The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






University of Bristol

The University of Bristol was founded in 1876 as the University College, Bristol. It was the first UK university to admit women on the same basis as men and is one of the largest employers in the area. It is a member of the Russell Group of Universities as well as the Coimbra Group of leading European universities.

The university offers a diverse range of courses, but is most well known for its Medicine, Law and Engineering faculties. In 2001 Bristol University had the highest intake ratio of any British university with 11 applications to every place. The university also consistently ranks in the top ten of British universities in newspaper league tables and is known for its research strength, having fifteen departments gaining the top grade in the latest RAE research assessment.

The university has been regarded as being elitist, as in the past it took nearly half of its students from non-state schools. In late February and early March 2003 the university became embroiled in a row about its admission policies, with some private schools threatening a boycott based on their claims that, in an effort to improve equality of access, the university is discriminating against their students.

In recent years, vice-chancellor Eric Thomas has advocated shifting the university's emphasis from undergraduate teaching towards research. The university has an reputation for excellence in science and technology, but also in many areas of the humanities and social sciences.



The University College of Bristol opened, in 1876, as a college of the University of London. In 1893 University College merged with the Bristol Medical School , and in 1909 the college merged with the Merchant Venturers' Technical College to become the University of Bristol. At this point the university was granted a Royal Charter. In 1912 Long Ashton Research Station was added as the University's Department of Agricultural and Horticultural Research.

Between 1905 and 1930 during the years of the University's birth, financial and political support came from the influential Bristol families of Fry and Wills. The first Chancellor of the University, in 1909, was Henry Overton Wills III , who had donated 100,000 (equivalent to 6m today) to the cause of making the university independent. Wills death in 1911 prompted the construction of the Wills Memorial Building by his sons, George Alfred Wills and Henry Herbert Wills .

Miscellaneous Facts

From 1929 to 1965 Sir Winston Churchill was the Chancellor of the university.

On March 12 2004 The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond (aka Brenda Hale) was installed as the University's seventh Chancellor, succeeding Sir Jeremy Morse who retired at the end of 2003.

Among university properties is the student hall of residence Goldney Hall, which is a popular location for filming with The Chronicles of Narnia, The House of Eliott and Berkeley Square being filmed there. The grotto in Goldney's garden is a grade I listed building. The University also owns Royal Fort House and Clifton Hill House, both also grade I, and the grade II* Victoria Rooms, an impressive public hall with an imposing corner site. The Wills Memorial Building is listed grade II*.

At the 1988 and 2004 AGMs the University Union voted to hold a referendum on whether to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students. On both occasions the Union remained affiliated.

Students gaining degrees from Bristol (apart from honorary graduates) are in the select group of British students who do not wear mortarboards at graduation. According to legend, this is because, at an early graduation ceremony, the male graduands all threw their headgear either at the female graduands , or off the Clifton Suspension Bridge, by way of 'protest' at coeducation. Subsequently mortarboards were not worn. This legend is told of a number of other universities and is almost certainly untrue.

The University is the home to the country's oldest drama department, opened in 1946.

Student alumni


The Victoria Rooms now house the university's Department of Music.
The Victoria Rooms now house the university's Department of Music.




  • Plum Sykes (Fashion journalist)
  • Alistair Stewart (TV Journalist)
  • Kate Sanderson (TV Journalist)
  • Laura Trevelyan (TV Journalist)
  • Matthew Norman (Newspaper journalist)
  • Misha Glenny



The university's physics department
The university's physics department
  • Paul Dirac (Nobel laureate, Physics)
  • Professor Judith Howard (Chemist)
  • Klaus Fuchs (Physicist and Russian spy)
  • Philip Charles Ruffles (Director of Engineering and Technology at Rolls Royce)


Staff alumni

Related topics

External links

2003 Admissions policy dispute

Last updated: 05-07-2005 12:32:35
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04