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The first art school in Bournemouth was the Bournemouth Government School of Art, established in 1880. There was a considerable demand in Bournemouth at that time for instruction in Art and the numbers in the art school soon rose to 180. In 1884, the school became a Science and Art school. In 1885 the Bournemouth School of Science and Art moved to 1 Regent’s Terrace, in Old Christchurch Road, where it remained until 1890. When the Bournemouth School of Science and Art was forced to close due to a decrease in numbers and loss of grant in 1890-91, the majority of its students were transferred to the Bournemouth West School of Science and Art.
In 1913, the two Science and Art Schools at Bournemouth East and Bournemouth West were incorporated into the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design along with the Technical and Commercial Schools. All art subjects then came under the umbrella of the School of Art within the Bournemouth Municipal College.
In 1964, Bournemouth and Poole College of Art was formed through the merger of Bournemouth Municipal College of Art and Poole College of Art. The name was changed to Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in 1979. The first new building on the present campus was opened in 1984 and built at a cost of £2.3 million.
In 1998, the name was changed to The Arts Institute at Bournemouth (AIB) and in 2001 the AIB became a higher education institution. The AIB was one of only a few higher education institutions at the time that focused exclusively on creative work in contemporary art, design, media, and performance.
In 2009 the Arts Institute Bournemouth changed its name to the Arts University College at Bournemouth following the acquisition of taught degree awarding powers in 2008.
In June 2012 the Government announced that the qualifying threshold required by an institution in order to gain full university status was to be lowered from 4,000 to 1,000 full-time higher education students. The Arts University College at Bournemouth satisfied this criterion for full university title and officially became Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) following approval from the Privy Council on 13 December 2012.