The university was originally founded as the Plymouth School of Navigation in 1862,
before becoming a University College in 1920 and a Polytechnic Institute
with its constituent bodies being
Plymouth Polytechnic, Rolle College
, the Exeter College of Art and Design
(which were, before April 1989, run by Devon County Council
) and Seale-Hayne College
(which before April 1989 was an independent charity). It was renamed Polytechnic South West in 1989, a move that was unpopular with students as the name lacked identity. It was the only polytechnic to be renamed and remained as 'PSW' until gaining university status in 1992 along with the other polytechnics. The new university absorbed the Plymouth School of Maritime Studies.
In 2006 part of the remains of the World War II Portland Square air-raid shelter
were rediscovered on the Plymouth campus.
On the night of 22 April 1941, during the Blitz
, a bomb fell here killing over 70 civilians, including a mother and her six children.
The bomb blast was so violent that human remains were found in the tops of trees. Only three people escaped alive, all children.
The university's first Vice-Chancellor was John Bull. He was succeeded by Roland Levinsky
until his death on 1 January 2007, when he walked into live electrical cables brought down during a storm.
He was temporarily replaced by Mark Cleary
(now VC of the University of Bradford
and then by Steve Newstead. Wendy Purcell became VC on 1 December 2007. She was placed on leave on 2 July 2014 by the University's governors while an internal review was conducted.
A month later the Higher Education Funding Council for England
requested an independent external review of the university's governance.
In August 2014, the university was instructed by HEFCE
to undertake an external review of its governance after vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell was placed on leave.
, CBE, was appointed the University of Plymouth’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive in February 2016. She joined Plymouth from the University of Southampton
where she had been Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise and previously the inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (2010–13).
The university was selected by the Royal Statistical Society
in October 2008 to be the home of its Centre for Statistical Education.
It also runs courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology,
and Earth, ocean & environmental sciences.
When university status was gained in 1992, the university was based in various locations. Under Vice-Chancellor Levinsky the university began a policy of centralising its campus activities in Plymouth.
The Exmouth campus – Rolle College
– housed the Faculty of Education and relocated to the new Rolle Building in August 2008. The decision was unpopular with students and the town of Exmouth
itself. There were several protest marches and a campaign to keep the campus open.
Completed developments include Portland Square, a library extension, refurbished and new laboratory and teaching facilities in many of the campus buildings, halls of residence near the Business School and a new £16 million Peninsula Medical School
headquarters at Derriford, in the north of the city.
A Marine Building has been constructed behind the Babbage Building to house civil engineering
, coastal engineering
and marine sciences
An exception to the trend of centralising activities are the university's extensive activities in education for the health professions. In addition many of its students are taught at Further Education Colleges throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, such as South Devon College
. A building which opened in 2008 is shared between the Peninsula Medical School and the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences.
The Roland Levinsky Building
Roland Levinsky building
The Roland Levinsky Building, designed by architects Henning Larsen
with Building Design Partnership
, is clad with copper sheets
in a seamed-cladding technique, is nine storeys high and has 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft) of floor space.
The Faculty of Arts, previously based in Exmouth and Exeter moved here in August 2007. The building contains two large lecture theatres, the Jill Craigie Cinema, used by the film students to display their films and for showing of films to the public; three performance rehearsal studios; digital media suites; and a public art gallery which displays work by local artists groups, students and famous artists.
University-managed or approved accommodation in the first year of study is guaranteed for all applicants who choose Plymouth as their first choice institution.
The university provides an approved accommodation database, which is available to all continuing students. There are six university-managed halls: Francis Drake, Gilwell, Mary Newman, Pilgrim, Radnor and Robbins. Special accommodation arrangements can be made for students with disabilities or medical conditions.
Organisation and administration
Plymouth is a modern university that has undergone a great deal of development, including several new buildings.
There are three faculties which each contain a number of schools.
- Arts, Humanities and Business
- Science and Engineering
Coat of arms
The books represent the university’s focus on learning and scholarship. The scattering of small stars, represent navigation
, which has played a key role in the history of the city and the university. The scallop shells in gold, represents pilgrimage, a sign of the importance of the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers
from a site near the Mayflower Steps
in the Plymouth Barbican
aboard the Mayflower
in 1620. A Pelican and a Golden Hind
support the shield and reflect both the original and later, better known, name of Sir Francis Drake
’s ship. The crest contains the Latin motto, "Indagate Fingite Invenite" which translates as "Explore Dream Discover" and is a quote from Mark Twain
, reflecting the university's ambitions for its students and Plymouth's history of great seafarers.
The Coat of Arms are rarely seen in use, other than at graduation. The university uses the 'with Plymouth University' brand on stationery and signs and keeps the Coat of Arms exclusive. The use of the arms is therefore restricted to graduations and other formal ceremonies, degree certificates and associated materials and the exclusive use by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.
The Portland Square Building
A wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are taught at the main city campus in Plymouth. The university scores well in law, psychology, geographical sciences, computing (including digital media) and computer science, fine art and art history.
Key developments include: the creation of a new Business School; bringing together complementary subjects in a new combined faculty of Science and Engineering; and creating the largest Marine Science and Engineering School in Europe.
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
This faculty is host to the School of Art, Design and Architecture, the School of Humanities and Performing Arts, and the Plymouth Institute of Education. Arts subjects are usually taught in the Roland Levinsky building and the Scott building, a 19th-century building located next to Roland Levinsky which was modernised externally in 2008 to keep to the university's current design. The faculty offers degrees in Architecture, English, History, Art History, 3D Design, Fine Art, Music, Photography, Media Arts, Theatre & Performance and Dance Theatre. Postgraduate research degree supervision is available across the disciplines in all three Schools, with specific expertise in artistic research.
Faculty of Health
Home to the Schools of Psychology, Social Science and Social Work, Health Professions, and Nursing and Midwifery. As well as PGCE
programmes, the Faculty offers degrees Adult Nursing, Child Health Nursing, Mental Health Nursing, Midwifery, Dietetics, Optometry, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Paramedicine.
Faculty of Science and Engineering
This faculty is home to the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics, the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies, and the School of Engineering.
The university provides professional diving qualifications on a number of its courses, the only university in the country to do so. The university's diving centre is located within its Marine Station teaching and research facility based next to Queen Anne's Battery Marina, and has a full-time team of instructors and dedicated boats and equipment.
In October 2005, The Sun
newspaper voted the university as having the most bizarre degree course in the country, the BSc (Hons) in Surf Science & Technology. Commonly known as "surfing
", this course is actually centred on coastal/ocean sciences, surfing equipment/clothing design and surfing-related business, which has its popularity increased by the geographical location of the university.
Faculty of Business
The faculty is home to the Plymouth Business School, the School of Law, Criminology and Government, the Plymouth Graduate School of Management and the School of Tourism and Hospitality. Plymouth's Business School has most notably been very successful in national rankings by subject, where subjects like economics have ranked 16th, according to The Guardian.
Plymouth Graduate School of Management also offers Maritime Studies
through the B.Sc. (Hons) Maritime Business and Maritime Law and the M.Sc. in International Shipping.
The university has strong links with the cruising industry, offering courses in the Maritime and Cruising sector. The school offers BSc (Hons) in Cruise Management, where students can opt to take a year out to work with P&O
or Princess Cruises
for a period of two, four-month periods.
Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry
Medicine and Dentistry were first established as part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in 2000, which operated as a partnership between Plymouth University and the University of Exeter
In January 2012 the two founding members of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD) the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, outlined their plans to expand independently and grow the success of the now nationally recognised professional health education provider. These changes came into effect from the start of the 2013 academic year. PUPSMD consists of the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, and the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences.
The Academic Partnerships network is a collaboration between the university and local colleges across the South West and South of the country, from Penzance to Jersey. There are hundreds of higher education courses available providing opportunities for progression to other qualifications. For example, someone who has spent two years studying for a foundation degree at their local college – and who has successfully passed their exams – can move on to the final year of a full honours degree at the university.
AP Associates include:
Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
In 2005 the university was awarded four HEFCE
funded Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs). In addition, Plymouth was a partner in a fifth successful bid, led by Liverpool Hope University
The university's CETLs are:
- Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning (CEPPL)
- Experiential Learning in the Environmental and Natural Sciences
- Higher Education Learning Partnerships CETL
- Centre for Sustainable Futures (Education for Sustainable Development)
- Learn Higher
Reputation and rankings
The University of Plymouth ranks 503rd in the CWUR World University Rankings 2017
In The Times and Sunday Times University League Table 2018
, the University of Plymouth's world ranking was listed as joint 701st
and 601–650 in QS World University Rankings 2019
. Times Higher Education
ranked Plymouth 401-500 in its World University Rankings 2017–18,
and ranked it 65th among 200 institutions in its World Young University Rankings 2017.
The results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework
showed that, overall, Plymouth was ranked joint 66 of 128 UK institutions, rising 9 places from the previous Research Assessment Exercise
Across all assessed subject areas Plymouth showed substantial evidence of 3* (internationally excellent) and 4* (world leading) research, and this was particularly evident in Clinical Medicine, Computer Sciences & Informatics, Psychology, Psychiatry & Neuroscience, and Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences, where 79-85% of research was ranked as 3* or 4*.
Plymouth was the first university to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark, in recognition of working as a genuine social enterprise, caring for communities and protecting the planet.
Alumni include the world's youngest single-handed cross-Atlantic sailor Seb Clover
, historian Philip Payton
, BBC wildlife presenter Monty Halls
, television presenter Michael Underwood
, life peer Judith Wilcox, Baroness Wilcox
, (Plymouth Polytechnic), travel writer and physician Jane Wilson-Howarth
, children's author Steve Augarde
, artists Sue Austin
, Julian Bovis
, Pen Dalton
, Andrea Polli
, Hatice Güleryüz
, computer scientist at IBM Mandy Chessell
, MP for Bristol North West Darren Jones
, journalist Matt Cooke
, politicians Laura Anne Jones
, Mark Williams
and Darius J. Pearce
, marine biologists Heather Koldewey
and David Sims
, meteorologist Clare Nasir
, members of the band Meeky Rosie
, Indonesian businessman and politician Jaka Singgih
, and Tom Rivett-Carnac
, Officer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
University of Plymouth Students' Union, usually abbreviated "UPSU" is a non-profit making organisation. Each year, students elect the officers who will represent them for the following year. The Union offers a range of services and stages a number of events throughout the year. As well as events, the Union is the base for most of the sports teams and societies at the university.
In 2014 a clash of personalities at the top of the University led to the then vice-chancellor Wendy Purcell being suspended. Part of the dispute was over the commissioning of ceremonial chairs at a cost of £95,000 without the board's approval.
A linked case saw the chair of the board of governors, which had suspended Purcell, William Taylor
investigated of sexual harassment of female staff.
Purcell was later appointed to a newly created role of president with compensation of £125,000 for loss of office and maintaining her salary of £250,000.
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Last edited on 22 March 2021, at 01:44
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