University of Birmingham History

University of Birmingham History

University of Birmingham crest

University of Birmingham History

The University grew out of the radical vision of our first Chancellor, Joseph Chamberlain. Founded in 1900, Birmingham represented a new model for higher education. This was England’s first civic university, where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis.

Birmingham has continued to be a university unafraid to do things a little differently, and in response to the challenges of the day. It was a founder member of the National Union of Students and the first university in the country to:

  • be built on a campus model
  • establish a faculty of commerce
  • incorporate a medical school
  • offer degrees in dentistry
  • create a women’s hall of residence
  • have a purpose-built students’ union building

The University of Birmingham was established by Queen Victoria by Royal Charter in 1900 and was the UK’s first civic or ‘redbrick’ university. The first phase of building work on the campus was completed in 1909 under the auspices of the esteemed architect Sir Aston Webb. We celebrated the centenary of those buildings in July 2009.

Our academic history

For over 100 years, innovative academic research at the University has influenced society and made an impact on people’s lives. Birmingham is where pacemakers and plastic heart valves were developed, where the first artificial vitamin (Vitamin C) was synthesised, and where the cavity magnetron was developed, leading to applications such as radar and the microwave oven.

In addition, allergy vaccines were pioneered, the key components of artificial blood were synthesised, and the first clinical trials of the contraceptive pill outside the USA were carried out, having a fundamental impact on the quality of life for women world wide.

Today, the University continues to build on this pioneering heritage. We are still at the forefront of research, leading the field in many of the emerging disciplines of the 21st century, such as nanotechnology, gene therapy, robotics and the use of virtual reality in the study of archaeology. We are continually developing new initiatives to enrich our teaching and learning.