applicants who choose Plymouth University as their first choice institution.[20]

The University provides an approved accommodation database, which is available to all continuing students at the University.

Special accommodation arrangements can be made for students with disabilities or medical conditions.

Organisation and administration[edit]

Plymouth is a modern university that has undergone a great deal of development, including several new buildings.

Coat of arms[edit]

The Arms, Crest, Badge and Supporters forming the University’s Coat of Arms were granted on 10 April 2008, in Grant 173/189, by the College of Arms.[21]

The books represent the University’s focus on learning and scholarship. The scattering of small stars, represent navigation, which has played a key role in the history of the city and the university. The scallop shells in gold, represents pilgrimage, a sign of the importance of the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers from a site near the Mayflower Steps in the Barbican aboard the Mayflower in 1620. A Pelican and a Golden Hind support the shield and reflect both the original and later, better known, name of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. The crest contains the Latin motto, "Indagate Fingite Invenite" which translates as "Explore Dream Discover" and is a quote from Mark Twain, reflecting the university's ambitions for its students and Plymouth's history of great seafarers.

The Letters Patent granting Arms to the University of Plymouth were presented by Eric Dancer, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, in a ceremony at the University on 27 November 2008, in the presence of Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, York Herald of the College of Arms, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, Judge William Taylor, the Recorder of Plymouth, and Baroness Judith Wilcox.[22]

The Coat of Arms are rarely seen in use, other than at graduation. The university tends to use the modern globe logo on stationery and signs and is very keen to keep the Coat of Arms exclusive. The use of the arms is therefore restricted to graduations and other formal ceremonies, degree certificates and associated materials and the exclusive use by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.[citation needed]

Academic profile[edit]

The Portland Square Building

Faculty and School structure[edit]

The university revised its academic structure to fully reflect its enterprise vision.[citation needed] Key developments include: the creation of a new Business School; bringing together complementary subjects in a new combined faculty of Science and Technology; and creating the largest Marine Science and Engineering School in Europe.

A wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are taught at the main city campus in Plymouth. The university scores well in law, psychology, geographical sciences, computing (including digital media) and computer science, fine art and art history.[23]

Faculty of Arts and Humanities[edit]

This faculty is host to the School of Architecture, Design and Environment, School of Art & Media, the School of Humanities and Performing Arts, and the Plymouth Institute of Education. Arts subjects are usually taught in the Roland Levinsky building and the Scott building, a 19th-century building located next to Roland Levinsky which was modernised externally in 2008 to keep to the university's current design. The faculty offers degrees in Architecture, English, History, Art History, 3D Design, Fine Art, Music, Photography, Media Arts, Theatre & Performance and Dance Theatre. Advanced research is available across the disciplines in all three Schools, including via the innovative international Planetary Collegium in new media art.

Faculty of Health and Human Sciences[edit]

Home to the Schools of Psychology, Social Science and Social Work, Health Professions, and Nursing and Midwifery. As well as PGCE programmes, the Faculty offers degrees Adult Nursing, Child Health Nursing, Dietetics, Optometry, Paramedicine and Health and Social Care Studies.

Faculty of Science and Environment[edit]

This faculty is home to the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Computing and Mathematics, the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies, and the School of Marine Science and Engineering.

The university provides professional diving qualifications on a number of its courses, the only university in the country to do so. The university's diving centre is located within its Marine Station teaching and research facility based next to Queen Anne's Battery Marina, and has a full-time team of instructors and dedicated boats and equipment.[citation needed]

In October 2005, The Sun newspaper voted the University as having the most bizarre degree course in the country, the BSc (Hons) in Surf Science & Technology. Commonly known as "surfing", this course is actually centred on coastal/ocean sciences, surfing equipment/clothing design and surfing-related business, which has its popularity increased by the geographical location of the University.

Faculty of Business[edit]

The faculty is home to the Plymouth Business School, the School of Law, the School of Government, the Plymouth Graduate School of Management and the School of Tourism and Hospitality. Plymouth's Business School has most notably been very successful in national rankings by subject, where subjects like economics reach the top 15, according to The Guardian.

The University has strong links with the cruising industry, offering courses in the Maritime and Cruising sector. The school offers BSc (Hons) in Cruise Management, where students can opt to take a year out to work with P&O or Princess Cruises for a period of two, four-month periods.[24]

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry[edit]

Medicine and Dentistry were first established as part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in 2000, which operated as a partnership between Plymouth University and the University of Exeter.[25] In January 2012 the two founding members of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD) the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, outlined their plans to expand independently and grow the success of the now nationally recognised professional health education provider. These changes came into effect from the start of the 2013 academic year. PUPSMD consists of the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, and the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences.

Academic Partnerships[edit]

The Academic Partnerships network is a collaboration between the University and local colleges across the South West and South of the country, from Penzance to Jersey. There are hundreds of higher education courses available providing opportunities for progression to other qualifications. For example, someone who has spent two years studying for a foundation degree at their local college – and who has successfully passed their exams – can move on to the final year of a full honours degree at the University.

Plymouth University is the main sponsor of Marine Academy Plymouth.[26] It is also the main sponsor of UTC Plymouth, which opened in September 2013.

Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning[edit]

In 2005 the university was awarded four HEFCE funded Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs). In addition, Plymouth was a partner in a fifth successful bid, led by Liverpool Hope University College.[citation needed] The University's CETLs are:

  • Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning (CEPPL)
  • Experiential Learning in the Environmental and Natural Sciences
  • Higher Education Learning Partnerships CETL
  • Centre for Sustainable Futures (Education for Sustainable Development)
  • Learn Higher

Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research[edit]

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research team (ICCMR), led by Eduardo Reck Miranda, is formed of scholars from different backgrounds and from different departments across the University: School of Computing, Communications and Electronics, Faculty of Education, Music, and the School of Art and Media.

The ICCMR comprises four interconnected research teams. The Evolutionary Music Team is concerned with the problem of musical evolution. Research themes include origins of emotions, ontogenesis, evolution of grammars and generative performance. The Music and the Brain Team is mostly concerned with the problem of representation of musical experience. Research is focusing on active perception, role of timbre in musical expectancies, development of experience-dependent abstractions and brain–computer interfaces. This team overlaps with the Auditory Group at the Centre for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience led by Dr Sue Denham.[citation needed]

The Music Technology Team is concerned with the conversion of basic scientific research into practical music technology. Projects include tools for composition and sound design, music controllers,sound synthesis algorithms and musical robotics. The Musical Practice Team is concerned with musical practices using new technology and contemporary music. Projects include music in the community, music facilitation for disability and sonic arts. The team works in close collaboration with Peninsula Arts.[citation needed]

The Cognition Institute[edit]

Plymouth University’s Cognition Institute was founded in 2011 as a centre for interdisciplinary research into human cognition. The Institute brings together researchers in experimental psychology, cognitive science, cognitive robotics, computational modelling, biology, neuroscience, bio-medicine, the humanities, brain imaging and the creative arts. The Institute is home to many research projects and to CogNovo, a prestigious doctoral training programme funded by the EU Marie Curie initiative and Plymouth University. CogNovo fosters interdisciplinary research and training in the field of Cognitive Innovation and aims to develop new ways to link scientific research in human cognition with social and technological innovation.

Reputation and rankings[edit]

The results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework showed that, overall, Plymouth was ranked =66 of 128 UK institutions, rising 9 places from the previous Research Assessment Exercise in 2008.[27] Across all assessed subject areas Plymouth showed substantial evidence of 3* (internationally excellent) and 4* (world leading) research, and this was particularly evident in Clinical Medicine, Computer Sciences & Informatics, Psychology, Psychiatry & Neuroscience, and Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences, where 79-85% of research was ranked as 3* or 4*.[28] Tables comparing the REF 2014 ranking of all UK institutions by subject can be found here. The full results of REF 2014, including information about how the assessment was conducted, can be found here. Information about RAE 2008 and earlier Research Assessment Exercises can be found here.

In The Times and Sunday Times University League Tables 2015, Plymouth University's world ranking was listed as 701st=[29] and 701+ in QS World University Rankings 2014/15.[30] Times Higher Education ranked Plymouth between 276th and 300th in its World University Rankings 2014–15,[31] and ranked it as equal 37th in a list of the world 100 best universities under 50 years old, in April 2015.[32]

To better understand the following table of rankings for University of Plymouth, further information about the calculation of UK university rankings and the weightings given to different measures of performance by each guide can be found here. Simple tables listing the measures used by different UK University Guides can be found here and here.

‡ Please note that from 2014, The Times and The Sunday Times University Guides were combined into a single league table.

University of Plymouth ranking among UK Universities
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997
Guardian University Guide 87[33] 68[34] 59[35] 61=[36] 47[37] 49[38] 51[39] 48[40] 35[41]
40[42] 73[43] 59[44] 46
Times Good University Guide 80[45] 73=[46] 64[47] 58 61 63[48] 62 57 55 53 52 53 57 56 56 64 68= 63 64=
Sunday Times University Guide
50[49] 62 56 61 61 63= 61 62 61 60 60 61 60 58 58 58=
The Complete University Guide 90[50] 79[51] 71=[52] 63=[53] 53[54] 65=[55] 67[56] 70[57] 57[58]
The Daily Telegraph 57[59] 48
FT 64 69 72 74

Notable academics[edit]

Staff include political scientists Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, who have written extensively on electoral systems, voting behaviour, polling results and British politics and have regularly appeared on national television election programmes for both the BBC and ITV. Other notable academics include Roy Lowry[60] who, in August 2006, broke the world record for launching the most rockets at once;[61] Iain Stewart who has fronted BBC documentaries such as Journeys into the Ring of Fire and Journeys from the Centre of the Earth; Alexis Kirke an internationally-known interdisciplinary performer and artist; Angela Smith who has published several celebrated works on the subject of gender and 20th Century warfare; choreographer Adam Benjamin, co-founder of Candoco Dance Company; and sociologist John Scott, a leading expert on elites, power, social stratification, and social network analysis.

Notable alumni[edit]

Alumni include the world's youngest single-handed cross-Atlantic sailor Seb Clover, BBC wildlife presenter Monty Halls, former CBBC presenter and performer, Jefferson Turner, Baroness Wilcox, (Plymouth Polytechnic), Jane Wilson-Howarth, a travel writer and Connor McIntyre who portrayed Pat Phelan on Coronation Street.

Students' Union[edit]

The Plymouth University Students' Union, usually abbreviated "UPSU" is a non-profit making organisation. Each year, students elect the officers who will represent them for the following year. The Union offers a range of services and stages a number of events throughout the year. As well as events, the Union is the base for most of the sports teams and societies at the university.

The Students' Union has a garden that has been set up by the Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF) which the students can use.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of Higher Education in Plymouth". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Alston Kennerley (2001). "Ch. 4 Plymouth School of Navigation". The Making of the University of Plymouth. ISBN 1841020699. 
  3. ^ "Financial Statements 2011" (PDF). University of Plymouth. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Staff details: David Coslett". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Plymouth 2013/14" (WEBPAGE). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Academic dress and gowning". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  7. ^ "List of universities by number of students 2013/14" (EXCEL). The Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "The new brand With Plymouth University". University of Plymouth. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Tony Rees, Gerry Cullum and Steve & Karen Johnson (8 July 2007). "Portland Square Air Raid Shelter at Plymouth". Retrieved 6 November 2007. 
  10. ^ "Power cable kills university boss". BBC. 2 January 2007. 
  11. ^ "University boss successor named". BBC. 4 January 2007. 
  12. ^ "Plymouth University vice-chancellor suspended". BBC News. 2 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Gallacher, Neil (5 August 2014). "Regulator calls for Plymouth University review". BBC News. 
  14. ^ "Plymouth chosen for Prestigious Centre". University of Plymouth. 17 October 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  15. ^ "Degree courses in Marine Biology". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Teaching college closure agreed". BBC News. 11 November 2005. 
  18. ^ "Medical school plans new headquarters". BBC Devon. 6 January 2002. 
  19. ^ "The Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University". Scott Wilson website. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "University of Plymouth – an introduction". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 21 October 2008. 
  24. ^ "BSc (Hons) Cruise Management". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  25. ^ "Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry". Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "REF 2014: overall table of excellence". Times Higher Education (London). 18 December 2014. 
  28. ^ "University of Plymouth". REF 2014. 18 December 2014. 
  29. ^ "Times and Sunday Times University League Tables". Times Higher Education. 21 September 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  30. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2014/15". Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). 16 September 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  31. ^ "Top 400 (276 to 300) – THE World University Rankings 2014–2015". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  32. ^ "THE 100 Under 50 table". Times Higher Education. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  33. ^ "University guide: University league tables 2016". The Guardian (London). 25 May 2015. 
  34. ^ "University guide: University league table 2015 - the complete list". The Guardian (London). 3 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "University guide 2014: University league table". The Guardian (London). 3 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "University guide 2013: University league table". The Guardian (London). 21 May 2012. 
  37. ^ Shepherd, Jessica; Rogers, Simon (17 May 2011). "University guide 2012: University league table". The Guardian (London). 
  38. ^ "University guide 2011: University league table". The Guardian (London). 8 June 2010. 
  39. ^ "University guide 2010: University league table". The Guardian (London). 12 May 2009. 
  40. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 1 May 2008. 
  41. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 24 May 2007. 
  42. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  43. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 2004. [dead link]
  44. ^ "Univ2004~subject~subjects~Institution-wide~Institution-wide~~~3". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. [dead link]
  45. ^ "University guide". The Sunday Times (London). 21 September 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  46. ^ "University guide". The Sunday Times (London). 26 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  47. ^
  48. ^ Watson, Roland; Elliott, Francis; Foster, Patrick (September 2011). "University guide". The Times (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ "University league table". The Daily Telegraph (London). 30 July 2007. 
  60. ^ "Staff details: Dr Roy Lowry". Plymouth University. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  61. ^ "Firework Record goes with a Bang". BBC. 16 August 2006. 

External links[edit]