University of York

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This article is about the British university. For the Canadian university, see York University.

University of York

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Established 1963
Chancellor Greg Dyke
Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor
Location Heslington, York, England
Enrolment 9,401 (7,617 undergraduate, 1,784 postgraduate)
Member of 1994 Group

The University of York (also known as York University) is a campus university in York, England. It is ranked by most studies in the top ten universities in the UK, coming second in the 2001 Daily Telegraph university league table and first for the quality of its teaching in official government assessments. Its thirty academic departments teach around 9,000 students. The main campus is on the outskirts of the city, next to the village of Heslington, but the university also uses a number of historic buildings in the city centre.



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Heslington Hall

One of a series of new British universities, the University of York was opened in 1963 when it admitted 200 students. At the time the university consisted of three buildings; principally: King's Manor (former residence of Thomas Wentworth, and one-time headquarters of the Council of the North), and Heslington Hall (former residence of Thomas Eynns, Secretary and Keeper of the Seal to the Council of the North). A year later, work began on the Heslington Campus (see below), which today forms the main part of the University.


The university is nominally based on eight colleges, which provide accommodation for students and for some of the academic departments. In practice, however, college loyalties are not especially strong, and the colleges are more like halls of residence than the traditional Oxbridge colleges. By date of construction the colleges are:

All but one of the colleges are on the main campus, with the exception, Halifax College, nearby on the edge of Heslington village. Eden's Court, a residential area, is part of Derwent College but residents use Halifax's facilities. There are also several off-campus residences: Holgate's Hall, Fairfax House, Catherine House and The Stables being the most well-known.


More generally, the campus is organised into Zones. The eight colleges above form eight of these zones. The remainder are:

  • Biology.
  • Central Hall, the hall where examinations and various productions are held.
  • Chemistry.
  • Computer Science.
  • Environmental Studies.
  • Fairfax House, extra student accommodation.
  • Heslington Hall.
  • King's Manor, a separate University building in York city centre that houses Archaeology and parts of History.
  • Library, which consists of the J.B. Morrell, Raymond Burton and Borthwick libraries.
  • Music.
  • Physics and Electronics.
  • Psychology.
  • Sports Centre.

Departments of the University are generally based in one of these zones. For example, the Mathematics department is housed in Goodricke College, the Politics department in Derwent College and the Economics department in Alcuin College. However, departments with their own zones, such as Biology and Physics, are not attached to a particular college. These large departments will usually lend their lecture theatres to smaller departments.

Academic departments

The university's music department contains one of the earliest electronic music studios built in the United Kingdom. It was also one of the first departments to include the teaching of ethnomusicology in its undergraduate courses, and has its own gamelan orchestra.

Staff in the sociology department work actively on various topics, including conversation analysis and sociological theory. The department now contains an important Science and Technology Studies Unit, based in the department at Wentworth College.

The Centre for Medieval Studies, established in 1968 [1] (, is a graduate institution supporting interdisciplinary scholarship for the study of the entire medieval period. Alumni of the Centre now work in many universities around the world.

The Hull York Medical School, opened in 2003, is now shared between the Heslington campus and the University of Hull.

The Heslington campus

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Central Hall

In 1964, work began on the campus facilities in the grounds of Heslington Hall. The marshy land was drained, forming the narrow, winding lake which dominates the campus, and extensively landscaped. The original buildings were designed by architect Andrew Derbyshire, and assembled using the CLASP system of prefabricated construction. Scattered around the lake, the buildings are connected by numerous covered walkways and bridges. Most of the university's arts departments inhabit the colleges, while many of the science departments have their own buildings.

A major landmark building is Central Hall, a daringly-designed half-octagonal concert hall whose appearance is frequently likened to that of a spaceship. As well as University convocations and examinations, it is used as a venue for theatrical and musical performances, and has played host to Jimi Hendrix, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, and Paul McCartney. Performances by big-name acts have been rarer at the university following a 1985 Boomtown Rats concert, during which the cover of the Central Hall orchestra pit was damaged1 ( A ban on pop performances in Central Hall was imposed by the University, although it has occasionally been waived, and Central Hall is still sometimes used for classical concerts. Concerts are also held in the music department's Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall and in some of the colleges.

At the time of its construction, the campus lake is rumoured to have been the largest plastic-lined lake in Europe. It has attracted a large population of wild and feral waterfowl, including greylag, Canada, barnacle and snow geese, along with large numbers of ducks and a growing population of black swans.

Student activities

The university has an unusually high number of active student societies. University Radio York, the student radio station, is the oldest independent radio station in the United Kingdom. There also exists student television station YSTV, England's first student TV station and one-time holder of the world record for longest continuous television broadcast under a single director. For a full list of the student societies, see List of student societies at the University of York

Every summer term the students take part in the Roses Tournament, a sports competition against Lancaster University. The venue of the event alternates each year between York and Lancaster. In Spring 2005, a similar White Rose Varsity Tournament was held, between University of York and York St John College.

The student government organisation on campus is called YUSU, the membership of which currently corresponds to the entire student population. Posts in YUSU are elected by the students yearly. Like many student unions, it is often critised by students for being inward looking, and not representative of the student body as a whole. Low turnout at YUSU elections, and poor turnout at UGMs (Union General Meetings) are evidence of this. YUSU also caused controversy in 2005 by imposing a new 'media charter' on the campus press. This imposed limits and controls on what the two student newspapers could publish, and ensured every written article had to be submitted to YUSU to be vetted before publication.This led to allegations of press censorship imposed by the current YUSU President. The common room committees and societies are considered integral parts of YUSU and draw the larger part of their funds from it. As well as URY and YSTV, other media organisations include newspapers Vision and nouse and the Cinematography Society.

Future expansion

Over the next decade, the University plans to increase student numbers by around 5,000, and to introduce a number of new subjects, including Law, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Theatre Film and Television studies. These plans are based upon calculations of expansion of University numbers nationally and a re-targetting of the University's assets. For most of its history, its core strengths were regarded as being in the technology departments - Physics, Computer Science and Electronics - and the traditional liberal arts - History and English. Successes in cancer research lead to a re-structuring of the Chemistry and Biology departments to bring them closer together, the founding of a Health Sciences department, the establishment of courses in Nursing and Midwifery, and the creation of the Hull York Medical School or HYMS. This entry into medical and health care training has lead to a change in the University's priorities.

On the arts side, the University is building upon its reputation for fostering interdisciplinary studies. The Centre for Medieval Studies has been regarded as being at the forefront of combining history, art history, archaeology, literary studies, architectural studies and drama to give a more rounded view of historical events and culture. Its model has been succesfully replicated with the establishment of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. This is to be followed by the opening of the Centre for Renassiance and Early Modern Studies in 2007. This Centre intends to admit its first postgraduate students in 2008. At the same time, the Department of English and Related Literature intends to expand upon its literary studies by placing more emphasis on creative writing and performance.

For a number of years, the University's expansion plans have been limited by planning restrictions on the Heslington campus. Since the campus lies within the York green belt, planning conditions stipulate that only 20% of the land may be built upon. In the academic year 2003/04, plans were finalised for a second campus, on the other side of Heslington village. Called the Heslington East campus, the proposal is for a new 70 hectare campus designed to mirror the existing main Heslington campus. Situated by the Grimston Bar park and ride carpark, it will involve construction on land currently used for arable farming. The plans involve landscaping the area, with the construction of an artificial lake and the planting of light woodland. Several departments are being considered for new, purpose-built facilities on the campus, including Computer Science and Law. Current University Chancellor Greg Dyke has already made a pledge of funds to subsidise a professorship in the new Theatre, Film and Television department.

Heslington East will be connected to the existing campus by a network of pathways and light transport links. Construction is hoped to begin in the 2006/07 academic year, with the first buildings coming into use the following year. However, there is still a lengthy consultation and planning exercise to be undertaken, and designs have yet to be finalised for the site and for the new buildings.

Notable alumni / alumnae

See also

York University Students' Union

External links

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