Harper Adams University United Kingdom

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Harper Adams University United Kingdom

Harper Adams University is a public university located close to the village of Edgmond (near Newport), in Shropshire, England. It is a specialist provider of higher education for the agricultural and rural sector.


Thomas Harper Adams, a wealthy Shropshire gentleman farmer who had died in 1892, bequeathed his estate ‘for the purpose of teaching practical and theoretical agriculture’. Harper Adams College opened in 1901; Headworth Foulkes was the first principal of the College and there were six students.

A specialist department was created in 1909 and the egg laying trials, which started in 1912, earned the College a wide following. In April 1915, the College was the first institution to provide courses for women in wartime farm work. The college contributed to the war effort by training disabled veterans in farm work, especially poultry husbandry. In 1916, women were allowed to enrol at the college on full-time courses for the first time and were to remain until after the Second World War, when priority of places went to discharged servicemen. The College was also instrumental in providing a wide range of wartime services, such as courses in tractor driving.

Approximately 200 staff and former students served in the forces in the First World War and 40 are known to have died; the college library was established after a successful fundraising appeal in 1921 as a memorial to the war dead. A board in the library listing the names (including those found in recent additional research) was dedicated in March 2015, crafted by Peter Nunn of the university estates department, while a new memorial garden was created outside the library.

The agricultural depression of the 1920s led to a drop in student numbers. In 1922 Charles Crowther became principal and efforts were taken to secure the college. The National Institute of Poultry Husbandry opened in 1926, bringing to Harper a high profile in areas of teaching and research. The College stayed open through the Second World War and, in 1939, the first land girls arrived.

Bill Price became Principal in 1946 and the Jubilee Hostel was opened in 1951. Price was replaced by Reginald Kenny in 1962 and, two years later, funding of the college passed from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Department of Education and Science. The first Higher National Diploma students were enrolled in 1969 and Tony Harris became principal in 1977. Degree courses were first introduced at Harper Adams in 1981, validated by the Open University. It was one of the earliest institutions to introduce a BSc sandwich course.

Student numbers passed 1000 for the first time in 1991. In 1994, three new residences were opened. Professor Wynn Jones became principal in 1996 and, in the same year, the Privy Council allowed Harper to award degrees. Harper gained the title of University College in 1988. In 2004, the college was awarded £2.1 million in funding to develop its work with rural businesses. Harper Adams gained the power to award its own research degrees in 2006, although the first PhD had been awarded through the Open University in 1989. Shortly after, a new Biomass Hall was opened.

In 2008, Harper Adams was awarded the title of ‘Best University College’ by The Sunday Times – the same title followed in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Harper Adams was also placed top for teaching quality by The Sunday Times.

In 2009, Dr David Llewellyn became principal and, shortly after, a new dairy unit and regional food academy were opened. In 2011, the Faccenda student centre opened, containing a gym, cafe, student hub and student services. The college has won a Renewable Energy Infrastructure Award and hosts an award winning anaerobic digestion facility, which was expected to offset the carbon emissions from the university three times over.

Harper Adams is a lead academic sponsor of the JCB Academy which opened in 2010. The JCB Academy was the first university technical college to be established in England. In 2012, Harper Adams was granted ‘university’ status, ending the institution’s long history of being a college and simultaneously signalling the beginning of a new era. The granting of university status represented the establishment of Shropshire’s first university.