The idea for a university in Coventry was first mooted shortly after the end of the Second World War, but it was a bold and imaginative partnership of the City and the County which brought the University into being on a 170-hectare site jointly granted by the two authorities. Since then, the University has incorporated the former Coventry College of Education in 1979 and HRI Wellesbourne and Kirton in 2004 and has extended its land holdings by the purchase of adjoining farmland. The establishment of the University of Warwick was given approval by the government in 1961 and the University received its Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1965. It is situated on a large 533-hectare campus which straddles the boundary between the City of Coventry and the County of Warwickshire and includes land in Wellesbourne in Warwickshire as well as a building at the new University Hospital at the former Walsgrave Hospital site in Coventry.
The University initially admitted a small intake of graduate students in 1964 and took its first 450 undergraduates in October 1965. In October 2011, the student population (full time equivalents) was over 21,000 of which 41% are postgraduates. Today 27% of the student body comes from overseas and 142 nationalities are represented on the campus. The University has 31 academic departments and over 50 research centres and institutes in four Faculties: Arts, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences.
From its beginnings, the University has sought to promote excellence in both teaching and research. It has secured its place as one of the UK's leading research universities. The 2008 results placed Warwick 7th overall amongst comprehensive institutions in the UK and confirmed that 94% of Warwick's research is internationally recognised. In the media league tables, Warwick consistently maintains its position in the UK top ten.
Warwick has always taken the view that good research informs and strengthens the quality of education that it is able to offer its students. The original conception for the academic structure of the University was not to impose overall academic prescription but to make early appointments to the first professorships, selecting candidates with fresh and constructive ideas on how studies in their areas should be organised and developed. The planning of courses developed organically with a marked emphasis on inter-disciplinary co-operation. Business Studies and Engineering - both looking firmly towards the manufacturing heartlands of the West Midlands - were early developments.
In 2011, the University launched Global Research Priorities (GRP). Responding through research to global challenges, the GRP focuses Warwick’s world-class, multidisciplinary research on key areas of international significance, by bringing together scholarly expertise from across faculties and departments. The programme specifically aims to present Warwick’s major areas of research strength around interdisciplinary 'grand challenges', giving emphasis to areas which can make a globally distinctive contribution, increase our research income by better addressing the needs of funding bodies, showcase our research excellence and demonstrate its impact and provide support for and enhance our multidisciplinary and cross-departmental research.
Warwick has always encouraged and facilitated admission from anyone who has the potential to succeed at the University. In 1991 the University initiated an innovative shared 2+2 degree programme with a group of local FE Colleges which was specifically aimed at individuals with few if any formal qualifications and who were often in situations of considerable social and economic disadvantage. Warwick has also been involved with Foundation Degrees since they were first piloted by the government in 2001. The University also delivers several programmes for students of all ages and all abilities including Goal and Pathways to Law, intended to increase participants’ awareness and understanding of higher education, raise aspirations and break down stereotypes and barriers.
Warwick's strategy is, and always has been, to be enterprising and outward-looking from its foundation. It seeks to match academic excellence with relevance, a policy which was not always popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s but which has become one of its hallmarks and led former Prime Minister Tony Blair to say that "Warwick is a beacon among British Universities for its dynamism, quality and entrepreneurial zeal" and, more recently, to Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Dr Vince Cable, hailing as “outstanding” WMG's ability to innovate and bring together a range of disciplines. When government decided to fund universities on a more differential basis in the 1980s which led to sharp downward changes in centrally-provided grants, the University seized the opportunity to look at ways in which it could augment public monies with income generated through its own activities. Many of these ventures are located in departments - thus exemplifying the point about combining academic excellence with enterprise - but they also include three thriving post-experience residential training centres - Arden House , Radcliffe House  and Scarman House , retail outlets and an award-winning conference business. The money generated in these ways has been a significant factor in the development of the University both academically and physically.
In 1984, the University of Warwick Science Park was opened on a site adjacent to the University, a joint venture between the University and the local authorities of Coventry City, Warwickshire and West Midlands Enterprise. This has developed to become one of the UK's most successful Science Parks with satellites in Coventry and Warwick and managed space in Solihull. More recently the University has invested in and successfully won government support for a series of initiatives to develop a culture in which academic inventions can be exploited either through licensing or in spin-off companies, with Warwick Ventures being founded in 1999 and made a limited company in its own right in 2010.
The University was named the UK's most digitally savvy university in a survey by Virgin Media Business in 2012. In 2005, the University launched Warwick Podcasts; recorded broadcasts on a variety of research topics designed to be downloaded from the Internet. Warwick iCast followed in 2006; an online video service focusing on the promotion of research, science and business activity. The University continues to develop its digital presence through ITunes-U, a free service through which the public can access programmes about research at the University, lectures, teaching materials and content from our student community. In 2010, the Lifetime Academy was launched to provide alumni with access to campus facilities and digital access to careers support, academic knowledge and short courses and in 2012 the University was the first to install a Globelynx TVReady camera, allowing broadcast media to interview our academics live from campus. To complement the teaching and learning experience, the University also introduced the latest evolution of its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in 2012: Moodle. This aims to provide additional options for those wishing to explore innovation and efficiencies in teaching practice.
Through its activities, the University has sought to play a significant role in the economic and social life of its region. It has considerable linkages with local business and enterprise through the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Business School, works closely with local schools and FE Colleges through the Centre for Education Studies and the Centre for Professional Education, widening participation initiatives and Warwick Volunteers, and has helped attract significant new investment to the Coventry area. In 2016 the University announced its support for Coventry in its bid to become the City of Culture in 2021.
In 2006, Warwick became involved with the Birmingham Science City initiative, which aims to pull together world class science and technology within the city and its region. The first developments for the initiative included a Hydrogen Energy project between Warwick and Birmingham University, and the Science TV project which created a science communications medium combining the effectiveness of TV with the interactivity of a website. Further developments include projects in Energy Futures, Advanced Materials and Translational Medicine. In July 2005 the University played host to the International Children’s Games, providing accommodation, entertainment and sports facilities to over 1300 competitors from 50 cities around the world. The International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY) was launched in 2007 - targeted at the top 5% of 11-19 year olds from around the world - and held highly successful programmes at Warwick, in Singapore and in Botswana, with plans underway for potential programmes in the United States and Australia. More recently, in June 2016, the University played host to the Aviva Women's Cycle Tour, which saw the Tour pass through the hear of campus, with children from local schools and nearby residents supporting the athletes as they passed by.
The Warwick Arts Centre, the first phase of which was built in 1974, attracts 280,000 visitors every year to over 2000 events and has a significant national and international reputation. It was originally funded by the considerable generosity of the Martin Trust. The Arts Centre underwent significant re-development in 2008/09 with the refurbishment of the Butterworth Hall and investment in essential areas such as seating, acoustics and technical equipment, better access for disabled people, as well as improvements to the backstage areas for artists and a flexible, small rehearsal/performance space.
The University's first buildings, at Gibbet Hill, were completed in 1965; by 1970 the Library, Science and Arts Buildings and Rootes Residences had been built on central campus. During the 1970s, further academic and residential accommodation was built on campus, including the Social Sciences building in 1977, the Senate House (now Coventry House) and the Arts Centre (1974) and the Students' Union Building (1975). In 1979, the former Coventry College of Education merged with the University to form the Institute of Education, now the Centre for Education Studies and the Centre for Professional Education. The 1980s saw construction of the Jack Martin student residences. In 1989, in partnership with Rover and Rolls Royce plc., the University extended the new Advanced Technology Centre to provide extensive new research facilities. During the 1990s, and particularly under the Vice-Chancellorship of Sir Brian Follett, the built campus continued to develop. Between 1993 and 2003 over £180m of new buildings were erected including Arthur Vick, Claycroft, Lakeside and Heronbank residences, the International Manufacturing Centre (1994 and recently extended), the Ramphal Building (1996), and the Medical School Building and associated Biomedical Research facilities (2001). Other notable developments have been a joint Students' Union and Retail building (1998), Sports Pavilion (1998), the first two phases of a new building for the Warwick Business School (1999 and 2001) and a new building for Computer Science (2000). A new Mathematics and Statistics building was opened in 2004 and a major investment in developing the Sports Centre has provided high-class sports facilities, amongst the best of any British university. Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Studies launched in 2007 and the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning was launched in 2010. The Warwick Digital Laboratory was opened by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July 2008 and, as well as the Arts Centre, 2009 saw the redevelopment of the Students' Union building with extensive improvements to retail space, cafes, bars and performance areas. A new student residence, Bluebell, was opened in September 2011, along with the Material and Analytical Sciences building. In 2012, the Sherborne student residence was opened, as well as the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation - a £12 million programme designed to help Midlands SMEs access some of the world’s leading product and service design technology. In 2014, plans were launched for £350 million of capital investment including £100 million for our National Automotive Innovation Campus, £50 million on two new student halls of residence, £35 million on sports and wellbeing facilities and £25 million on new interdisciplinary research labs. In November 2014, WBS opened its new base in the Shard in London, containing two lecture theatres, meeting spaces and an IT lab. 2015 saw the first stages of work on the National Automotive Innovation Centre and the Teaching and Learning building, amongst a series of works to improve the roads through and around campus, the development of a new bus interchange and a new plaza area in between the Arts Centre and the Students’ Union, named Benefactors’ Place. 2016 saw the opening of the University's first building dedicated to teaching and learning, The Oculus, and also continued improvement to roads and the development of a new piazza and bus interchange on campus as well as the opening of a brand new 600 space car park.
The University's first Chancellor was Lord Radcliffe, who continued in office until his death in April 1977. He was succeeded by Lord Scarman, who retired from office in 1989. Warwick's third Chancellor was Sir Shridath Ramphal, who presided over the University from 1989 - 2002, and the University's fourth Chancellor, Sir Nicholas Scheele, was appointed in March 2002. Richard Lambert, Director General of the CBI, was formally installed as the University's fifth Chancellor in December 2008. In November 2016 the University's sixth, and first ever female Chancellor was announced, Baroness Catherine Ashton.
The University's founding Vice-Chancellor was Jack Butterworth (later Lord Butterworth), who guided the University through its formative years and provided much of the vision for the University's future growth and success. His achievement was to establish Warwick firmly on the national stage, to set a basic strategy and culture for the University and to oversee the building of a university on what was a greenfield site. He was succeeded in September 1985 by Dr Clark Brundin. As Vice-Chancellor from 1985 until 1992, Dr. Brundin presided over a period of expansion and success: student numbers doubled, postgraduates increased by over 250% and Warwick established itself firmly in the top tier of UK research universities. Dr Brundin was succeeded in 1993 by Professor Sir Brian Follett, formerly Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, and Agricultural and Food Research Council Research Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol. In 1994, Sir Brian launched the Warwick Research Fellowships, a £10 million scheme, entirely financed by the University, which brought to Warwick a cohort of some of the brightest young researchers in the UK and abroad. His successful academic leadership resulted in the excellent results for the University in the Research Assessment Exercises of 1996 and 2001, the successes in external teaching assessments and the considerable popularity of the University as a place to work and study. Sir Brian also presided over an ambitious building programme that resulted in over £100m of new capital projects during his leadership. Sir Brian retired in 2001 and was succeeded by Professor David VandeLinde, formerly Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and latterly Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bath. His period as Vice-Chancellor was marked by an emphasis on building links and partnerships with the local community, an enhanced international strategy and the welcoming of HRI Wellesbourne and Kirton to the University as Warwick HRI. Professor VandeLinde was succeeded by Professor Nigel Thrift in 2006, formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Head of the Division of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Oxford, and awarded a knighthood in 2015 for his services to higher education. In early 2016 Professor Stuart Croft, formerly the Provost at the University, succeeded Professor Sir Nigel Thrift. Professor Croft has been part of Warwick's community since 2007, when he first joined the Politics and International Studies department as Professor of International Security. Prior to his appointment as Provost, he was Warwick's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Arts and Social Sciences).
Following on from Vision 2015, a new University Strategy has been developed. Vision 2015 incorporated a number of ideas generated by the University community itself, a process which has also been utilised in the development of the new Strategy through staff consultation, focus groups and student consultation. Both Vision 2015 and the newly updated Strategy lay out a number of ambitious goals in research, teaching and learning, internationalisation, UK stakeholders and income generation, and the University Values have been updated to reflect the new Strategy. Through the course of Vision 2015, progress has been made against a number of strategic objectives, including the establishment of a Warwick Prize for Writing, IGGY, increase in the value of research awards and the number of highly cited academics at the University, the publication of the second Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform and the development of collaborations and partnerships with overseas universities including Boston University, Nanyang Technical University Singapore, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Carnegie-Mellon University. Most recently, Warwick has become the only European institution to partner with universities like NYU, Carnegie-Mellon and Toronto to set up an applied sciences campus in New York - the ‘Center for Urban Science and Progress’.
As part of its strategic development, Warwick established a formal alliance with Monash University in 2011 - building on a number of years of strong and productive relationships between the two universities. The partnership will help meet the increasing student, industry and government demand for universities to produce graduates with a global education, and undertake research that aims to address world-relevant and strategically important problems that have proved too big for any one institution to date. Warwick also has partnerships with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and Queen Mary, University of London, to enhance its research activities through collaborative research and new approaches to outreach and widening participation. In 2014, the University’s Technical College the WMG Academy for Young Engineers was launched. The Academy will offer young people new qualifications based on the real-world skills and experiences needed in the advanced engineering industry. The qualifications on offer, endorsed by industry and enriched by real-life world of work experiences and hands-on problem-solving projects, will increase the employability prospects of young people and challenge traditional ways of learning. In 2014, the Mathematics department saw one of its professors awarded the world’s most prestigious awards in mathematics – the Fields Medal, and the department itself has been awarded a Regius Professorship of Mathematics to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
In light of Vision 2015 and the new University Strategy, our ambitions remain undiminished and our overarching strategy remains to increase academic excellence whilst recognising the distinctive strengths and characteristics that mark Warwick out as a unique force in higher education. Our ranking as 8th in the UK on the 2014 Research Excellence Framework is a testimony to the researchers and academics that dedicate their time to innovative, new and expanding research areas, ensuring that the University of Warwick remains a Higher Education leader and maintains its strong research quality.
During Warwick’s 50th Anniversary, we were proud to be named as the Times and Sunday Times University of the Year 2014/15. As part of our 50th celebrations, we ran a programme of events throughout 2015, involving alumni, the local community, former members of staff and current staff and students. The centrepiece event was the Festival of the Imagination, held in October 2015, featuring 3 days of activity from talks and debates, a discovery zone and more, all centred around the theme of ‘Imagining the Future’. We also partnered with the Cheltenham Festival for all of its 2015 events. 2015 also saw the University of Warwick enter the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings at 48th.