Aberystwyth University

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Aberystwyth University
Prifysgol Aberystwyth
Uwa crest colour-new.png
Former names
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Motto Welsh: Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth
Motto in English
A world without knowledge is no world at all
Type Public
Established 1872 (as The University College of Wales)
Endowment £48.4M (as of 31 July 2016)[1]
Chancellor Emyr Jones Parry
Vice-Chancellor Elizabeth Treasure
Students 8,755 (2015/16)[2]
Undergraduates 7,690 (2015/16)[2]
Postgraduates 1,070 (2015/16)[2]
Location Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom
Website www.aber.ac.uk
Aberystwyth University logo.svg

Aberystwyth University (Welsh: Prifysgol Aberystwyth) is a public research university in Aberystwyth, Wales.[3] Aberystwyth was a founding member institution of the former federal University of Wales. The university has almost 8,000 students studying across its six academic institutes.[4]

Founded in 1872 as University College Wales, Aberystwyth, it became a founder member of the University of Wales in 1894 and changed its name to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. In the mid-1990s, the university again changed its name to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. On 1 September 2007, the University of Wales ceased to be a federal university and Aberystwyth became independent again.[5]


Old College
The University for Wales, Aberystwyth, c.1870

In the middle of the 19th century, eminent Welsh people were advocating the establishment of a university in the Principality. One such was Thomas Nicholas, whose 1863 book Middle and High Class Schools, and University Education for Wales is said to have "exerted great influence on educated Welshmen".[6]

Funded through public and private subscriptions, and with five regional committees (London, Manchester, Liverpool, North and South Wales) guaranteeing funds for the first three years' running costs, the University opened in October 1872 with 26 students. Thomas Charles Edwards was the Principal. In October 1875, chapels in Wales raised the next tranche of funds from over 70,000 contributors.[7] Until 1893, when the college joined the University of Wales as a founder member, students applying to Aberystwyth sat the University of London's entrance exams.[8] Women were admitted in 1884.

In 1885, after a fire in what is now known as Old College, the Gogerddan Estate was donated to the University and would become the location of Penglais Campus, the University's principal campus. Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1893, the University installed the Prince of Wales as Chancellor in 1896, the same year it awarded an honorary degree to British Prime Minister William Gladstone.

The university's Coat of Arms dates from the 1880s. The shield features two red dragons to symbolise Wales, and an open book to symbolise learning. The crest, an eagle or phoenix above a flaming tower, may signify the College's rebirth after the 1885 fire.[9] The motto is Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth (a world without knowledge is no world at all).

In the early 1900s the University added courses that included Law, Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics, and Botany. The Department for International Politics, which Aberystwyth says is the oldest such department in the world, was founded in 1919.[10] By 1977, there were eight Fellows of the Royal Society on the University's staff, including Gwendolen Rees, the first Welsh woman elected an FRS.

The Department of Sports and Exercise Science was established in 2000. Joint honours Psychology degrees were introduced in September 2007, and single honours Psychology in 2009.

The Chancellor of the University is Sir Emyr Jones Parry GCMG, a distinguished former diplomat and Ambassador to the United Nations. The Visitor of the University is an appointment made by the Privy Council, under the Royal Charter of the University. Since July 2014, the holder of this office is The Honourable Mr Justice Roderick Evans QC.

In 2011 the university appointed a new vice chancellor[11] under whom the academic departments were restructured as larger subject-themed institutes.

Organisation and administration

Old College Building from the Castle

Departments and institutes

  • Art[12]
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences[13]
  • Computer Science[14]
  • School of Education and Lifelong Learning[15]
  • English and Creative Writing[16]
  • Modern Languages[17]
  • Geography and Earth Sciences[18]
  • History and Welsh History[19]
  • Information Studies[20]
  • International Politics[21]
  • Law and Criminology[22]
  • Aberystwyth Business School[23]
  • Mathematics[24]
  • Physics[25]
  • Psychology[26]
  • Theatre, Film and Television Studies[27]
  • Welsh[28]

Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is a research and teaching centre at Aberystwyth University for the study of biological, environmental and rural sciences.

IBERS brings together staff from the Institutes of Rural Sciences and Biological Sciences at Aberystwyth University and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER). Around 360 research, teaching and support staff conduct basic, strategic and applied research in biology from the level of genes and other molecules to the impact of climate change and bio-energy on sustainable agriculture and land use. They also provide skills training. There is formal collaboration with the College of Natural Sciences in Bangor University.[29]

Aberystwyth says IBERS has a long history of substantial investment in facilities, and that its geographic location allows easy access to natural habitats and managed landscapes. The library (including the nearby National Library of Wales) and IT network are available to the University as a whole, and there is a new building.[30]

The Institute is located in two areas; one at the main teaching Penglais campus and another rural research hub at the Gogerddan campus.[31] Both facilities were designed by Pascall+Watson architects in London.[32][33]

IBERS won the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology category award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2013.[34]

Department of Computer Science

The Llandinam Building

The Department of Computer Science, founded in 1970, conducts research in automated reasoning, computational biology, vision graphics and visualisation, and intelligent robotics. The Automated Reasoning Group has worked on automated fault diagnosis;[35] the Computational Biology Group has worked on automating scientific discovery with its Robot Scientist project;[36] and the Robotics group, which helped find the missing Beagle 2 spacecraft,[37] is helping develop panoramic camera technology for the 2018 ExoMars mission.[38]

The department is also involved in sailing robotics, and its undergraduate team[39] came third in the International Robotic Sailing Regatta in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 2016.[40]

AberMUD, the first popular internet-based MUD, was written in the department by then-student Alan Cox. Jan Pinkava, another graduate, won an Oscar for his short animated film Geri's Game. Students in the department were also involved in the creation of the award-winning service robot librarian named Hugh (robot)[41] and Kar-go, the autonomous delivery vehicle.[42]

Department of Mathematics

Aberystwyth says it has taught mathematics since the university first opened, and that it was the first university to teach it in Wales. The courses are accredited by the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, and the curriculum enables students to take joint courses with other departments in the University and also to specialise in areas such as mathematical physics. Staff expertise in research covers a broad range of mathematics, including operator algebras, solid and fluid mechanics, and quantum mechanics. Much research activity is interdisciplinary, involving collaborators in physics, computer science and engineering and partners in industry.[43]

Department of Physics

Physics was first taught at Aberystwyth as part of Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, and Mathematics under N. R. Grimley, soon after the foundation of the University College.[44] It became a department in 1877, under the headship of F. W. Rudler.[44] The department was located in the south wing of what is now the old college,[44] but later relocated to the Physics Building on the Penglais Campus. The first chair in Physics was offered to D. E. Jones in 1885.[44] Prior to WW1 much of the early research in the department was undertaken in Germany. Early research in the 1900s was concerned with electrical conductivity and quantum theory, later moving into thermal conductivity and acoustics.[44] In 1931 the department hosted the Faraday Centenary Exhibition.[44] E. J. Williams was appointed chair of Physics in 1938 where he continued his research into sub-atomic particles using a cloud chamber.[45] Following World War II research was concerned with mechanical and nuclear physics, later moving into air density, experimental rocket launching equipment, and radar.[44]

Department of Modern Languages

Aberystwyth has taught modern languages since 1874. French, German, Italian and Spanish courses are taught at both beginners' and advanced levels, in a research-active academic environment. One of its research projects is the Anglo-Norman Dictionary,[46] based in Aberystwyth since 2001 and available online since 2005.

Department of Information Studies

The College of Librarianship Wales (CLW) was established at Llanbadarn Fawr in 1964 in response to a recommendation for the training of bilingual librarians that was made in the Bourdillon Report on Standards of public library service in England (H.M.S.O., 1962). The College grew rapidly and claims to be Europe's largest institution for training librarians.[47] The independent College merged with the University in August 1989. The new department has since introduced courses by open, part-time and distance learning to supplement full-time student numbers.

Since 1956 the University has also offered professional training in archive administration and records management, first as a Diploma course and since 1995 as a modular Master's course run in partnership with the National Library of Wales and the Ceredigion Record Office, who contribute to the taught courses, support the practical work of the students and assist with research projects.

Department of International Politics

International Politics building

The Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth was founded in 1919, and claims to be the first such department in the world.[48] It was founded shortly after World War I with the stated purpose of furthering political understanding of the world in the hope of avoiding such conflicts in the future. This goal led to the creation of the Woodrow Wilson chair of International Politics.[49]

The department has over 700 students from 40 countries studying at undergraduate, masters and PhD levels.[50] The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the department 7th overall in the UK, and 5th in terms of the production of 'world-leading' research, with 44% of its research output meeting this standard, and 32% judged as 'internationally excellent'.[51]

It achieved a 95% score for student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey, placing it as the highest-ranking politics department in Wales and within the UK's top ten.[52]

The department has hosted various notable academic staff in the field including E. H. Carr, Leopold Kohr, Andrew Linklater, Ken Booth, Steve Smith, Michael Cox, Michael MccGwire, Jenny Edkins and Colin J. McInnes. In 2006, a new building for the Department of International Politics was completed and opened on the Penglais Campus.

Ken Booth and Milja Kurki edit the journal International Relations. The national office of the British International Studies Association is housed within the department.

School of Law and Criminology

The School of Law and Criminology is housed in the Elystan Morgan Building on the Llanbadarn campus. Founded in 1901, it includes the Centre for Welsh Legal Affairs, a specialist research centre. The department says all its lecturers are engaged in research, and the International Journal of Biosciences and the Law and the Cambrian Law Review are edited in the department. Recently the department has worked closely with the Quality Assurance Agency in testing new processes for teaching quality assessment. The department offers the two-year LL.B scheme to graduates in a discipline other than law.

In 2006 the department started a Legal Practice Course (the LPC is a requirement for practice as a solicitor in England and Wales). In 2013 the department joined the Department of Information Studies and the School of Management and Business at a new campus at Llanbadarn Fawr, as part of a newly created Institute of Management, Law and Information Studies.

The Guardian University Guide 2018 currently ranks Aberystwyth's School of Law at 69th in the UK,[53] and "The Times" Higher Education Guide ranks Aberystwyth's Schools of Law as 300th, making it a top 1% global law school [54]

Department of Psychology

In 2007 Aberystwyth University added the discipline of Psychology to its portfolio of degree schemes establishing a Centre for Applied Psychology within the Department of International Politics, initially offering 10 joint honour schemes. The University made a decision to bring forward plans to invest heavily in Psychology, which allowed Psychology to achieve its first major milestone; becoming an autonomous department in 2008. By 2011, Psychology moved into their current premises in Penbryn 5 on the Penglais Campus, an important development in applying for accreditation from the British Psychological Society. In 2012, despite not having achieved accreditation, the department was entered into the National Student Survey (NSS) for the first time, achieving 100% for overall satisfaction student satisfaction and joint 1st place. The department achieved British Psychological accreditation in 2013[55]. Currently the department offers several degree schemes, a popular single and a joint honours degree with Criminology, and since 2016 two 4 year variants of its flag ship single honours degree, incorporating a year in industry or a year studying abroad [56]. The 2017/18 academic year will be the 10th year since Psychology as a discipline was introduced at Aberystwyth University, and will celebrate its 10th year as a department in the 2018/19 academic year. The department is home to over 300 undergraduate students (with its original 7 graduates qualifying in 2010), several postgraduates, and 17 academic and administrative members of staff.

Department of Sport and Exercise Science

Established in 2001, the Department of Sport and Exercise Science delivers undergraduate programmes in sport and exercise science, performs research in the sport and exercise sciences, and provides consultancy services to individuals and organisations in Wales and the rest of the UK.

The department is active in research, with members of staff involved in various projects including collaborative work with other Universities and organisations.

Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies

The Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, formerly the Department of Drama, was established in 1973 and incorporates a BBC studio built in 2001. The department offers four main degree schemes in Drama and Theatre Studies, Scenography and Theatre Design, Film and Television Studies and Media and Communication Studies. The university says this department is one of the largest of its kind in the UK.[57]

Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), formed in 1989 from the former Departments of Geography (established in 1917) and Geology. houses the E. G. Bowen map library, containing 80,000 maps and 500 atlases. Aberystwyth says it was the first department to offer students single honours degrees in human geography and physical geography.[58][better source needed]

Research is conducted by the Centre for Glaciology, which has strong international links, includes the study and mapping of glacial landforms on Mars. In 2016, a glacier in the Antarctic was named the Glasser glacier, after Aberystwyth Geographer Professor Neil Glasser in recognition of his contribution to Polar Science. Also in 2016, the head of the Centre for Glaciology, Professor Bryn Hubbard, was awarded the Polar Medal.

Institute of Rural Sciences

The Institute of Rural Sciences, formerly located on Llanbadarn Campus, was formed by the 1995 merger of the Welsh Agricultural College, which had hitherto been independent, and the University's Department of Agriculture. The Institute merged with the Institute of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research to form IBERS in April 2008.

School of Education and Lifelong Learning

In teaching and research the School of Education and Lifelong Learning focuses on the educational, cultural, linguistic and social needs of Wales. It collaborates with independent providers in the community, partnership schools, unitary authorities, and other local and national educational institutions, as well as other contacts in the UK, Europe and the wider world. The School runs lifelong learning classes, and also has under its umbrella the Mid-Wales Welsh for Adults Centre.

Cledwyn Building, former home of the School of Economics

Aberystwyth Business School

In 1998 the Department of Economics (founded 1912), the Department of Accounting and Finance (founded 1979) and the Centre for Business Studies merged to create the School of Management and Business. The School's suite of postgraduate programmes in Management and Marketing are MBM (Masters in Business Management) accredited by the Association of MBAs.[59] The university's Tourism Management degree courses moved to the School in 2012. In 2013, the School joined the Department of Information Studies and the Department of Law and Criminology at a new campus at Llanbadarn Fawr, as part of a newly created Institute of Management, Law and Information Studies. The School was shortlisted for ‘Business School of the Year Times Higher Education Awards (2014).[60] In 2016 the Institute, minus the Department of Information Studies, was renamed the Institute of Business and Law, the remaining departments being renamed Aberystwyth Business School and Aberystwyth Law School. The Department of Information Studies joined the new Institute of Professional Development.

Arts Studio

School of Art

Art has been taught at Aberystwyth since 1917, when it was one of only a few British universities concerned with the Art and Crafts Movement. Today, the school has a portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate degree schemes, allowing either specialised or interdisciplinary studies of Fine Art, Art History, and Museum and Gallery Studies. The school is located in the listed Edward Davies building (originally a chemistry laboratory) and houses studios for painting and photography, darkrooms, print workshops; also a Mac suite, lecture theatres, seminar rooms, a museum, two modern galleries, and extensive art archives as resources for students.[61]


Old College east entrance

The main campus of the University is situated on Penglais Hill, overlooking the town of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay, and comprises most of the University buildings, Arts Centre, Students’ Union, and many of the student residences. Just below Penglais Campus is the National Library of Wales, one of Britain's five legal deposit libraries. The landscaping of the Penglais Campus is historically significant and is listed [62]. The CADW listing states, "The landscaping of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth campuses, particularly the earlier Penglais campus, is of exceptional historic interest as one of the most important modern landscaping schemes in Wales...One section of the Penglais campus was designed by the well known landscape architect Brenda Colvin and is one of the very few of her schemes to have survived. A number of women have played a key role in the development and planting of the whole site."

The Llanbadarn Centre is located approximately one mile to the east of the Penglais Campus, overlooking the town and Cardigan Bay to the west, with the backdrop of the Cambrian Mountains to the east. Llanbadarn Centre hosts Aberystwyth Law School and Aberystwyth Business School, which together form the Institute of Business and Law. The Department of Information Studies is also based there. Additionally, the Llanbadarn Campus is the site of the Aberystwyth branch of Coleg Ceredigion, a further education college, and not part of the University.

At Gogerddan, on the outskirts of town is located the University's major centre for research in land based sciences and the main centre for the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Science.

The School of Art is located between the Penglais Campus and the centre of Aberystwyth, in what was originally the Edward Davies Chemical Laboratory. A listed building, the Edward Davies Building is one of the finest examples of architecture in Aberystwyth.

The site of the original university is the 'Old College', currently the subject of the 'New Life for Old College' project which aims to transform it into an integrated centre of heritage, culture, learning and knowledge exchange.

The university also holds an international branch campus in Mauritius. Aberystwyth Ltd. operating as Aberystwyth University (Mauritian Branch Campus) runs the campus. The institution is registered as a private one by the Tertiary Education Commission of Mauritius.

Student residences

Most of the student residences are on campus, with the rest in walking distance of the campus and Aberystwyth town centre. Accommodation ranges from 'traditional' catered residences to en-suite self-catered accommodation, and from budget rooms to more luxurious studio apartments. All have wired access to the University's computer network and a support network of residential tutors.

Penglais Campus

  • Cwrt Mawr (self-catered flats, single and twin rooms, capacity c.600)[63]
  • Penbryn (traditional catered hall, capacity 350)[64]
  • Rosser (self-catered en-suite flats, capacity 332), expanded in 2011 to include postgraduate flats in Rosser G (capacity 60)[65]
  • Trefloyne (self-catered flats, capacity 146)[66]

Pentre Jane Morgan (the Student Village)

  • Almost 200 individual houses arranged in closes and cul-de-sacs. Each house typically accommodate 5 or 6 students.[67]

Fferm Penglais Student Residence

  • Purpose-built student accommodation with studio apartments and en-suite bedrooms. An area of accommodation within the Fferm Penglais Student Residence is set aside for students who are Welsh learners or fluent Welsh speakers, and wish to live in a Welsh speaking environment.

Town accommodation

  • Brynderw (self-catered flats, capacity 146)
  • Seafront Residences (self-catered flats located on the seafront and Queen's Road, overall capacity 720–800 including the redeveloped Alexandra Hall and Clarendon House Postgraduate residence). The original Seafront residences (Plyn' and Caerleon) were destroyed by fire in 1998. Seafront residences include Alexandra, Aberglasney, Balmoral, Blaenwern, Caerleon, Carpenter, Ceredigion, Clarendon, Glyndwr, Pumlumon and Ty Gwerin Halls.[68]

The University also owns several houses, such as Penglais Farmhouse (Adjacent to Pentre Jane Morgan) and flats in Waun Fawr, which are let on an Assured Shorthold Tenure to students with families. Disabled access rooms are available within the existing student village.

Reputation and academic profile

(2018, national)
(2018, world)
(2018, national)
(2018, world)
(2018, national)
The Guardian[74]
(2018, national)
Times/Sunday Times[75]
(2018, national)

Aberystwyth University is ranked 79th in The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2015, up from 93rd in 2014.[76] The Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed it in the 301—350 group for 800 university rankings, compared with 351—400 the previous year,[77] and the QS World University Rankings placed it in the 501—550 group for 2015/2016, compared with 601—650 the previous year.[78] In 2015, UK employers from “predominantly business, IT and engineering sectors” listed Aberystwyth equal 49th in their 62-place employability rankings for UK graduates, according to a Times Higher Education report.[79]

Aberystwyth University was rated in the top ten of UK higher education institutions for overall student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS).[80]

Aberystwyth University was shortlisted in four categories in the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs) (2015).[81]

Aberystwyth University has been awarded the Silver Award under the Corporate Health Standard (CHS), the quality mark for workplace health promotion run by Welsh Government.[82]

The University has been awarded an Athena SWAN Charter Award, recognising commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research.[83]

In 2007 the University came under criticism for its record on sustainability, ranking 97th out of 106 UK higher education institutions in that year's Green League table.[84] In 2012 the university was listed in the table's "Failed, no award" section, ranking equal 132nd out of 145.[85] In 2013 it ranked equal 135th out of 143, and was listed again as "Failed, no award".[86]

Following the University's initiatives to address sustainability,[87] it received an EcoCampus[88] Silver Phase award in October 2014.

In October 2015, the University’s Penglais Campus became the first University campus in Wales to achieve the Green Flag Award.[89] The Green Flag Award is a UK-wide partnership, delivered in Wales by Keep Wales Tidy with support from Natural Resources Wales, and is the mark of a high quality park or green space.

In 2013, the University and College Union alleged bullying behaviour by Aberystwyth University managers, and said staff were fearful for their jobs. University president Sir Emyr Jones Parry said in a BBC radio interview, "I don't believe the views set out are representative and I don't recognise the picture." He also said, "Due process is rigorously applied in Aberystwyth." Economist John Cable resigned his emeritus professorship, describing the university's management as "disproportionate, aggressive and confrontational". The singer Peter Karrie resigned his honorary fellowship in protest, he said, at the apparent determination to "ruin one of the finest arts centres in the country", and because he was "unable to support any regime that can treat their staff in such a cruel and appalling manner."[90]

Notable people

List of Presidents

List of Principals and Vice-Chancellors

Notable staff

Notable alumni





Civil servants


Business people

Sports people

  • Cath Bishop, former professional British rower, turned civil servant
  • John Dawes, Rugby player, who captained Wales and the British Lions
  • Carwyn James, Welsh and British and Irish Lions rugby coach (1949?–1951)
  • Leigh Richmond Roose, International footballer
  • Berwyn Price, International 110m hurdles athlete, Commonwealth Games & World Student Games gold medallist
  • Angela Tooby, Silver medal World Cross-country Championships, Auckland

Artists, entertainers and authors

See also

Further reading

  • Iwan Morgan (ed.), The College by the Sea (Aberystwyth, 1928)
  • E.L. Ellis, The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth: 1872–1972, University of Wales Press ISBN 978-0-7083-1930-7 (2004)
  • Ben Bowen Thomas, "Aber" 1872–1972 (University of Wales Press, 1972)
  • J Roger Webster, Old College Aberystwyth: The Evolution of a High Victorian Building (University of Wales Press, 1995)
  • Emrys Wynn Jones, Fair may your future be: the story of the Aberystwyth Old Students’ Association 1892–1992 (Aberystwyth Old Students’ Association, 1992)


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External links

  • Aberystwyth University – Official website
  • Aberystwyth University Profile
  • Aberystwyth Guild of Students – Students' Union

Coordinates: 52°25′05″N 4°03′57″W / 52.41806°N 4.06576°W / 52.41806; -4.06576

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