Aberystwyth University exists today thanks to the vision of a small group of patriots, led by Hugh Owen, who from the 1850s strived to raise money to open a college of university status in Wales – something many considered impossible at the time. In 1872, the university was established in a hotel building on the sea front, with 26 students and three teachers.
Desperately tight finances meant the first 12 years involved a constant battle to survive, and the university only managed to remain open courtesy of the kindness of individual benefactors and fundraising campaigns by people across Wales. To this day, it’s underdog story, and the fact it was one of the first education providers of its kind to admit female students, has secured a place in the heart of the nation.
In the 1960s the university moved from the seafront to a Penglais campus, which boasted stunning views of the sea and the town. Staff and students have since benefited from a new Arts Centre, sports complex and halls of residence. Most recently, a significant government investment enabled the introduction of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences. In 2007 all colleges of the University of Wales became independent universities.
Aberystwyth University made history when it was named University of the Year for Teaching Quality in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. It marked the first time a university in Wales had received the award from the Guide, which was published in September 2017. The Guide’s league table also placed Aberystwyth University in the top 50 UK universities, moving up nine places to 47th position compared to the previous year. It was ranked in the top 10 in the UK for student experience and first in Wales, and also came fifth in the UK for teaching quality – up five places.
In the findings of the 2017 Good University Guide, Aberystwyth University was named in second spot from across the UK for quality of assessment and feedback. The National Student Survey placed it as the best in Wales for student satisfaction and one of the top five mainstream universities.
The university’s employability rates are at their highest ever, with the Higher Education Statistics Agency confirming in July 2017 that 95% of students were in work or further study six months after graduating in 2016.
How is this for a claim to fame? HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, is among the notable Aberystwyth alumni. Ever wondered why he is so clued up on the country? Well, he studied Welsh history and language for a term in his second year! Now the heir apparent to the British throne, the Royal has reflected on his time at the university with great fondness.
Former MP Neil Hamilton also attended, as did Nobel Prize winner Frederick Soddy, and rugby player John Dawes, who went on to captain Wales and the British Lions. Alex Jones, who many will recognise as the popular presenter of The One Show, studied at the university as well, along with Oscar-winning animated film director, Jan Pinkava.