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A brief history of the University

Yvonni-Stefania Efstathiou takes a look back at York's 50 year history

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Central Hall c. 1970. University of York Digital Library
Central Hall c. 1970. University of York Digital Library

I guess the perfect way to start a story is from its beginning. In 1963 the University of York was born. At that time it only had 216 undergraduates, 14 postgraduates and 28 academic staff enrolled, while the only departments open were English, History, Mathematics, Politics, Education, and Economics. Since then the University of York has evolved, been awarded for its Outstanding Research in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (with eight departments scoring top marks for research quality of international standing), being a member of the Worldwide Universities Network (2000) and finally being accepted into the Russell Group in 2012.

However, the story of the University of York is not only about figures and awards. The University has been drawing attention for its famous visitors, graduates, traditions, attempts and people. Among others who have visited the university are: her Majesty the Queen for the opening of Langwith and Derwent on the 22 October 1965; Jimi Hendrix, who played in Langwith Dining Hall (which in commemoration was renamed Hendrix Hall in 2012); and Paul McCartney, who played in Goodricke Dining Hall. Anibal Cavaco Silva, the President of Portugal, was awarded an Honorary Degree in 1995, while Berwick Kaler, the famous York pantomime dame was awarded an Honorary Degree in 2001 being accompanied to the graduation ceremony by rockstar Suzi Quatro.

A computer room c. 1970. University of York Digital Library
A computer room c. 1970. UoY Digital Library

The most peculiar and funny facts of the university's history could possibly summarize its nature and character, making it a unique place for every student. In 1968 the Elliot computer was installed in Computer Science, costing 90,000 pounds. According to Nouse (of course!) it was left unused for some time since the supplier took away its fuses because they hadn't been fully paid for. Since 1989 when the first fruit of the cutting from Isaac Newton's apple tree was produced - which the Physics Department planted in 1977 - the University has been making Newton Apple Pies! In 1971 attempts to turn the lake into a swimming pool were abandoned due to local youths causing disruption (not that York is ever hot enough to swim outside..). In 1989, the Buddha statue was donated to the campus by Elizabeth Cooper, the daughter of J.B. Morrell.

In YUSU (the York University's Student Union), Winnie the Pooh was elected Vice Chairman while a pirate candidate Mad Cap'n Tom Scott won the YUSU Presidency after securing 40.3% of an unprecedented 2.986 votes. Other than that, on a more creative stake the Department of Music acquired the Gamelan Sekar Petar, the first ever full Japanese Gamelan in a British institute making the start of decade of gamelan teaching in the UK. Finally, Woodstock revives every year at Vanbrugh (making it a tradition obviously)...

Taking into consideration that York is just celebrating its 50th anniversary the university has had a remarkable history. Being voted as the best university under 50 years of its establishment, York offers a well-reputed and promising experience. It remains to be seen what the current students will achieve...

York's first...

Departments: History, English, Education, Economics, Mathematics, Politics - 1963
Prospectus published - 1964
Ball - 1964
Student Elections - 1964
Edition of Nouse - 1964
Roses Tournament (York beats Lancaster, of course) - 1965
Library - 1965
Colleges: Derwent and Langwith - 1965
Graduation Ceremony, in Derwent Dining Hall - 1966
YSTV Broadcast - 1967
URY Broadcast - 1967
Award-winning theatre performance - 1973
Protests against the Vietnam War - 1975
24-hour radio broadcast - 1975
Woodstock - 1993

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