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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.


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

Find out more about our foundations


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


In the 1970s, college social life began to blossom.


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


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


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


The last decade saw the University expand with new facilities and investments across our campus.


Dr Heather Melville, OBE is our current Chancellor.

Our Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors and Students' Union Presidents have contributed to the University's development in many ways. They've led a diverse group of students, academics and support staff in building a venerable institution in sixty years. 

Find out more about our people

Oral history

In 2013, as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, the Department of History and Borthwick Institute for Archives conducted an oral history project to capture the memories and opinions of fifty people who played a part in the University's first half century.

Listen to the interviews