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Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth University
Prifysgol Aberystwyth
Former names
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Motto Welsh: Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth
Motto in English
A world without knowledge is no world at all
Established 1872 (as The University College of Wales)
Type Public
Endowment £ 41.7 million (2013)[1]
President Emyr Jones Parry
Vice-Chancellor April McMahon
Students 14,955[2]
Undergraduates 9,340[2]
Postgraduates 1,800[2]
Other students
3,815 FE[2]
Location Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom
Aberystwyth University logo

Aberystwyth University (Welsh: Prifysgol Aberystwyth) is a public research university located in Aberystwyth, Wales. Aberystwyth was a founding Member Institution of the former federal University of Wales. There are over 7,500 students in the University's three main faculties of arts, social science and the sciences.[3]

Founded in 1872 as University College Wales, Aberystwyth it became a founder member of the University of Wales in 1894 and changed its name to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. In the mid-1990s, the university again changed its name to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. On 1 September 2007, the University of Wales ceased to be a federal university and Aberystwyth became independent again.[4]

The QS World University Rankings placed Aberystwyth in the 501–550 bracket in 2015, The Guardian University League Table 2015 ranks it 106th out of 116 UK universities, down from 88th in the 2014 table.[5] The Complete University Guide's 2015 table ranks it 87th out of 123 British universities, down from 70th in 2014.[6]


  • History 1
  • Organisation and administration 2
    • Departments and institutes 2.1
  • Campuses 3
  • Student residences 4
  • Reputation and academic profile 5
  • Notable people 6
    • List of Presidents 6.1
    • List of Principals and Vice-Chancellors 6.2
    • Notable staff 6.3
    • Notable alumni 6.4
      • Royalty 6.4.1
      • Academics 6.4.2
      • Military 6.4.3
      • Lawyers 6.4.4
      • Civil servants 6.4.5
      • Politicians 6.4.6
      • Business people 6.4.7
      • Sports people 6.4.8
      • Artists, entertainers and authors 6.4.9
  • See also 7
  • Further reading 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Old College, site of most of the university's administration, plus the Departments of Welsh and Education
The University for Wales, Aberystwyth c.1870

Funded through public and private subscriptions, and with five regional committees (London, Manchester, Liverpool, North and South Wales) guaranteeing funds for the first three years' running costs, the University opened in October 1872 with 26 students. Thomas Charles Edwards was the Principal. In October 1875, chapels in Wales raised the next tranche of funds from over 70,000 contributors.[7] Until 1894, when the college joined the University of Wales as a founder member, students applying to Aberystwyth sat the University of London's entrance exams.[8] Women were admitted in 1884.

In 1885, after a fire in what is now known as Old College, the Gogerddan Estate was donated to the University and would become the location of Penglais Campus, the University's principal campus. Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1893, the University installed the Prince of Wales as Chancellor in 1896, the same year it awarded an honorary degree to British Prime Minister William Gladstone.

The university's Coat of Arms dates from the 1880s. The shield features two red dragons to symbolise Wales, and an open book to symbolise learning. The crest, an eagle or phoenix above a flaming tower, may signify the College's rebirth after the 1885 fire.[9] The motto is Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth (a world without knowledge is no world at all).

In the early 1900s the University added courses that included Law, Applied Mathematics, Pure Mathematics, and Botany. The Department for International Politics, which Aberystwyth says is the oldest such department in the world, was founded in 1919.[10] By 1977, there were eight Fellows of the Royal Society on the University's staff, including Gwendolen Rees, the first Welsh woman elected an FRS.

The Department of Sports and Exercise Science was established in 2000. Joint honours Psychology degrees were introduced in September 2007, and single honours Psychology in 2009.

In 2011 the university appointed a new vice chancellor [11] under whom the academic departments were restructured as larger subject-themed institutes.

Organisation and administration

Old College Building from the Castle

Departments and institutes

  • Art[12]
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences[13]
  • Computer Science[14]
  • School of Education and Lifelong Learning[15]
  • English and Creative Writing[16]
  • European Languages[17]
  • Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences[18]
  • History and Welsh History[19]
  • Information Studies[20]
  • International Politics[21]
  • Law and Criminology[22]
  • School of Management and Business[23]
  • Institute of Mathematics and Physics[24]
  • Psychology[25]
  • Sport and Exercise Science[26]
  • Theatre, Film and Television Studies[27]
  • Welsh[28]
Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences

The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is a research and teaching centre at Aberystwyth University for the study of biological, environmental and rural sciences.

IBERS brings together staff from the Institutes of Rural Sciences and Biological Sciences at Aberystwyth University and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER). Around 300 research, teaching and support staff conduct basic, strategic and applied research in biology from the level of genes and other molecules to the impact of climate change and bio-energy on sustainable agriculture and land use. They also provide skills training. There is formal collaboration with the College of Natural Sciences in Bangor University.[29]

Aberystwyth says IBERS has a long history of substantial investment in facilities, and that its geographic location allows easy access to natural habitats and managed landscapes. The library (including the nearby National Library of Wales) and IT network are available to the University as a whole, and there is a new building.[30]

The Institute is located in two areas; one at the main teaching Penglais campus and another rural research hub at the Gogerddan campus.[31] Both facilities were designed by Pascall+Watson architects in London.[32][33]

Department of Computer Science
The Llandinam Building.

The Department of Computer Science, founded in 1970, is known for its research in Computational Biology and Robotics[34]

AberMUD, the first popular internet-based MUD, was written in this department of the university by then-student Alan Cox.

The Department also has an Open Source computing course.[35]

Institute of Mathematics and Physics

The Institute of Mathematics and Physics was formed from the merger of the departments of Mathematics and Physics. More recently this has been merged into the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science, with Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science being constituent departments.

Physics has a long and distinguished history at Aberystwyth, and was first taught as part of Natural Philosophy, Astronomy and Mathematics, under N. R. Grimley, soon after the foundation of the University College.[36] It became a department in 1877, under the headship of F. W. Rudler.[36] The department was located in the south wing of what is now the old college,[36] but later relocated to the Physics Building on the Penglais Campus. The first chair in Physics was offered to D. E. Jones in 1885.[36] Prior to WW1 much of the early research in the Department was undertaken in Germany. Early research in the 1900s was concerned with electrical conductivity, quantum theory, later moving into thermal conductivity and acoustics.[36] In 1931 the department hosted the Faraday Centenary Exhibition.[36] Following World War II research was concerned with mechanical and nuclear physics, later moving into air density, experimental rocket launching equipment, and Radar.[36]

Department of European Languages

Aberystwyth has taught modern languages since 1874. Constituted in 1987, the Department now teaches French, German, Italian, Spanish, and (since 2012) Brazilian Portuguese. One of its research projects is the Anglo-Norman Dictionary,[37] based in Aberystwyth since 2001 and available online since 2005.

Department of Information Studies

The College of Librarianship Wales (CLW) was established at Llanbadarn Fawr in 1964 in response to a recommendation for the training of bilingual librarians that was made in the Bourdillon Report on Standards of public library service in England (H.M.S.O., 1962). The College grew rapidly and claims to be Europe's largest institution for training librarians.[38] The independent College merged with the University in August 1989. The new Department has since introduced courses by open, part-time and distance learning to supplement full-time student numbers.

Since 1956 the University has also offered professional training in archive administration and records management, first as a Diploma course and since 1995 as a modular Master's course run in partnership with the National Library of Wales and the Ceredigion Record Office, who contribute to the taught courses, support the practical work of the students and assist with research projects.

Department of International Politics
International Politics building

The Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth was founded in 1919, and claims to be the first such department in the world.[39] It was founded shortly after World War I with the stated purpose of furthering political understanding of the world in the hope of avoiding future such conflicts. This goal led to the creation of the Woodrow Wilson chair of International Politics.[40]

The department has 500 undergraduate students and 120 postgraduates studying at master's degree and PhD levels[41]

The Department has had various notable academic staff in the field including E. H. Carr, Leopold Kohr, Andrew Linklater, Ken Booth, Steve Smith and Michael Cox. In 2006, a new building for the Department of International Politics was completed and opened on the Penglais Campus.

Ken Booth and Michael Foley edit the journal International Relations.

Department of Law and Criminology

The Department of Law and Criminology is housed in the Elystan Morgan Building on the Llanbadarn campus. Founded in 1901, it includes the Centre for Welsh Legal Affairs, a specialist research centre. The Department says all its lecturers are engaged in research, and the International Journal of Biosciences and the Law and the Cambrian Law Review are edited in the Department. Recently the Department has worked closely with the Quality Assurance Agency in testing new processes for teaching quality assessment. The Department offers the two-year LL.B scheme to graduates in a discipline other than law.

In 2006 the Department started a Legal Practice Course (the LPC is a requirement for practice as a solicitor in England and Wales). In 2013 the Department joined the Department of Information Studies and the School of Management and Business at a new campus at Llanbadarn Fawr, as part of a newly created Institute of Management, Law and Information Studies.

The Guardian University Guide 2013 league table for law ranked Aberystwtyth 89th out of 97 in the UK,[42] and the 2015 table ranks it 78th.[43]

Department of Psychology

In 2007, Aberystwyth added Psychology to its portfolio of module schemes by establishing a Centre for Applied Psychology within the Department of International Politics. The department became independent of International Politics in 2008 and currently offers a single honours degree in Psychology and a joint honours degree with Criminology. The department has the stated aim of full British Psychological accreditation by 2013. Despite not having accreditation, the department came joint 1st for student satisfaction in the UK, but also achieved 100% for overall satisfaction.

Department of Sport and Exercise Science

Established in 2001, the Department of Sport and Exercise Science delivers undergraduate programmes in sport and exercise science, performs research in the sport and exercise sciences, and provides consultancy services to individuals and organisations in Wales and the rest of the UK.

The Department is active in research, with members of staff involved in various projects including collaborative work with other Universities and organisations.

Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies

The Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, formerly the Department of Drama, was established in 1973 and incorporates a BBC studio built in 2001. The Department offers five main degree schemes in Drama and Theatre Studies, Performance Studies, Scenography and Theatre Design, Film and Television Studies and Media and Communication Studies. The university says this department is one of the largest of its kind in the UK.[44]

Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), formed in 1989 from the former Departments of Geography (established in 1917) and Geology. houses the E. G. Bowen map library, containing 80,000 maps and 500 atlases. Aberystwyth says it was the first department to offer students single honours degrees in human geography and physical geography.[45]

Glacial research is conducted by the Glaciology Centre, which has strong international links. This research has expanded to include the study and mapping of glacial landforms on Mars.

Institute of Rural Sciences

The Institute of Rural Sciences, formerly located on Llanbadarn Campus, was formed by the 1995 merger of the Welsh Agricultural College, which had hitherto been independent, and the University's Department of Agriculture. The Institute merged with the Institute of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Grasssland and Environmental Research to form IBERS in April 2008.

Cledwyn Building, former home of the School of Economics
School of Management and Business

In 1998 the Department of Economics (founded 1912), the Department of Accounting and Finance (founded 1979) and the Centre for Business Studies merged to create the School of Management and Business. The MBA programme at Aberystwyth was established in 1985 and is accredited by the AMBA. The School's suite of postgraduate programmes in Management, Marketing and International Business are MBM (Masters in Business Management) accredited by the Association of MBAs.[46] In 2013 the School joined the Department of Information Studies and the Department of Law and Criminology at a new campus at Llanbadarn Fawr, as part of a newly created Institute of Management Law and Information Studies.

Arts Studio
School of Art

Art has been taught at Aberystwyth since 1917, when it was one of only a few British universities concerned with the Art and Crafts Movement. Today, the School has a portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate degree schemes, allowing either specialised or interdisciplinary studies of Fine Art, Art History, and Museum and Gallery Studies. The School is located in the listed Edward Davies building (originally a chemistry laboratory) and houses studios for painting and photography, darkrooms, print workshops; also a Mac suite, lecture theatres, seminar rooms, a museum, two modern galleries, and extensive art archives as resources for students.[47] The Guardian University Guide 2013 ranks Aberystwyth's School of Art 28th out of 81 in the UK.[48]


Old College east entrance

The main campus of the university is situated on Penglais Hill, overlooking the town of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay. The Penglais Campus is the site of 12 of the University's 17 departments, as well as most of the student halls of residence. Just below the Penglais Campus is the National Library of Wales, one of Britain's five legal deposit libraries. The original university building, next to the sea, known as "Old College", is the site of most of the University's administration as well as the Departments of Welsh and Education. The Llanbadarn Campus is located approximately one mile to the east of the Penglais Campus, and hosts the Department of Law and Criminology, the Department of Information Studies, and the School of Management and Business, as part of a newly created Institute of Management Law and Information Studies. Additionally, the Llanbadarn Campus is the site of the Aberystwyth branch of Coleg Ceredigion, a further education college, and not part of the University. The School of Art is located between the Penglais Campus and the centre of Aberystwyth, in what was originally the Edward Davies Chemical Laboratory, site of the now-defunct Department of Chemistry.

The university also holds an international branch campus in Mauritius. Aberystwyth Ltd. operating as Aberystwyth University (Mauritian Branch Campus) runs the campus. The institution is registered as a private institution by the Tertiary Education Commission of Mauritius.

Student residences

The various student residences owned, leased or managed by the university offer over 3,500 bed-spaces in total.[49] All have wired access to the University's computer network and a support network of residential tutors.

Penglais Campus:

  • Cwrt Mawr (self-catered flats, capacity 485)
  • Pantycelyn (traditional catered predominantly Welsh speaking hall, capacity 260)
  • Penbryn (traditional catered hall, capacity 525)
    • Rendel (Blocks 1 & 3) (2 is now emergency accommodation and office space)
    • Davies Bryan (Block 4)
    • Alban Davies (Block 5) (Now remodelled into academic space for the Psychology Department)
    • Ifor Evans (Block 7)
    • Thomas Charles Edwards (Blocks 8 & 9) (Now remodelled as Cwrt Mawr Blocks M & N)
  • Rosser (self-catered en-suite flats, capacity 332), expanded in 2011 to include postgraduate flats (capacity 60)
  • Trefloyne (self-catered flats, capacity 146)

Llanbadarn Campus:

  • Aeron, Cletwr, Dyfi, Einion and Leri – 5 residences that housed a total of 298 catered students (closed in June 2007 and since demolished)

Pentre Jane Morgan (the Student Village):

Pentre Jane Morgan flats
  • 178 self-contained houses typically accommodate 5 or 6 students each, with greater capacity in rooms that have bunkbeds, allowing for 9 students each in some cases.
  • A second student village is planned, to be built by 2014, to provide more ensuite accommodation following the closure of Llanbadarn in 2007 and Pantycelyn in 2013. Sited opposite the existing student village, it will accommodate an estimated 900 students. With the closures of Llanbadarn and Pantycelyn, the expansion will provide a total of 500 additional rooms.


  • Brynderw (self-catered flats, capacity 146)
  • Seafront Residences (self-catered flats located on the seafront and Queen's Road, overall capacity 720–800 including the redeveloped Alexandra Hall and Clarendon House Postgraduate residence). The original Seafront residences (Plyn' and Caerleon) were destroyed by fire in 1998. Seafront residences include Alexandra, Aberglasney, Balmoral, Blaenwern, Caerleon, Carpenter, Ceredigion, Clarendon, Glyndwr, Pumlumon and Ty Gwerin Halls.[50]

The University also own a small number of houses such as Penglais Farmhouse (Adjacent to Pentre Jane Morgan) and flats in Waun Fawr, which are let on an Assured Shorthold Tenure to students with families. Provision of disabled access rooms is catered for within the existing student village.

Reputation and academic profile

(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2016, national)
The Guardian[55]
(2016, national)
Times/Sunday Times[56]
(2015, national)

The QS World University Rankings placed Aberystwyth in the 451–500 bracket in 2012, 551–600 in 2013, and 601–650 in 2014.[57] The Guardian University League Table 2015 ranks it 106th out of 116, the 2014 table having ranked it 88th.[5] The Complete University Guide's 2015 table ranks it 87th out of 123, down from 70th in the 2014 table.[6]

As of June 2012 Aberystwyth is one of 190 schools worldwide with MBAs accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA),[46] a self-described "membership association for MBA students and graduates, accredited business schools and MBA employers".[58] The university's MBA was also accredited by AMBA in 2007.[59]

Aberystwyth says that its Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences was the first British university department to offer single honours degrees in human geography and physical geography.[60]

In 2007 the University came under criticism for its record on sustainability, ranking 97th out of 106 UK higher education institutions in that year's Green League table.[61] In 2012 the university was listed in the table's "Failed, no award" section, ranking equal 132nd out of 145.[62] In 2013 it ranked equal 135th out of 143, and was listed again as "Failed, no award".[63]

Following the University's initiatives to address sustainability,[64] it received an EcoCampus [65] Silver Phase award in October 2014.

In 2013, the University and College Union alleged bullying behaviour by Aberystwyth University managers, and said staff were fearful for their jobs. University president Sir Emyr Jones Parry said in a BBC radio interview, "I don't believe the views set out are representative and I don't recognise the picture." He also said, "Due process is rigorously applied in Aberystwyth." Economist John Cable resigned his emeritus professorship, describing the university's management as "disproportionate, aggressive and confrontational". The singer Peter Karrie resigned his honorary fellowship in protest, he said, at the apparent determination to "ruin one of the finest arts centres in the country", and because he was "unable to support any regime that can treat their staff in such a cruel and appalling manner."[66]

Notable people

List of Presidents

List of Principals and Vice-Chancellors

Notable staff

Notable alumni




  • Brigadier-General Lewis Pugh Evans VC CB CMG DSO & Bar JP DL.
  • Colonel Bob Stewart DSO, British United Nations commander in Bosnia, broadcaster and author.


Civil servants


Business people

Sports people

  • Cath Bishop, former professional British rower, turned civil servant
  • John Dawes, Rugby player, who captained Wales and the British Lions
  • Carwyn James, Welsh and British and Irish Lions rugby coach (1949?–1951)
  • Leigh Richmond Roose, International footballer
  • Berwyn Price, International 110m hurdles athlete, Commonwealth Games & World Student Games gold medallist
  • Angela Tooby, Silver medal World Cross-country Championships, Auckland

Artists, entertainers and authors

See also

Further reading

  • Iwan Morgan (ed.), The College by the Sea (Aberystwyth, 1928)
  • E.L. Ellis, The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth: 1872–1972, University of Wales Press ISBN 978-0-7083-1930-7 (2004)
  • Ben Bowen Thomas, "Aber" 1872–1972 (University of Wales Press, 1972)
  • J Roger Webster, Old College Aberystwyth: The Evolution of a High Victorian Building (University of Wales Press, 1995)
  • Emrys Wynn Jones, Fair may your future be: the story of the Aberystwyth Old Students’ Association 1892–1992 (Aberystwyth Old Students’ Association, 1992)


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External links

  • Aberystwyth University – Official website
  • Aberystwyth University Profile
  • Aberystwyth Guild of Students – Students' Union

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