University of York

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This article is about the British university. For the Canadian university, see York University.
The University of York
Shield of the University of York
Latin: Eboracum
Motto In limine sapientiae
Motto in English On the threshold of wisdom
Established 1963 (1963)
Type Public
Endowment £7.8 m[1]
Budget £255 m[2]
Chancellor Greg Dyke[3]
Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts[4]
Admin. staff 3,091
Students 15,265[5]
Undergraduates 11,129[6]
Postgraduates 4,435[5]
Location York, United Kingdom
53°56′48″N 1°03′09″W / 53.94659°N 1.0525°W / 53.94659; -1.0525Coordinates: 53°56′48″N 1°03′09″W / 53.94659°N 1.0525°W / 53.94659; -1.0525
Campus Heslington West, Heslington East, and King's Manor
Colours Dark blue      and dark green     [7]
Affiliations Russell Group,[8] EUA, White Rose University Consortium, WUN, N8

The logo of the University of York

Coat of Arms of the University of York.

The University of York (abbreviated as Ebor. for post-nominals),[9] is a research-intensive plate glass university located in the city of York, England. Established in 1963, the campus university has expanded to more than thirty departments and centres, covering a wide range of subjects.

York has been named the eighth best university under 50 years old in the world (and first within the UK),[10] building a "reputation to rival Oxford and Cambridge".[11] The university also places among the top 10 in the country, top 20 universities in Europe, and ranked 114th in the world, according to the 2014 QS World University Rankings.[12] York is described as a "genuinely world class" institution by the Times and Sunday Times.[13] In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, York was also named as the 8th[14] best research institution in the United Kingdom, the Sunday Times university of the year in 2003 and Times Higher Education university of the year in 2010. In 2012, York was invited to join the Russell Group in recognition of the institution's world-leading[15] research and outstanding teaching.[16]

The University attracts a student body with a wide range of backgrounds (with over 41,000 part-time and full-time student applications in 2010/11),[17] including a large number of international students, and a relatively high number of state school students in comparison to other well-ranked universities according to The Times Good University Guide.[18]

Situated to the south-east of the city of York,[19] the university campus is approximately 200 acres (0.81 km2) in size, incorporating the York Science Park and the National Science Learning Centre. Its wildlife, campus lakes and greenery are prominent, and the institution also occupies buildings in the city of York. Every student is allocated to one of the university's eight colleges, as is the case at the traditional collegiate universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham.[20] In May 2007 the university was granted permission to build an extension to its main campus, on arable land just east of the nearby village of Heslington. The land was removed from the green belt especially for the purpose of extending the university. The second campus, known as Heslington East, opened in 2009[21] and now hosts two colleges and three departments as well as conference spaces, sports village and a business start-up 'incubator'. In 2013 construction began on a ninth college, officially named Constantine[22] after the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, proclaimed Augustus in York in 306 AD.



The Yorkshire Philosophical society

The first petition for the establishment of a university in York was presented to King James I in 1617.[23] In 1903 F. J. Munby and others (including the Yorkshire Philosophical Society) proposed a 'Victoria University of Yorkshire'.[24] The then College of Ripon and York St John also at one time considered purchasing Heslington Hall as part of a proposed new campus.


Oliver Sheldon (1894–1951), co-founder of York Civic Trust, was a driving force behind the founding of the University, according to the Borthwick Institute for Archives. The University of York was opened in 1963, admitting 200 students. At the time, the university consisted of three buildings, principally the historic King's Manor in the city centre and Heslington Hall, which has Tudor foundations and is in the village of Heslington on the edge of York. A year later, work began on purpose-built structures on the Heslington Campus, which now forms the main part of the university.

Founding principles[edit]

Baron James of Rusholme, the university's first Vice-Chancellor, said of the University of York that "it must be collegiate in character, that it must deliberately seek to limit the number of subjects and that much of the teaching must be done via tutorials and seminars".[25] Due to the influence of Graeme Moodie, founding head of the Politics Department, students are involved in the governance of the university at all levels, and his model has since been widely adopted.[26]


The campus from the air looking south

Heslington West campus[edit]

Central Hall

In 1964, work began on the campus facilities in the grounds of Heslington Hall. The marshy land was drained, the winding lake which dominates the campus was built, and the area was landscaped. The original buildings were designed by architect Andrew Derbyshire, and assembled using the CLASP system of prefabricated construction, hence York's inclusion among the so-called plate glass universities. The buildings are connected by numerous covered walkways and bridges. Most of the university's arts departments occupy premises in the college buildings, while many of the science departments have their own buildings.

A landmark building is Central Hall, a half-octagonal concert hall used for convocations and examinations, as well as theatrical and musical performances. It has played host to The Wailers, George Melly, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, and Paul McCartney. Performances by big-name acts have been rarer at the university following a 1985 The Boomtown Rats concert, during which the cover of the orchestra pit was damaged.[27] A ban on pop performances, and in particular dancing, in Central Hall was imposed by the university, although it has occasionally been relaxed. Central Hall is still used for classical concerts and since a rock concert was held there in on 13 March 2010 it has been available again for full booking. Public concerts are regularly held in the music department's Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, the Arthur Sykes Rymer Auditorium and in some of the colleges. The Raymond Burton Library was also recently nominated for a SCONUL Design award.

The campus lake is the largest plastic-bottomed lake in Europe,[28] has attracted a large population of wild and semi-wild waterfowl. These include greylag, Canada, barnacle and snow geese, coots, moorhens and large numbers of ducks, including mallards, tufted duck, and common pochards. There is also a growing population of black swans and a few great crested grebe. Herons have also been sighted on the lake. The southern end of the lake has been established as a bird sanctuary. Fishing is permitted in season, on purchase of a licence.

Other parts of the campus support a large rabbit population. On at least one occasion, students have been cautioned by the University for hunting rabbits.[29]

The Heslington campus has both indoor and outdoor sports facilities, including an all weather AstroTurf pitch and County standard cricket pitch. A large, tent-like structure allows for indoor sport, gymnastics and dance.

A view of the university's main academic library, north-west from near Langwith College at the Heslington campus

King's Manor[edit]

Main article: King's Manor

Located in York city centre, approximately 2 miles (3 km) from the main Heslington West campus, the historic King's Manor began as the Abbot's House of St Mary's Abbey and went on to become the headquarters of the Council of the North following the dissolution of the monasteries. It is home to the Archaeology, Medieval Studies and Eighteenth Century Studies departments, and is regularly used by other related departments such as History. It has a public restaurant and is used for art displays.

Not far from the King's Manor is the Minster Library, in Dean's Park. Students and staff of the University are able to use the Minster Library, which shares staff and cataloguing with the main University library, and holds the huge collection of early books belonging to the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.

Heslington Hall and Derwent College


There are eight colleges at the University of York, and every student is a member of a college. Staff may choose to join a college if they wish. All the colleges are of equal status, but each has its own constitution. The day-to-day running of the colleges is managed by an elected committee of staff and student members chaired by the college's Provost. Each college has a Junior Common Room for students, which is managed by the elected Junior Common Room Committee, and a Senior Common Room, which is managed by elected representatives of the college's academic and administrative members. The colleges are deliberately assigned undergraduates, postgraduate students and staff from a wide mixture of disciplines.[20] By date of construction the colleges are:

Name Foundation Image Named after
Derwent College 1965 (also includes "Derwith", a joint residential extension of Derwent and Langwith, built in 1988)
Derwent College - - 1556181.jpg
River Derwent
Langwith College 1965 (moved to new facilities on the Heslington East campus in 2012)
Langwith across the Lake - - 482389.jpg
Langwith Common
Vanbrugh College 1968
Van Brugh 2675.jpg
Sir John Vanbrugh
Alcuin College 1969
Alcuin College in Snow - - 1691889.jpg
Alcuin of York, scholar and advisor to Charlemagne
Goodricke College 1968 (moved to new facilities on the Heslington East campus in 2009)
Goodricke College reception - - 1553930.jpg
John Goodricke, astronomer
Wentworth College 1972 (refounded in 2001)
Wentworth 2626.jpg
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford
James College 1990
James College Reception - - 1625051.jpg
Lord James of Rusholme
Halifax College 2002
Halifax College York.jpg
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Constantine College[22] 2014 (expected) Emperor Constantine the Great
  • Wentworth College is a postgraduate only college. It originally had undergraduates as well, but became postgraduate only at its refounding in 2001
  • James College was originally postgraduate only, but changed to accept undergraduates in 1993
  • Halifax College was originally Halifax Court, but received college status in 2002.

The Sunday Times noted, "The colleges are tight-knit communities within the university and enjoy a healthy rivalry." The colleges share practical features of the halls of residence of other UK universities, as well as the traditional Oxbridge/Durham colleges.

Heslington East campus[edit]

In 2003, the university set out plans to create a campus for 5,000 additional students,[30][31] and to introduce a number of new subjects such as Law and Dentistry.[32]

For a number of years, the university's expansion plans were limited by planning restrictions on the Heslington West campus. The City of York planning conditions stipulate that only 20% of the land area may be built upon, and the original campus was at full capacity.[33]

In 2003–04, plans were finalised for a 117 hectare extension to the campus, provisionally called Heslington East, designed to mirror the existing Heslington West campus. The plans set out that the new campus would be built on arable land between Grimston Bar park and ride car park and Heslington village. After a lengthy consultation and a public inquiry into the proposals[34] in 2006, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government gave the go-ahead in May 2007.[35]

Goodricke College, Heslington East campus

In May 2008 the City of York planners approved the design for the first residential college, Goodricke. In The Press on 28 July 2008, Shepherd Construction was named as the preferred contractor for the Goodricke College buildings.[36] The proposal included landscaping the whole area, constructing a lake with marsh borders, planting light woodland and many specimen trees, and maximising biodiversity.

Several departments will move to purpose-built facilities on the extension, with Law and the York Management School being the first.

Construction began in 2008, with the first buildings, including Goodricke college, coming into use in October 2009.[21] The college was officially opened by the Duke of York in April 2010.[37]

In October 2010, several departments moved into new facilities on Heslington East including the Department of Theatre, Film and Television and the Department of Computer Science.[38]

Off-campus accommodation[edit]

There are also several off-campus residences, including Catherine House, 54 Walmgate, and Fairfax House. The University publishes an annual code of practice for student accommodation[39] to help students living off-campus.

Science Park and on-campus organisations[edit]

Next door to the university on the York Science Park are organisations including the Higher Education Academy, the Digital Preservation Coalition the National Non-Food Crops Centre, the York Neuroimaging Centre, the York JEOL Nanocentre, the IT office of VetUK, the UK head office of AlphaGraphics, the accelerated mass spectrometry specialists Xceleron Ltd, and the Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. In Summer 2011, the Department of Physics moved its Plasma Physics and Fusion Group to the Science Park at the newly created York Plasma Institute. York Conferences are located on the University campus.

Academic profile[edit]

Reputation and academic rankings[edit]

The Times University Guide said of York that "The university is increasingly recognised as a permanent fixture in the top rank of British higher education" and that "No university had a better record for teaching quality".[40] The Sunday Times said, "York is one of Britain's academic success stories, forging a reputation to rival Oxford and Cambridge in the space of 40 years. In some regards – teaching, for example – it has a recent track record better than that of Oxford, according to the official assessments of teaching quality."

On 25 November 2010 York was named "University of the Year" at the Times Higher Education Awards, achieving praise from the judges for its "success in combining academic excellence with social inclusion, as well as its record in scientific discovery".[41]

Heslington Hall

Entry standards[edit]

Information for entry standards gathered from the 2010–2011 academic year by the HESA shows that the average student at the University of York achieved a UCAS tariff of 450.[42] An A grade at A-Level is equivalent to 120 points, and an A at AS worth 60 points.grade[43] the average entrant can be assumed to achieve three or more A-Levels at grade A. York, along with only a handful of other British universities, require the new A* grade for some course entry requirements.[44] York has the 15th highest entrant UCAS points of British universities.[42]

Official teaching statistics[edit]

The 2003 QAA report on the institution gave it the best of their three possible outcomes[45] saying that "broad confidence can be placed in the soundness of the university's current and likely future management of the quality of its academic programmes and the academic standards of its awards."[46]

The latest Teaching Quality Assessment data for the University of York is listed below. In cases before November 1995 a numerical value, out of 24, is not used. In these cases "Excellent" is the highest possible grade followed by "Satisfactory" and then "Unsatisfactory". Under the newer system the quality of teaching is marked out of 24. 22/24 or higher is equivalent to "Excellent" on the old scale[47][48] 20 out of 23 departments gained an "excellent" rating.

Research assessment[edit]

York has an impressive reputation for research with 19 Units of Assessment out of the 23 in the 2000 Research Assessment Exercise receiving a rating of 5 and three 5* (where 1 is the lowest and 5* is the highest possible) ratings in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise.[49] The Department of English and Related Literature[50] and the Department of Computer Science[51] were later upgraded from 5* to 6* (indicating successive 5* grades), and the Department of Psychology[52] has been rated 6* for funding. Using these statistics, York was ranked the sixth-best research institution in the UK.[53] The proportion of staff submitted as research active in each Unit of Assessment was above 80%.

Central Hall and lake

York is a founding member of the Worldwide Universities Network which supports worldwide collaboration in teaching and research. The university has been awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize five times – in 1997 for the work of the Department of Computer Science; in 2005 for the work of the Centre for Novel Agricultural products,[54] in 2007 for the work of the Centre for Health Economics, in 2009 for the work of Social Policy Research Unit[55] of the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.,[56] and in 2011 for the Department of Archaeology's influential role in broadening the scope of archaeology.[57]

Health economics was pioneered at York and the university leads the world in the methodological development of cost-effectiveness analysis of health care technologies. It is home to two prominent health economics journals and has been home to many prominent names in health economics (including current Lead Health Economist at the World Bank Adam Wagstaff, ex-deputy chair of NICE Tony Culyer, current ISPOR director Paul Kind, ex-ISPOR president Mike Drummond, current chairman of York Primary Care Trust Alan Maynard).

There are around eight applications for every undergraduate place, and a low drop-out rate of 4% (only Oxbridge, Bristol, and UCL are lower).[58]

In 2007, York became the only British University to have an academic department – Chemistry – win the Gold Athena Swan Award for its commitment to the careers of women in science. The Department of Psychology has won a Silver Athena Swan Award, the first in the country to do so, Biology also has silver, and the university as a whole holds the Athena Swan bronze award.[59]

(2014, national)
(2014, world)
(2014/15, national)
(2014/15, world)
(2014/15, national)
(2014/15, world)
(2015, national)
The Guardian[64]
(2015, national)
Times/Sunday Times[65]
(2015, national)

League tables[edit]

Traditionally regarded as a 'Top 10 university', York has consistently been present near the top of the UK league tables. It is one of the youngest Universities in the world to be ranked top 100 in the overall THE-QS World University Rankings, and in the 2010 QS World University Rankings[66] York was ranked 88th in the world (in 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings parted ways to produce separate rankings). In the same rankings York is listed as 34th for Life Sciences & Biomedicine.[67] The Sunday Times released averages of all its tables over 10 years, ranking York as 6th in the country from 1998–2007.[68] In 2000 the Sutton Trust named York as a leading university in the UK, placing it 6th overall.[69]

Academic departments[edit]

Department of Archaeology
  • Location: King's Manor
Department of Biology
Department of Chemistry
  • Location: Alcuin College, Heslington Campus
Department of Computer Science
Department of Economics and Related Studies
  • Location: Alcuin College, Heslington Campus
Educational Studies
  • Location: Derwent College, Heslington Campus
Department of Electronics
Department of English and Related Literature
  • Location: Derwent College, Heslington Campus
Department of Environment
  • Location: Market Square, Heslington Campus
Department of Health Sciences
  • Location: Seebohm Rowntree Building, Heslington Campus
Department of History
  • Location: Vanbrugh College, Heslington Campus
Department of History of Art
  • Location: Vanbrugh College, Heslington Campus
Department of Language and Linguistic Studies
  • Location: Vanbrugh College, Heslington Campus
York Law School
The York Management School
  • Location: James College, Heslington Campus
Hull York Medical School
Department of Music
  • Location: Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, Heslington Campus
Department of Philosophy
  • Location: Sally Baldwin A, Heslington Campus
Department of Physics
Department of Politics
  • Location: Derwent College, Heslington Campus
School of Politics, Economics and Philosophy
  • Location: Derwent College, Heslington Campus
Department of Psychology
  • Location: Psychology, Heslington Campus
Department of Social Policy and Social Work
  • Location: Alcuin College, Heslington Campus
Department of Sociology
  • Location: Wentworth College, Heslington Campus
Department of Theatre, Film and Television
  • Location: TFTV Building, Heslington East Campus

The university hosts a number of interdisciplinary research centres, including the Borthwick Institute for Archives, Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Centre for Modern Studies, the Centre for Medieval Studies, the Institute for Effective Education and the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past. The Department of Politics hosts the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit and the Centre for Applied Human Rights.

The campus is home to the National Science Learning Centre, opened in March 2006, it serves as the hub for a £51 million national network of centres dedicated to revitalising science teaching in schools. It is operated by the White Rose University Consortium (which comprises the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York) together with Sheffield Hallam University.

Student activities[edit]


York Student Television (YSTV) was founded at the University in 1967 and is England's oldest student television station.[120] YSTV once held the world record for longest continuous television broadcast under a single director.[121] It was named the best student television station at the 2012 NaSTA Awards. The University of York Filmmaking Society is a student-run filmmaking group; since 1999 its members have made two feature films and many shorts, some of which have been shown at national film festivals.

University Radio York (URY) is the oldest independent radio station in the United Kingdom and winner of the Student Radio Awards Best Station Award 2005. Nouse was established in 1964 and was 2005 NUS/Mirror Student paper of the year and 2009 NUS Best Student Media.[122] It has also won multiple Guardian Student Newspaper awards throughout the past decade, for both its pioneering website[123] and outstanding individual journalists. Its rival newspaper, Vision, was named Guardian Student Newspaper of the Year for three consecutive years between 2002 and 2004—the only time this has occurred in the 27-year history of the prestigious awards—and won it again in 2007.[124] In 2011, it won the award for a fifth time, making it the most awarded student newspaper in the United Kingdom. It also won Best Small Budget Publication at the 2006 NUS/Mirror National Student Media Awards.

The Lemon Press, York's satire magazine, was launched in 2009, in both print and online formats. In 2010 it won the NUS Award for Best Student Media.[125] The Yorker is an online publication set up by students as an independent company in 2007; it was nominated for the Guardian Student media awards[124] after running for only a few months.

York Student Cinema (YSC), operating since the late 1960s, show around 30 films a term using a professional 35 mm projector and a full size cinemascope screen in one of the largest rooms on campus. It has won the BFFS film society of the year award several times.


Each College has its own JCRC or students' association which provide a variety of services, including college events and student welfare services; they also organise the Freshers' Fortnight activities in their College. The students' union is known as YUSU, but is properly called the University of York Students' Union. Its membership is currently the entire student population of the university. In 2008 YUSU was able to open its first Union-run licensed venue The Courtyard.

In addition to the students' union, there is a Graduate Students' Association (the GSA) which performs many of the functions of the Students' Union for postgraduate students, including representing postgraduates on university committees and Council.

Non-partisan political societies are well represented at the university, with the York Student Think Tank – which produces research in collaboration with national policy organisations such as IPPR, New Generation Society – an informal debating society, and The York Union Society – which competes in inter-varsity debating tournaments against other universities. There are also very active party political societies on campus with the University of York Labour Club, the University of York Liberal Democrat Society, the University of York Conservative and Unionist Association and the University of York Green group; campaigning on issues both on and off campus, as well as organising debates and talks by high profile speakers. There is also a branch of People and Planet, which campaigns on environmental and ethical issues.

Provisions for lesbian, gay bisexual and trans (LGBT) students at the university are divided among two distinct organisations. YUSU LGBT is a part of the students' union and represents LGBT students within the union, as well as providing welfare support and conducting awareness raising campaigns on campus. LGBT Social organises social events aimed at LGBT students and their friends. While remaining separate, these two groups generally have strong links to each other and to the staff LGBTI forum, which offers largely similar provision to staff members of the university.


Every summer term the students take part in the Roses Tournament, a sports competition against Lancaster University. The venue of the event alternates each year between York and Lancaster, and involves numerous sports clubs, including the conventional (football, hockey) and the more unusual (YUCC, ultimate frisbee). The York University teams play in Black and Gold colours. There is also a one-day College Varsity against Durham University for college teams to participate in.


The University of York Music Society and the University of York Drama Society are two of the largest student societies on campus; both now collaborate with the Central Hall Musical Society and Happily Ever After Society who each stage an annual musical.

Other performing societies include the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, PantSoc who stage the biannual student pantomimes, and ComedySoc who run a variety of student comedy events throughout each term. FUSION was recently founded to promote the ever-growing urban music scene and to raise money for charity.

In 2004 a student at the university established York Carnival—a day celebrating music and the arts in the centre of York. Its original aim was to encourage links between the University of York and the residents of the historic city and to encourage participation in the arts. It has grown into a large annual event, attracting crowds of up to 5,000.[126]

Notable people[edit]

List of Chancellors[edit]

List of Vice-Chancellors[edit]



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