Birmingham City University, also known as BCU, runs Access and Foundation programmes through an international network of counterparts and further education colleges, and enjoys the largest intake of foreign students in the city.
It boasts three main campuses serving four faculties, and recently benefited from a £125 million extension to its home in the heart of Birmingham, as part of the Eastside development of a technology and learning complex.
BCU dates all the way back to 1843, when it went by the name Birmingham College of Art. It was established as a polytechnic in 1971, and secured university status 21 years later.
The polytechnic was formed out of merges with four other colleges – Birmingham School of Music, Birmingham College of Commerce, South Birmingham Technical College, and North Birmingham Technical College. The hub of the operation was at North Birmingham Technical College’s old Perry Barr campus, although campuses were dotted around the city.
In 1975, three more colleges joined the polytechnic – Antsey College of Physical Education, Bordesley College of Education, and City of Birmingham College of Education. Four years later, it was one of the biggest providers of its kind in the UK, despite the fact it was struggling financially. In 1988, the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design was created from the merging of the polytechnic’s Faculty of Art and Design with Bournville College of Art.
However, 12 months later the polytechnic was no longer under the control of Birmingham Local Education Authority following the government’s Education Reform Act, and it became an independent corporation with charitable status.
Thanks to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, polytechnics got the green light to use the title of ‘university’, and in June of that year, ‘University of Central England in Birmingham’ was approved for the eagerly-anticipated name change.
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Within three years, two more colleges had been absorbed – West Midlands School of Radiography, and Birmingham and Solihull College of Nursing. At the turn of the century, the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Technology paved the way for the Technology Innovation Centre to be introduced. In August 2005, the university rebranded to UCE Birmingham so it could improve marketing and promotion, only for the Vice-Chancellor to reverse the decision less than two years later.
In the summer of 2007, the university became Birmingham City University, following a survey of staff and students which gave them the opportunity to choose from a shortlist of possible names.
A number of successful television presenters are amongst the alumni of BCU. They include Zoe Ball, who shot to fame on the children’s show Live and Kicking in the 1990s before carving out a hugely-successful career on Radio 1, and Fiona Phillips, who became a household name when she anchored GMTV alongside veteran anchor Eamonn Holmes.
Sky News presenter Marverine Cole, her BBC counterpart Charlie Stayt, and artist Barbara Walker also attended BCU. And stand-out graduates in the performing arts include comedian Frank Skinner, soap star Catherine Tyldesley, Duran Duran founder John Taylor, and songwriter Stephen Duffy.