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Plymouth University is a public university based predominantly in Plymouth, England where the main campus is located, but the university has campuses and affiliated colleges all over South West England. With 23,155 students, it is the 30th largest in the United Kingdom by total number of students (including the Open University). It has 2,915 staff.
Whilst the university has been known as Plymouth University since June 2011 as a result of a rebrand, the formal name and legal title of the university remains “University of Plymouth”.
The university was originally a Polytechnic Institute, with its constituent bodies being Plymouth Polytechnic, Rolle College, the Exeter College of Art and Design (which were, before April 1989, run by Devon County Council) and Seale-Hayne College (which before April 1989 was an independent charity). It was renamed Polytechnic South West in 1989 and remained as this until gaining university status in 1992 along with the other polytechnics. The new university absorbed the Plymouth School of Maritime Studies.
In 2006 part of the remains of the World War II Portland Square air-raid shelter were rediscovered on the Plymouth campus. On the night of 22 April 1941, during the Blitz, a bomb fell here killing over 70 civilians, including a mother and her six children. The bomb blast was so violent that human remains were found in the tops of trees. Only three people escaped alive, all children.
The university’s first Vice-Chancellor was John Bull. He was succeeded by Roland Levinsky until his death on 1 January 2007, when he walked into live electrical cables brought down during a storm. He was temporarily replaced by Mark Cleary (now VC of the University of Bradford), and then by Steve Newstead. Wendy Purcell became VC on 1 December 2007. She was placed on leave on 2 July 2014 by the University’s governors while an internal review is conducted. A month later the Higher Education Funding Council for England requested an independent external review of the university’s governance. In August 2014, the university was instructed by HEFCE to undertake an external review of its governance after vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell was placed on leave.
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