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History of the University

Though plans for a university in York first appeared as early as 1617, it would be over three centuries before they came to fruition. In 1960, permission was finally granted for the University of York to be built, marking the beginning of our journey.

Faces for Fifty

We asked our community of staff, retired staff, friends, alumni and students to tell us who they thought had made a significant contribution to the University over the years.

Lord Harewood and Lord James at York's first graduation ceremony

People

Find out more about key figures in York's history: Chancellors, VCs and SU Presidents.

50th Anniversary

In 2013 we marked our fiftieth anniversary. Take a look at how we celebrated.

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Foundations

Before the Second World War, Heslington was a quiet rural retreat with a local aristocracy, and a working agricultural village.

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1960s

Fresh, young, forward looking and enthusiastic, the University was known for its friendly atmosphere before it even opened its doors.

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1970s

The 1970s was the decade in which college social life began to blossom.

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1980s

The start of the 1980s was not promising, seeing the start of cuts across higher education and a fire in the Chemistry Department.

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1990s

By the end of the 1990s, York was dominating national league tables for research and teaching.

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2000s

The new Millennium saw a sea-change in the way that Britain viewed higher education.

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Timeline

Explore the key events, stories and personalities from the University's history in our interactive timeline.

Timeline


1641
A petition is drawn up for a university in York, but not sent to London due to the outbreak of the Civil War

1647
Another petition is submitted to Parliament but not granted

1820s
Debates about a university in York take place

1832
Durham University is founded, dashing York's hopes

1946
The Archbishop of York gives a sermon to the Company of Merchant Adventurers on 'The Value of History', including a passage on the importance of universities and reasons why York is a suitable location

1947
An application is made by a group of local citizens to the University Grants Committee - it is unsuccessful

1948
York Academic Trust establishes the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies and the Borthwick Institute

1959
An approach is made to the University Grants Committee

1960
Permission for a university is granted and Lord James appointed as Chancellor

1962
Interviews for the first cohort are held

1963
On 9 October 230 students register for courses in Economics, Politics, English, Education, History and Mathematics

1965
Derwent and Langwith are officially opened by Queen Elizabeth.

1967
Alcuin and Vanbrugh colleges accept their first students

1968
Goodricke becomes the University's fifth college

1972
Wentworth College opens, named after Thomas Wentworth, the 1st Earl of Stafford

1978
Vice-Chancellor Berrick Saul joins the protests against government cuts to education funding

1989
The Buddah statue arrives on campus, donated by Elizabeth Cooper, daughter of J B Morrell

1992
James College is opened by Lady James, widow of York's first Vice-Chancellor

1994
Yorkweb, the University's first website, is launched

2003
Halifax College is opened by Chancellor Dame Janet Baker

2007
Planning permission is granted for the development of Heslington East

2014
Constantine College is unveiled as the University's ninth