It is no understatement to say that the University of Exeter is a magical place – after all, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is among the most notable Alumni. Students left spellbound by their experience there have gone on to forge successful careers, and recommend the university to their friends.
The story dates back to 1855, when Sir Stafford Northcote encouraged the creation of a School of Art in Exeter, as part of his ambition for the city to be the West of England’s cultural hub. A parallel School of Science was unveiled eight years later, before the Schools of Art and Science arrived in 1870.
Teaming up with the University of Cambridge in 1893 saw the college become the Exeter Technical and University Extension College and, by the turn of the century, there were around 900 students aged between 13 and 30 years. Student societies grew in popularity in the early 1900s, and by 1922, university college status was awarded with a government grant. The university college moved to the Streatham estate, which hosted evacuated students during the Second World War.
Land was cultivated for the growth of food during the conflict, which ran from 1939 to 1945, and The Registry was obliterated during the bombings. Full university status was granted in 1955, when a Royal Charter was received. The university was then broken down into four faculties – Arts, Science, Social Studies and Law.
Northcott Theatre opened at the university’s Streatham campus in 1967, replacing the old Theatre Royal. It was famously unveiled with a production of The Merchant of Venice, to the delight of attendees. Exeter later changed to a two-campus university, as St Luke’s College of Education joined the institution.
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Enrolment figures carried on improving and, by the end of the 1980s, the amount of students had increased from 3,400 to almost 5,200. Camborne School of Mines merged with the university in 1993.
Memorably, Professor John Tooke, Dean of the Medical School, claimed a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for research into diabetes. The university received the honour on two more occasions - for research into children’s health and exercise, and for innovative research into treatment for diabetes sufferers.
In 2004, the university cast its net wider with the £69 million introduction of a Cornwall campus in Penryn. Five years on, work got started on the university’s £300 million capital investment programme, which included the building of the INTO centre, Building 1 at the Business School, improvements to Geoffrey Pope, and work on the Forum on Streatham campus.
Exeter was invited to join the Russell Group of leading research-led universities in 2012 – the same year that the £50 million Forum building was opened by The Queen.
In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the University of Exeter placed 16th nationally and 130th in the international equivalent. It also has a Gold Teaching Excellence Framework to its name.
Zara Tindall, the Queen’s grand-daughter, attended Exeter, as did entrepreneur and media personality Katie Hopkins, and Thom Yorke, lead singer and lyricist for the rock band Radiohead.