University of Birmingham

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University of Birmingham
BirminghamUniversityCrest.svg
Shield from the arms of the University of Birmingham
Motto Latin: Per Ardua Ad Alta
Motto in English "Through efforts to high things"[1]
Established 1900 – gained University Status by Royal Charter
1825 – Medical School
Type Public
Endowment £78.1 million[2]
Chancellor Sir Dominic Cadbury
Vice-Chancellor David Eastwood
Visitor Her Majesty the Queen represented by the Lord President of the Council
Students 26,073 [3]
Undergraduates 17,355[3]
Postgraduates 8,718[3]
Location Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom
52°27′2″N 1°55′50″W / 52.45056°N 1.93056°W / 52.45056; -1.93056Coordinates: 52°27′2″N 1°55′50″W / 52.45056°N 1.93056°W / 52.45056; -1.93056
Campus Urban, Suburban
Colours

The University

                                       
Affiliations Russell Group
Universitas 21
Universities UK
EUA
ACU
Website birmingham.ac.uk
Birmingham logo.svg

The University of Birmingham (informally Birmingham University)[4][5][6][7] is a British red brick university located in the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School (1825) and Mason Science College (1875).[8] Birmingham was the first red brick university to gain a charter and thus university status.[9] It is a founding member of both the Russell Group of British research universities and the international grouping of research universities, Universitas 21.

The student population includes around 17,000 undergraduate and 9,000 postgraduate students, making the 11th largest in the UK.[10] University of Birmingham was ranked 10th in the UK and 62nd in the world by QS World University Rankings in 2013.[11] The annual income of the institution for 2010–11 was £470.7 million, with an expenditure of £443.7 million.[12] The University was named University of the Year in 2013.

The University is home to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, housing works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet, the Lapworth Museum of Geology, and the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, which is a prominent landmark visible from many parts of the city.[13] Birmingham's sport activities have been consistently ranked within the top three in British Universities competitions for the past 15 years.[14] Alumni include former British Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin, foreign heads of state and government, royalty, and eight Nobel laureates.

History[edit]

Birmingham Medical School[edit]

A view across Chancellor's Court, towards the Law building


Although the earliest beginnings of the University were previously traced back to the Birmingham Medical School which is linked to William Sands Cox in his aim of creating a medical school along strictly Christian lines, unlike the London medical schools, further research has now revealed the roots of the Birmingham Medical School in the medical education seminars of Mr John Tomlinson the first surgeon to the Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary, and later to the General Hospital. These classes were the first ever held outside London or south of the Scottish border in the winter of 1767–68. The first clinical teaching was undertaken by medical and surgical apprentices at the General Hospital, opened in 1779.[15] The medical school which grew out of the Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary was founded in 1828 but Cox began teaching in December 1825. Queen Victoria granted her patronage to the Clinical Hospital in Birmingham and allowed it to be styled "The Queen's Hospital". It was the first provincial teaching hospital in England. In 1843, the medical college became known as Queen's College.[8]

Mason Science College[edit]

On 23 February 1875, Sir Josiah Mason, the Birmingham industrialist and philanthropist, who made his fortune in making key rings, pens, pen nibs and electroplating, founded Mason Science College. It was this institution that would eventually form the nucleus of the University of Birmingham. In 1882, the Departments of Chemistry, Botany and Physiology were transferred to Mason Science College, soon followed by the Departments of Physics and Comparative Anatomy. The transfer of the Medical School to Mason Science College gave considerable impetus to the growing importance of that college and in 1896 a move to incorporate it as a university college was made. As the result of the Mason University College Act 1897 it became incorporated as Mason University College on 1 January 1898, with Joseph Chamberlain becoming the President of its Court of Governors.

Royal Charter[edit]

Ceiling of the Aston Webb building

It was largely due to Chamberlain's tireless enthusiasm that the university was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria on 24 March 1900. The Calthorpe family offered twenty-five acres (10 hectares) of land on the Bournbrook side of their estate in July. The Court of Governors received the Birmingham University Act 1900, which put the Royal Charter into effect, on 31 May. Birmingham was therefore arguably the first so-called red brick university, although several other universities claim this title.

The transfer of Mason University College to the new University of Birmingham, with Chamberlain as its first Chancellor and Sir Oliver Lodge as the first Principal, was complete. All that remained of Josiah Mason's legacy was his Mermaid in the sinister chief of the university shield and of his college, the double-headed lion in the dexter.[16] It became the first civic and campus university in England. The University Charter of 1900 also included provision for a Faculty of Commerce, as was appropriate for a university itself founded by industrialists and based in a city with enormous business wealth, in effect creating the first Business School in England. Consequently, the faculty, the first of its kind in Britain, was founded by Sir William Ashley in 1901, who from 1902 until 1923 served as first Professor of Commerce and Dean of the Faculty. From 1905 to 1908, Edward Elgar held the position of Peyton Professor of Music at the university. He was succeeded by his friend Granville Bantock.[17] The heritage archives of the University of Birmingham are accessible for research through the University's Special Collections.

Expansion[edit]

In 1939, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, designed by Robert Atkinson, was opened. In 1956, the first MSc programme in Geotechnical Engineering commenced under the title of "Foundation Engineering", and has been run annually at the University of Birmingham since. It was the first geotechnical post-graduate school in England. The UK's longest-running MSc programme in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors also started at the University of Birmingham in 1956, the same year that the world's first commercial nuclear power station was opened at Calder Hall in Cumbria. In 1957, Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder were asked by the university to prepare a masterplan on the site of the original 1900 buildings which were incomplete. The university drafted in other architects to amend the masterplan produced by the group. During the 1960s, the university constructed numerous large buildings, expanding the campus.[18] In 1963, the University of Birmingham helped in the establishment of the faculty of medicine at the University of Rhodesia, now the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). UZ is now independent but both institutions maintain relations through student exchange programmes.

Birmingham also supported the creation of Keele (formerly University College of North Staffordshire) and Warwick Universities under the Vice-Chancellorship of Sir Robert Aitken who acted as 'godfather' to the University of Warwick.[19] The initial plan was to establish a satellite university college in Coventry but Aitken advised an independent initiative to the University Grants Committee.[20]

Achievements[edit]

The university has been involved in many important inventions and developments in science. The cavity magnetron was developed at the university in the Physics Department by John Randall, Harry Boot and James Sayers. This was vital to the Allied victory in World War II. In 1940, the Frisch-Peierls memorandum, a document which demonstrated that the atomic bomb was more than simply theoretically possible, was written in the Physics Department. The university also hosted early work on Gaseous diffusion in the Chemistry department when it was located in the Hills building. Many windows in the Aston Webb building overlooking the former fume cupboards were opaque from being attacked by hydrofluoric acid well into recent years.

In 1943, Mark Oliphant made an early proposal for the construction of a proton-synchrotron, however he made no assurance that the machine would work. When phase stability was discovered in 1945, the proposal was resurrected and construction of a machine at the university that could surpass 1GeV. The university was aiming to construct the first machine to do this, however, funds were short and the machine did not start until 1953. They were beaten by the Brookhaven National Laboratory, who managed to start their Cosmotron in 1952, and get it fully working in 1953, before the University of Birmingham.[21]

Recent history[edit]

The final round of the first ever televised leaders' debates, hosted by the BBC, was held at the university during the 2010 British general election campaign on 29 April 2010.[22][23] It also acted as a training camp for the Jamaican track and field team prior to the 2012 London Olympics.[24]

On 9 August 2010 the University announced that for the first time it would not enter the UCAS clearing process for 2010 admission, which matches under-subscribed courses to students who did not meet their firm or insurance choices, due to all places being taken. Largely a result of the Financial crisis of 2007–2010, Birmingham joins fellow Russell Group universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Bristol in not offering any clearing places.[25]

In 2012 the University announced plans to build a new sports centre and library.[26]

Controversies[edit]

The discipline of cultural studies was founded at the University of Birmingham. Between 1991 and 2002, the campus was home to the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, a leading research centre whose members' work came to be known as the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. Despite being established by one of the key figures in the field, Richard Hoggart, and being later directed by the renowned theorist Stuart Hall, the department was controversially closed down.[27]

Analysis showed that the University was fourth in a list of British universities that faced the most Employment Tribunal claims between 2008 and 2011. They were the second most likely to settle these before the hearing date.[28]

In 2011 a Parliamentary Early Day Motion was proposed arguing against the Guild suspending the elected Sabbatical Vice President (Education), who was arrested while taking part in protest activity.[29]

In December 2011 it was announced that the University had obtained a 12-month long injunction[30] against a group of around 25 students, who occupied a residential building on campus from the 23 to 26 November 2011, preventing them from engaging in further "occupational protest action" on the University's grounds without prior permission. It was misreported in the press that this injunction applied to all students, however the court order defines the defendants as:

Persons unknown (including students of the University of Birmingham) entering or remaining upon the buildings known as No. 2 Lodge Pritchatts Road, Birmingham at the University of Birmingham for the purpose of protest action (without the consent of the University of Birmingham) [31]

The University and the Guild of Students also clarified the scope of the injunction in an e-mail sent to all students on 11 January 2012, stating "The injunction applies only to those individuals who occupied the lodge".[32] The University claimed that it sought this injunction as a safety precaution based on a previous occupation.[33] Three separate human rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemned the move as restrictive on human rights.[34]

Campuses[edit]

Edgbaston campus[edit]

The Aston Webb building, Chancellor's Court

The main campus of the university occupies a site some 3 miles (4.8 km) south-west of Birmingham city centre, in Edgbaston. It is arranged around Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower (affectionately known as 'Old Joe'), a grand campanile which commemorates the university's first chancellor, Joseph Chamberlain. The university's Great Hall is located in the domed Aston Webb Building, which is named after one of the architects – the other was Ingress Bell. The initial 25-acre (100,000 m2) site was given to the university in 1900 by Lord Calthorpe. The grand buildings were an outcome of the £50,000 given by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to establish a "first class modern scientific college"[35] on the model of Cornell University in the United States.[36] Funding was also provided by Sir Charles Holcroft.[37]

The original domed buildings, built in Accrington red brick, semicircle to form Chancellor's Court. This sits on a 30 feet (9.1 m) drop, so the architects placed their buildings on two tiers with a 16 feet (4.9 m) drop between them. The clock tower stands in the centre of the Court.

The campanile itself draws its inspiration from the Torre del Mangia, a medieval clock tower that forms part of the Town Hall in Siena, Italy.[38] When it was built, it was described as 'the intellectual beacon of the Midlands' by the Birmingham Post. The clock tower was Birmingham's tallest building from the date of its construction in 1908 until 1969; it is now the third highest in the city. It is one of the top 50 tallest buildings in the UK,[39] and the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world,[13] although there is some confusion about its actual height, with the university listing it both as 110 metres (361 ft)[40] and 325 feet (99 m) tall in different sources.[41]

The campus has a wide diversity in architectural types and architects. "What makes Birmingham so exceptional among the Red Brick universities is the deployment of so many other major Modernist practices: only Oxford and Cambridge boast greater selections".[42] The Guild of Students original section facing King Edward School was designed by Birmingham inter-war architect Holland Hobbiss who also designed the King Edward school opposite. It was described as "Redbrick Tudorish" by Nikolaus Pevsner.[43]

The statue on horseback fronting the entrance to the university and Barber Institute of Fine Arts is a 1722 statue of George I rescued from Dublin in 1937. This was saved by Bodkin, a director of the National Gallery of Ireland and first director of the Barber Institute. The statue was commissioned by the Dublin Corporation from the Flemish sculptor John van Nost.[44]

Final negotiations for part of what is now the Vale were only completed in March 1947. By then, properties which would have their names used for halls of residences such as Wyddrington and Maple Bank were under discussion and more land was obtained from the Calthorpe estate in 1948 and 1949 providing the setting for the Vale.[45] Construction on the Vale started in 1962 with the creation of a 3-acre (12,000 m2) artificial lake and the building of Ridge, High, Wyddrington and Lake Halls. The first, Ridge Hall, opened for 139 women in January 1964, with its counterpart High Hall (now Chamberlain Hall) admitting its first male residents the following October.[46]

1960s and modern expansion[edit]

The university's Learning Centre (left), School of Computer Science (right) and Faraday sculpture

The university underwent a major expansion in the 1960s due to the production of a masterplan by Casson, Conder and Partners. The first of the major buildings to be constructed to a design by the firm was the Refectory and Staff House which was built in 1961 and 1962. The two buildings are connected by a bridge. The next major buildings to be constructed were the Wyddrington and Lake Halls and the Faculty of Commerce and Social Science, all completed in 1965. The Wyddrington and Lake Halls, on Edgbaston Park Road, were designed by H. T. Cadbury-Brown and contained three floors of student dwellings above a single floor of communal facilities.

The Faculty of Commerce and Social Science, now known as the Ashley Building, was designed by Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis and is a long, curving two-storey block linked to a five-storey whorl. The two-storey block follows the curve of the road, and has load-bearing brick cross walls. It is faced in specially-made concrete blocks. The spiral is faced with faceted pre-cast concrete cladding panels.[18] It was statutorily listed in 1993[47] and a refurbishment by Berman Guedes Stretton was completed in 2006.[48]

Chamberlain, Powell and Bon were commissioned to design the Physical Education Centre which was built in 1966. The main characteristic of the building is the roof of the changing rooms and small gymnasium which has hyperbolic paraboloid roof light shells and is completely paved in quarry tiles. The roof of the sports hall consists of eight conoidal 2½-inch think sprayed concrete shells springing from 80-foot (24 m) long pre-stressed valley beams. On the south elevation, the roof is supported on raking pre-cast columns and reversed shells form a cantilevered canopy.

The Muirhead Tower, originally constructed in 1969, showing the fascia and extensive refurbishment finished in 2009

Also completed in 1966 was the Mining and Minerals Engineering and Physical Metallurgy Departments, which was designed by Philip Dowson of Arup Associates. This complex consisted of four similar three-storey blocks linked at the corners. The frame is of pre-cast reinforced concrete with columns in groups of four and the whole is planned as a tartan grid, allowing services to be carried vertically and horizontally so that at no point in a room are services more than ten feet away. The building received the 1966 RIBA Architecture Award for the West Midlands.[18] It was statutorily listed in 1993.[47] Taking the full five years from 1962 to 1967, Birmingham erected twelve buildings which each cost in excess of a quarter of a million pounds.[49]

In 1967 Lucas House, a new hall of residence designed by The John Madin Design Group, was completed, providing 150 study bedrooms. It was constructed in the garden of a large house. The Medical School was extended in 1967 to a design by Leonard J. Multon and Partners. The two-storey building was part of a complex which covers the southside of Metchley Fort, a Roman fort. In 1968, the Institute for Education in the Department for Education was opened. This was another Casson, Conder and Partners-designed building. The complex consisted of a group of buildings centred around an eight-storey block, containing study offices, laboratories and teaching rooms. The building has a reinforced concrete frame which is exposed internally and the external walls are of silver-grey rustic bricks. The roofs of the lecture halls, penthouse and Child Study wing are covered in copper.[18]

Arup Associates returned in the 1960s to design the Arts and Commerce Building, better known as Muirhead Tower and houses the Institute of Local Government Studies. This was completed in 1969.[18] A £42 million refurbishment of the 16-storey tower was completed in 2009 and it now houses the Colleges of Social Sciences and the [2] Cadbury Research Library, the new home for the University's Special Collections. The podium was remodelled around the existing Allardyce Nicol studio theatre, providing additional rehearsal spaces and changing and technical facilities. The ground floor lobby now incorporates a Starbucks coffee shop.[50] The name, Muirhead Tower, came from that of the first philosophy professor of the University John Henry Muirhead.[50][51][52]

Recently completed is a 450-seat concert hall, called the Bramall Music Building, which completes the redbrick semicircle of the Aston Webb building designed by Glenn Howells Architects with venue design by Acoustic Dimensions. This auditorium, with its associated research, teaching and rehearsal facilities, houses the Department of Music. The 450-seat auditorium is the most flexible performance space at a UK university - suitable for performances from solo voice, early music, to a full symphony orchestra. When not used for music, it is a high profile location for drama and dance performance and for prestigious lectures.[53] In August 2011 the University announced that architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and S&P were appointed to develop a new Indoor Sports Centre as part of a £175 million investment in the campus.[54]

Other features[edit]

University railway station

In 1978, University station, on the Cross-City Line, was opened to serve the university and its hospital. It is the only university campus in mainland Britain with its own railway station.

Located within the Edgbaston site of the university is the Winterbourne Botanic Garden, a 24,000 square metre (258,000 square foot) Edwardian Arts and Crafts style garden. There has been much recent development on the western part of the campus. There are new academic buildings, including a learning resource centre and Computer Science department. The massive statue in the foreground was a gift to the University by its sculptor Sir Edward Paolozzi – the sculpture is named 'Faraday', and has an excerpt from the poem 'The Dry Salvages' by T. S. Eliot around its base.

The University of Birmingham operates the Lapworth Museum of Geology in the Aston Webb Building in Edgbaston. It is named after Charles Lapworth, a geologist who worked at Mason Science College. Since November 2007, the university has been holding a farmers' market on the campus.[55] Birmingham is the first university in the country to have an accredited farmers' market.[56]

The considerable extent of the estate meant that by the end of the 1990s it was valued at £536 million.[16]

Selly Oak campus[edit]

The university's Selly Oak campus is a short distance to the south of the main campus. It was the home of a federation of nine higher education colleges, mainly focused on theology and education, which were integrated into the university for teaching in 1999. Among these was Westhill College (later the University of Birmingham, Westhill), which merged with the University's School of Education in 2001. The Selly Oak campus is now home to the Department of Drama Theatre Arts in the newly refurbished Old Library and George Cadbury Hall, 200 seat theatre.The UK daytime television show Doctors is filmed on this campus.[57] The University also has buildings at several other sites in the city.

Organisation and administration[edit]

Academic departments[edit]

View from the Muirhead Tower, showing (foreground l-r) the Metallurgy and Materials building, IRC Net Shape Laboratory and Gisbert Kapp building. The city centre can be seen in the background to the north.

Being a large university Birmingham has departments covering a wide range of subjects. On 1 August 2008, the university's system was restructured into five 'colleges', which are composed of numerous 'schools':

  • Arts and Law (English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies; History and Cultures; Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music; Birmingham Law School; Philosophy, Theology and Religion)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences (Chemistry; Chemical Engineering; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mathematics; Mechanical Engineering; Metallurgy and Materials; Physics and Astronomy)
  • Life and Environmental Sciences (Biosciences; Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Psychology; Sport and Exercise Sciences)
  • Medical and Dental Sciences (Cancer Sciences; Clinical and Experimental Medicine; Dentistry; Health and Population Sciences; Immunity and Infection)
  • Social Sciences (Birmingham Business School; Education; Government and Society; Social Policy)
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences

The university is home to a number of internationally renowned research centres and schools, including the Birmingham Business School, the oldest business school in England, the University of Birmingham Medical School, the International Development Department, the Institute of Local Government Studies, the Centre of West African Studies, the European Research Institute, the Centre of Excellence for Research in Computational Intelligence and Applications and the Shakespeare Institute.

International Development Department[edit]

The International Development Department (IDD) is a multi-disciplinary academic department focused on poverty reduction through developing effective governance systems. The department is one of the leading UK centres for the postgraduate study of international development.[58] The department has been described as being a "highly regarded, long-established specialist unit" with a "global reputation" by The Independent.[59]

Off-campus establishments[edit]

A number of the university's centres, schools and institutes are located away from its two campuses in Edgbaston and Selly Oak:

There is also a Masonic Lodge that has been associated with the University since 1938.[60]

University of Birmingham Observatory[edit]

The University of Birmingham Astronomical Observatory

In the early 1980s, The University of Birmingham constructed an observatory next to the university playing fields, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of the Edgbaston campus. The site was chosen because the night sky was ~100 times darker than the skies above campus. First light was on 8 December 1982, and the observatory was officially opened by the Astronomer Royal, Francis Graham-Smith, on 13 June 1984.[61][62]

The observatory is used primarily for undergraduate teaching at the University of Birmingham. It has two main instruments, a 16" Cassegrain (working at f/19) and a 14” Meade LX200R (working at f/6.35). A third telescope is also present and is used exclusively for visual observations.[63] Undergraduates of the Physics & Astrophysics programmes use the observatory in their 2nd and 3rd years. In the 2nd year they use this for prime focus imaging (e.g. light curve of an eclipsing binary, orbit of a comet) and in the 3rd year they use it for spectral analysis of celestial bodies (e.g. the wind speed of a P-Cygni star, the distance to a nearby Seyfert galaxy).[64]

Branding[edit]

The University's logo from the 1980s until 2005

The original coat of arms was designed in 1900. It features a double headed lion (on the left) and a mermaid holding a mirror and comb (to the right). These symbols owe to the coat of arms of the institution's predecessor, Mason College.

In 2005 the university began rebranding itself. A simplified edition of the shield which had been introduced in the 1980s reverted to a detailed version based on how it appears on the university's original Royal Charter. After a research project into the image of the university, it was decided that a separate logo was required to redefine the institution as modern and contemporary. A new 'word marque', using the "U and B" letters and the Baskerville font (in honour of the Birmingham printer John Baskerville) is used as the primary logo when trying to attract both prospective investors and students. It is also found on campus vehicles. The traditional coat of arms, by contrast, appears on degree certificates and academic documents. The introduction of new signage throughout the campus, featuring the shield rather than the "U and B" logo, was completed at the end of 2006.

Academics[edit]

Libraries and collections[edit]

The main library

The university's Library Services department operates 10 libraries across the Edgbaston campus, Selly Oak campus, Birmingham City Centre and Stratford-upon-Avon.

The University of Birmingham's Special Collections contain a significant number of collections of rare books and manuscripts. Special Collections has a large number of pre-1850 books (the earliest being dated 1471) with approximately 3 million manuscripts.[65]

Special Collections also contains the Chamberlain collection of papers from Neville Chamberlain, Joseph Chamberlain and Austen Chamberlain, the Avon Papers belonging to Antony Eden with material on the Suez Crisis, the Cadbury Papers relating to the Cadbury firm from 1900 to 1960, the Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts of Alphonse Mingana, the Noël Coward Collection, the papers of Edward Elgar,[66] Oswald Mosley, and David Lodge, and the records of the English YMCA and of the Church Missionary Society.

University of Birmingham recently announced the new library that will be built in the Main Campus. A new library is needed to accommodate more resources for the students, as the Main Library approached its physical limits. However, there are no exact date for the construction or the opening[67]

Medicine[edit]

The University of Birmingham's medical school is one of the largest in Europe with well over 450 medical students being trained in each of the clinical years and over 1,000 teaching, research, technical and administrative staff. The school has centres of excellence in cancer, pharmacy, immunology, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience and endocrinology and renowned nationally and internationally for its research and developments in these fields.[68] The medical school has close links with the NHS and works closely with 15 teaching hospitals and 50 primary care training practices in the West Midlands.

The University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is the main teaching hospital in the West Midlands. It is very successful and has been given three stars for the past four consecutive years.[69] The trust also hosts the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, based at Selly Oak Hospital, which provides medical support to military personnel such as military returned from fighting in the Iraq War.[70]

Rankings and reputation[edit]

Data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) placed the University amongst the twelve elite institutions who among them take more than half of the students with the highest A-level grades.[71]

In September 2013, the University was ranked 10th in the UK and 62nd best in the world by QS World University Rankings.[72] The university is ranked 13th in The Times 2013 Good University Guide [73] and 15th in The Guardian 2013 rankings.[74] It is rated 11th in the UK, 33rd in Europe and 99th best university in the world in the 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities.[75]

Owing to Birmingham's role as a centre of light engineering, the University traditionally had a special focus on science, engineering and commerce, as well as coal mining. It now teaches a full range of academic subjects and has five-star rating for teaching and research in several departments; additionally, it is widely regarded as making a prominent contribution to cancer studies, hosting the first Cancer Research UK Centre.[76]

The University is particularly known for its research. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, two thirds of The University's departments ranked nationally or internationally outstanding.[14] Languages, mathematics, biological sciences, physiotherapy, sociology and electrical and electronic engineering all recorded maximum points.[14] It was rated fifth in the UK for research quality, with 32 departments holding a 5 or 5* rating.[40]

The School of Computer Science ranked 1st in the 2014 Guardian University Guide,[77] 4th in the 2013 Sunday Times League Table and 6th in the 2014 Sunday Times League Table.[78] The Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) ranked 4th in the UK and 22nd in the world in the Hix rankings of political science departments.[79] The sociology department also ranked 4th by the Guardian University guide. According to the results of the Research Assessment Exercise 2008, 90% of the University of Birmingham’s research activity has international impact.[80] The Research Fortnight’s University Power Ranking, based on quality and quantity of research activity, put the University of Birmingham 12th in the UK, leading the way across a broad range of disciplines including Primary Care, Cancer Studies, Psychology and Sport and Exercise Sciences.[81] The School of Physics and Astronomy also performs well in the rankings, being ranked 3rd in the 2012 Guardian University Guide[82] and 7th in The Complete University Guide 2012.[83] The School of Chemical Engineering is ranked second in the UK (after Cambridge and above Imperial College) by the 2014 Guardian University Guide.[84]

As is the case with all of the 'redbrick' civic institutions, the University of Birmingham holds a sizeable student body and teaches a comparatively broader range of courses than smaller institutions.

Rankings
ARWU[85]
(2013, national)
10-14
ARWU[85]
(2013, world)
101-150
QS[86]
(2013/14, national)
10
QS[86]
(2013/14, world)
62
THE[87]
(2013/14, national)
23
THE[87]
(2013/14, world)
153
Complete[88]
(2014, national)
17
The Guardian[89]
(2014, national)
15
Times/Sunday Times[90]
(2014, national)
16

The 2013 QS World University Rankings places Birmingham University at 10th in the UK and 62nd internationally in the top-700 world universities. Birmingham is also ranked nationally between 10th, (The Times HES[91]) 13th in The Times 2013 Good University Guide,[73] 15th in The Guardian 2013 rankings and 17th (The Independent[92]) in the rankings. The Sunday Times' composite ranking placed the university 19th from 1998 to 2007.[93] Birmingham was ranked 12th[94][95] in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise with 16 percent of the university's research regarded as 'world-leading' and a further 41 percent as 'internationally excellent', with particular strengths in the fields of music, physics, biosciences, computer science, mechanical engineering, political science, international relations and law.[14][96] Birmingham consistently achieves high satisfaction rates in the National Student Survey. Course satisfaction was at 85% in 2011 which grew to 88% in 2012.[97]

In 2007, the Sunday Times released averages of all its tables over 10 years, ranking Birmingham as 19th in the country from 1998 – 2007.[93]

The QS World University Rankings put Birmingham at 10th in the United Kingdom in 2013.[98]

Both the Sunday Times University Guide 2013 and The Guardian University Guide 2014 show Birmingham rising through the tables significantly, ranking the university 13th and 15th respectively.[99]

International cooperation[edit]

In Germany the University of Birmingham cooperates with the Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main. Both cities are linked by a long-lasting partnership agreement.

Student life[edit]

Guild of Students[edit]

The University of Birmingham Guild of Students is the university's student union. Originally the Guild of Undergraduates, the Institution had its first foundations in the Mason Science College in the centre of Birmingham around 1876. The University of Birmingham itself formally received its Royal Charter in 1900 with the Guild of Students being provided for as a Student Representative Council.[100] It is not known for certain why the name 'Guild of Students' was chosen as opposed to 'Union of Students', however, the Guild shares its name with Liverpool Guild of Students, another 'redbrick university'; both organisations subsequently founded the National Union of Students. The Union Building, the Guild's bricks and mortar presence, was designed by the architect Holland W. Hobbiss.

The Guild's official purposes are to represent its members and provide a means of socialising, though societies and general amenities. The university provides the Guild with the Union Building effectively rent free as well as a block grant to support student services. The Guild also runs several bars, eateries, social spaces and social events.

The Guild supports a variety of student societies and volunteering projects, roughly around 180 at any one time. The Guild complements these societies and volunteering projects with professional staffed services, including its walk-in Advice and Representation Centre (ARC), Student Development, Job Zone, Student Mentors in halls, and Community Wardens around Bournbrook.[101] The Guild of Students was where the international volunteering charity InterVol was conceived and developed as a student-led volunteering project; the group currently sends volunteers to five developing countries each summer.[102] Another two of the Guild's long-standing societies are Student Advice and Nightline (previously Niteline), which both provide peer-to-peer welfare support. The Guild was one of the first universities in the United Kingdom to publish a campus newspaper, Redbrick, supported financially by the Guild of Students and advertising revenue.[103]

The Guild undertakes its representative function through its officer group, seven of whom are full-time, on sabbatical from their studies, and ten of whom are part-time and hold their positions whilst still studying. Elections are held yearly, conventionally February, for the following academic year. These officers have regular contact with the university's officer-holders and managers. In theory, the Guild's officers are directed and kept to account over their year in office by Guild Council, an 80 seat decision-making body. The Guild also supports the university "student reps" scheme, which aims to provide an effective channel of feedback from students on more of a departmental level.

Sport[edit]

One of the many university athletics fields

The university has been consistently ranked in the top four of the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) league table.[104] The university's reputation for sport is a long-standing one; in 1954 it became the first UK university to offer a sports degree, and until 1968 exercise was compulsory for all students.[14]

In 2004 six graduates and one current student competed in the Athens Olympic games. Four alumni competed at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, including cyclist Paul Manning who won an Olympic Gold. The university hosted the Jamaican track and field team prior to the 2012 London Olympics. The team stayed at the University's Conference Park and trained on the University's sports track.[24][105]

University of Birmingham Sport (UBS) offers a wide range of competitive and participation sports, which is utilised by the student and local population of Birmingham. Alongside fitness classes such as yoga and aerobics, UBS offers over 40 different sport teams, including rowing, cricket, football, rugby union (UBRFC), field hockey, ice hockey (Birmingham Eagles), American football (Birmingham Lions), triathlon and many more. The wide selection has ensured the university has over 2000 students participating in sport.

UBS offers over 40 scholarships and bursaries to national and international students of exceptional athletic ability.

Housing[edit]

The university provides housing for most first-year students, running a guarantee scheme for all those UK applicants who choose Birmingham as their firm UCAS choice. 90 per cent of university-provided housing is inhabited by first-year students.[106]

The university maintained gender-segregated halls until 1999 when Lake and Wyddrington "halls" (treated as two different halls, despite being physically one building) was reborn as Shackleton. University House was decommissioned as accommodation to house the expanding Business School, while Mason Hall has been demolished and rebuilt, opening in 2008. In the summer of 2006, the university sold three of its most distant halls (Hunter Court, the Beeches and Queens Hospital Close) to private operators, while later in the year and during term, the university was forced urgently to decommission both Chamberlain Tower and Manor House over fire safety inspection failures.[citation needed] The university has rebranded its halls offerings into three villages.

Vale Village[edit]

Chamberlain Hall as it appeared just prior to demolition in 2013.

The Vale Village includes Chamberlain Hall, Shackleton, Maple Bank, Tennis Court, Elgar Court, Aitken and Chelwood residences. A sixth hall of residence, Mason Hall, re-opened in September 2008 following a complete rebuild. Approximately 2,700 students live in the village.[107]

The Vale Village, overlooking Shackleton Hall

Shackleton Hall underwent an £11 million refurbishment and was re-opened in Autumn 2004. There are 72 flats housing a total of 350 students. The majority of the units consist of six to eight bedrooms, together with a small number of one, two, three or five bedroom studio/apartments.[108] The redevelopment was designed by Birmingham-based architect Patrick Nicholls while employed at Aedas, now a director of Glancy Nicholls Architects.[109]

Maple Bank was refurbished and opened in summer 2005. It consists of 87 five bedroom flats, housing 435 undergraduates.[110]

The Elgar Court residence consists of 40 six bedroom flats, housing a total of 236 students.[111] It is the newest residence to be built, opening in September 2003.

Tennis Court consists of 138 three, four, five and six bedroom flats and houses 697 students.[112] The Aitken wing is a small complex consisting of 23 six and eight bedroom flats. It houses 147 students.[113]

Chelwood is situated at the top of the Vale village overlooking the lake, and comprises 50 en-suite bedrooms.[114]

Construction of the new Mason Hall commenced in June 2006 following complete demolition of the original 1960s structures. It was designed by Aedas Architects. The entire project is thought to have cost £36.75 million.[115] It has since been completed, with the first year of students moving in September 2008.

The largest student-run event on campus at the University of Birmingham, the Vale Festival or 'Valefest', is held annually on the Vale. The Festival celebrated its 10th event in 2014.[116]

Pritchatts Park Village[edit]

The Pritchatts Park Village houses over 700 students both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Halls include 'Ashcroft', 'The Spinney' and 'Oakley Court', as well as 'Pritchatts House' and the 'Pritchatts Road Houses'[117]

The Spinney is a small complex of six houses and twelve smaller flats, housing 104 students in total.[118] Ashcroft consists of four purpose built blocks of flats and houses 198 students.[119] The four-storey Pritchatts House consists of 24 duplex units and houses 159 students.[120] Oakley Court consists of 21 individual purpose-built flats, ranging in size from five to thirteen bedrooms. Also included are 36 duplex units. A total of 213 students are housed in Oakley Court, made up of undergraduates.[121] Oakley Court was completed in 1993 at a cost of £2.9 million. It was designed by Birmingham-based Associated Architects.[122] Pritchatts Road is a group of four private houses that were converted into student residences. There is a maximum of 16 bedrooms per house.[123]

Selly Oak Village[edit]

Selly Oak Village consists of three residences; Jarratt Hall, Douper Hall and Victoria Hall. Jarratt Hall is the only residence in this area owned by the university and students can choose to rent a room directly from the private companies that own Douper and Victoria Hall. The term ‘Selly Oak Village’ is rather misleading here, for despite its name the halls themselves are actually located in Bournbrook rather than in Selly Oak. The village has 637 bed spaces for students.[124]

Douper Hall consists of 28 flats accommodating from two to six persons for 117 undergraduate and postgraduate students.[citation needed] Jarratt Hall is a large complex designed around a central courtyard and three landscaped areas. It houses a mixture of 587 undergraduate students.[125] Jarratt Hall will not accommodate postgraduate students until September 2013 due to refurbishment of kitchens and heating system.[126]

Non-university accommodation[edit]

Until recently, the university had not been served by many private halls; a sole Victoria Hall was built in 1999. However, alongside the former university halls of Hunter Court and the Beeches, a number of other private halls aimed at the University of Birmingham market opened for business in 2007, such as Opal 1 on Bristol Road and IQFive on Bath Row near Five Ways.

Liberty Living now run three halls of residence for Birmingham students, two in Edgbaston and one at QHC near the Fiveways roundabout. All residences retain close ties with the university and contain very few, if any, students from other universities due to its proximity to the Edgbaston campus.

In addition to this the University has allocation rights to Mansion Brook, a purpose built modern complex offering a variety of studios located in Selly Oak, and Metchley Hall in Harborne.


Notable people[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Birmingham's alumni include the British Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, the politicians Baroness Amos, former British cabinet ministers Ann Widdecombe and Richard Tracey, Hong Kong Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal The Honourable Mr. Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, Hong Kong Judge of the Court of Final Appeal The Honourable Mr. Justice Robert Tang, Singapore Minister of Finance Hu Tsu Tau Richard, Singapore Senior Minister of State Matthias Yao, General Sir Mike Jackson, formerly the most senior officer in the British Army and Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Under-secretary General of the United Nations, TV personality Chris Tarrant, director Fielder Cook, composer Jonathan Goldstein, actor and comedian Chris Addison, actors Tamsin Greig, Norman Painting, Victoria Wood, Matthew Goode, Tom Riley, Elliot Cowan and Jane Wymark, the actor and musician Tim Curry, musician – lead singer of Duran Duran Simon Le Bon, playwright Sarah Kane, artist Nasser Azam, sailor Lisa Clayton, athlete Allison Curbishley, triathlete Chrissie Wellington, cyclist Paul Manning, zoologist Desmond Morris, theologian Robert Beckford, Islam scholar J. Spencer Trimingham, philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig, astrophysicist Edwin Ernest Salpeter (recipient of the 1997 Crafoord Prize), toxicologist Rosemary Waring, physicist Raymond Wilson (recipient of the 2010 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics), virologist Tony Minson, geographer Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, Chief Medical officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson, UN weapons inspector David Kelly, author James Clavell, Manchester United Chief Executive David Gill, Williams Formula One team co-founder Patrick Head, BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba and Bangladesh-based journalist David Bergman and Nicola Davies, High Court Judge.

Four Nobel Prize laureates are Birmingham alumni: Francis Aston, Maurice Wilkins, Sir John Vane, and Sir Paul Nurse.[127] Peter Bullock, a soil scientist and an alumnus of the university, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the IPCC.[128] However, he was not an outright winner.

Faculty and staff[edit]

The faculty and staff members connected with the university includes Nobel laureates such as Sir Norman Haworth (Professor, 1925–1948), Sir Peter Medawar (1947–51) and John Robert Schrieffer (NSF Fellow at Birmingham, 1957). In physics, faculty members includes Oliver Lodge, John Henry Poynting, Freeman Dyson, Otto Frisch, and Rudolf Peierls. Edward Elgar, the English composer, also served in the faculty as first Professor of Music. The twice Booker Prize shortlisted author David Lodge was Professor of English until 1987. The Tony Award winning playwright David Edgar founded the UK's first MA in Playwriting Studies at the university.

Chancellors[edit]

Birmingham has had six Chancellors since gaining its royal charter in 1900. Joseph Chamberlain was the first commoner in 240 years to hold the post of Chancellor of a British university, and the first such chancellor ever not to have been a member of the Established Church.

Chancellors
Name Duration
The Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain 1900–1914
The Rt. Hon. Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood 1918–1944
The Rt. Hon. Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon 1945–1973
Sir Peter Scott 1973–1983
Sir Alex Jarratt 1983–2002
Sir Dominic Cadbury 2002–2013
 ? 2013-

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]