On June 30 1881, HRH Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, officially opened the University College Nottingham at its new purpose-built premises on Shakespeare Street in the city.
From these humble beginnings, the institution would continue to flourish and expand over the course of the following 135 years, growing into the global institution that is today The University of Nottingham.
The Trent Building on University Park under construction, before the iconic clock tower was added
Now, the first full-length history of the University, Nottingham: A History of Britain’s Global University, has been penned by one of its own academics Professor John Beckett, charting its origins as a technical college in the late Victorian era to its modern day success as a university with more than 40,000 students from more than 140 nations around the world.
Dig for victory: University Park campus being used to grow fruit and vegetables for the war effort during the Second World War
Professor Beckett, Professor of English Regional History in the University’s Department of History, said: “I have taught history at The University of Nottingham for more than 30 years and, with a range of interests in the history of Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands more generally, I was obviously the person to write it.
“But it was a daunting challenge, because so much has happened so quickly, and because I wanted to write about student life, not just the institutional framework of the University.
“That, together with a wonderful collection of pictures, many supplied by alumni, made it a large book, but it was well worth the effort!”
The book traces all the major developments in the University’s proud history, including its move in 1928 to Highfields, three miles west of the city centre, on land gifted by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Jesse Boot and the awarding in 1948 of its Royal Charter, permitting it to award degrees for the first time.
The University continued to grow, having already opened the Faculty of Agriculture and Horticulture at Sutton Bonington in 1946, and student numbers accelerated with the founding of the Medical School in 1977.
New campuses were opened: Jubilee in 1999, Malaysia in 2001, King’s Meadow, Derby Medical School, and a campus in Ningbo, China followed in 2004.
However, student experience lies at the heart of the book and while tracing all these developments it places particular emphasis on what it has been like to study at Nottingham since the 1880s.
To build this picture, Professor Beckett drew on many oral interviews, student memories and the University archives.
He added: “It was a great privilege to be invited by the University to research and write this book and to be able to speak to former staff and many former students about life at the University all the way back to the 1940s.