University of Reading

The University of Reading is a public university located in Reading, Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1892 as University College, Reading, a University of Oxford extension college.[5] The institution received the power to grant its own degrees in 1926 by royal charter from King George V and was the only university to receive such a charter between the two world wars. The university is usually categorised as a red brick university, reflecting its original foundation in the 19th century.[6]

University of Reading
Former name
University College, Reading
Established1892 - University College, Reading
1926 - university status
Endowment£14.0 million (as of 31 July 2017)[1]
Budget£275.3 million (2016–17)[1]
ChancellorWilliam Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill[2]
Vice-ChancellorRobert Van de Noort
VisitorJacob Rees-Mogg
(as Lord President of the Council ex officio)
Administrative staff
Students15,840 (2016/17)[3]
Undergraduates11,175 (2016/17)[3]
Postgraduates4,665 (2016/17)[3]
Location, ,
51°26′31″N 0°56′44″W
ColoursBlack, white and purple[4]

Reading has four major campuses. In the United Kingdom, the campuses on London Road and Whiteknights are based in the town of Reading itself, and Greenlands is based on the banks of the River Thames, Buckinghamshire. It also has a campus in Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia. The university has been arranged into 16 academic schools since 2016. The annual income of the institution for 2016–17 was £275.3 million of which £35.4 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £297.5 million.[1]

In worldwide rankings, Reading is ranked 195th by QS World University Rankings 2020, 201-250 by Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 and 90th by CWTS Leiden Ranking 2020. 98% of the university's research is labelled as 'internationally recognised', 78% as 'internationally excellent and 27% as 'world leading'. It was the first university to win a Queen's Award for Export Achievement, in 1989. In 2019 it was reported that the university was within the top 100 employers for LGBT+ people.[7]


University of Reading

The university owes its first origins to the Schools of Art and Science established in Reading in 1860 and 1870. In 1892 the College at Reading was founded as an extension college by Christ Church, a college of the University of Oxford. The first President was the geographer Sir Halford John Mackinder.[8] The Schools of Art and Science were transferred to the new college by Reading Town Council in the same year.[9][10]

The new college received its first treasury grant in 1901. Three years later it was given a site, now the university's London Road Campus, by the Palmer family of Huntley & Palmers fame. The same family supported the opening of Wantage Hall in 1908, and of the Research Institute in Dairying in 1912.[9]

University status

The college first applied for a Royal Charter in 1920 but was unsuccessful at that time. However a second petition, in 1925, was successful, and the charter was officially granted on 17 March 1926. With the charter, the college became the University of Reading, the only new university to be created in the United Kingdom between the two world wars.[9] It was added to the Combined English Universities constituency in 1928 in time for the 1929 general election.

In 1947 the university purchased Whiteknights Park, which was to become its principal campus. In 1984 the University started a merger with Bulmershe College of Higher Education, which was completed in 1989.[9][11][12]


In October 2006, the Senior Management Board proposed[13] the closure of its Physics Department to future undergraduate application. This was ascribed to financial reasons and lack of alternative ideas and caused considerable controversy, not least a debate in Parliament[14] over the closure which prompted heated discussion of higher education issues in general.[15] On 10 October the Senate voted to close the Department of Physics, a move confirmed by the Council on 20 November.[16] Other departments closed in recent years include Music, Sociology, Geology, and Mechanical Engineering. The university council decided in March 2009 to close the School of Health and Social Care, a school whose courses have consistently been oversubscribed.[17][18]

In January 2008, the university announced its merger with the Henley Management College to create the university's new Henley Business School, bringing together Henley College's expertise in MBAs with the University's existing Business School and ICMA Centre. The merger took formal effect on 1 August 2008, with the new business school split across the university's existing Whiteknights Campus and its new Greenlands Campus that formerly housed Henley Management College.[19][20]

A restructuring of the university was announced in September 2009, which would bring together all the academic schools into three faculties, these being the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social sciences, and Henley Business School. The move was predicted to result in the loss of some jobs, especially in the film, theatre and television department, which has since moved into a brand new £11.5 million building on Whiteknights Campus.[21]

In late 2009 it was announced that the London Road Campus was to undergo a £30 million renovation, preparatory to becoming the new home of the university's Institute of Education. The Institute moved to its new home in January 2012.[22] The refurbishment was partially funded by the sale of the adjoining site of Mansfield Hall, a former hall of residence, for demolition and replacement by private sector student accommodation.[23]

The university is a lead sponsor of UTC Reading, a new university technical college which opened in September 2013.[24][25]

In 2016 a move to reorganise the structure of Reading University provoked student protests.[26] On 21 March 2016, staff announced a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell.[27] 88% of those who voted backed the no confidence motion.[28]

In 2019 The Guardian reported that the university was in "a financial and governance crisis" after recently reporting itself to regulators over a £121 million loan. The university is sole trustee of the charitable National Institute for Research in Dairying trust, and after selling trust land had then borrowed the £121 million proceeds from the trust, despite the potential conflict of interest in the decision making. Including this loan, the university has debts of £300 million, as well as having an operating deficit of over £40 million for the past two years.[29][30]


The university maintains over 1.6 square kilometres (395 acres) of grounds, in four distinct campuses:


Whiteknights Campus, at 1.3 square kilometres (321 acres),[31] is the largest and includes Whiteknights Lake, conservation meadows and woodlands as well as most of the university's departments. The campus takes its name from the nickname of the 13th century knight John De Erleigh IV or the 'White Knight', and was landscaped in the 18th century by the Marquis of Blandford. The main university library, in the middle of the campus, holds nearly a million books and subscribes to around 4,000 periodicals. The Whiteknights campus was voted one of the best green spaces in the United Kingdom for the seventh year running in the 2017 Green Flag People's Choice awards.[32]

London Road

The smaller London Road Campus is the original university site and is closer to the town centre of Reading, sited across from the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The London Road site is home to The Institute of Education – a major provider of teacher training in the UK.[33] The Institute moved to its new home in January 2012 after the campus was refurbished at a cost of £30 million.[22] The London Road site also plays host to the University graduation ceremonies twice a year, in the Great Hall.[34]


The Greenlands Campus, on the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. Once the home of William Henry Smith, son of the founder of WH Smith, and latterly the site of the Henley Management College, this campus became part of the university on 1 August 2008, with the merger of that college with the university's Business School to form the Henley Business School. The school's MBA and corporate learning offerings will be based at Greenlands, with undergraduate and other postgraduate courses being based at Whiteknights.[20]


An Asian campus at Iskandar, Malaysia was formally opened in February 2016.[35] It offers a range of professional programmes at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate levels including the Henley Business School MBA.[36] First announced in October 2012, it is the university's first overseas campus. The project was overseen by Tony Downes.[37][38]. Professor Wing Lam took over as Provost in May 2018 after the retirement of Tony Downes[39] and led a successful exercise to restructure and refocus the campus in core professional disciplines that were aligned with the region's need for talent[40].

Other sites

The former Bulmershe Court Campus in Woodley was the site of the former Bulmershe Teaching College, which merged with The University of Reading in 1989. The campus was sold in January 2014 as the University decided to concentrate its activity on its three other campuses. It had previously moved all teaching and research at Bulmershe either to Whiteknights or to London Road, and closed the student accommodation.

The university also owns 8.5 square kilometres (2,100 acres) of farmland in the nearby villages of Arborfield, Sonning and Shinfield. These support a mixed farming system including dairy cows, ewes and beef animals, and host research centres of which the flagship is the Centre for Dairy Research.

As part of the proposed Whiteknights Development Plan in Autumn 2007, the University proposed spending up to £250 million on its estates over 30 years, principally to focus academic activities onto the Whiteknights site.[41] The University also announced its intention to site some functions on the London Road site, and proposed a complete withdrawal from Bulmershe Court by 2012, which was accomplished.

Museums, libraries and botanical gardens

Reading University maintains four museums, a main campus library, a range of inter-departmental libraries, and a botanical garden. The largest and best known of these museums is the Museum of English Rural Life, which has recently relocated from a location on Whiteknights Campus to a site nearer the town centre next to the London Road Campus. The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, the Cole Museum of Zoology, the University of Reading Herbarium and the Harris Garden are all on the Whiteknights Campus.

The University Library at Whiteknights makes available over 1 million physical resources, as well as a range of electronic online resources, from 14,000 square metres of space across seven floors. The secondary site library at the University's Bulmershe Campus closed in 2011 and its operative collections were transferred. There is also a library in the University's Meteorology department.

The library is currently undergoing a £40 million refurbishment project[42] which started in 2016 and is anticipated to be completed by late 2019. The redevelopment will improve the energy efficiency of the building with the installation of new windows, cladding and roofing. New lifts, additional study seating capacity, a larger Library cafe with an outside seating area, more toilets (including disabled and gender-neutral provision) and card-access security barriers are also part of the refurbishment programme.

Organisation and governance

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science
  • School of Arts and Communication Design
    • Department of Art
    • Department of Film, Theatre and Television
    • Department of Typography and Graphic Communication
  • Institute of Education
  • School of Humanities
    • Department of Classics
    • Department of History
    • Department of Philosophy
  • School of Law
  • School of Literature and Languages
    • Department of English Language and Literature
    • Department of Modern Languages and European Studies
  • School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
    • Department of Economics
    • Department of Politics and International Relations
  • International Study and Language Institute
Faculty of Life Sciences
  • School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
    • Department of Chemistry
    • Food and Nutritional Sciences
    • The Reading School of Pharmacy
  • School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science
    • Department of Clinical Language Sciences
    • Department of Psychology
Faculty of Science
  • School of Construction Management and Engineering
  • School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
    • Department of Archaeology
    • Department of Geography and Environmental Science
  • School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences
    • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
    • Department of Meteorology
    • Department of Computer Science

Henley Business School

Henley Business School is a highly selective, top-ranking business school, among only 58 institutions worldwide to be granted Triple accreditation by the three largest and most influential business school accreditation associations: EQUIS, AMBA and the AACSB. It includes several academic areas:

  • Marketing and Reputation [43]
  • Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting
  • Leadership and Organisational Behaviours
  • International Business and Strategy
  • ICMA Centre[44]
  • Real Estate and Planning

Graduate School

The university-wide Graduate School is a Faculty providing training and a range of support for doctoral researchers and related staff across the other four Faculties.

Governing bodies and roles

The university is nominally led by a Chancellor, who is the titular head of the university, and is normally a well-known public figure. The day-to-day chief executive role is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor, a full-time academic post. The senior management board of the university is headed by the Vice-Chancellor, assisted by a Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, three Pro-Vice-Chancellors, four Deans and five Heads of Directorate. It is responsible for the day-to-day management of the University and meets fortnightly throughout most of the year.[45]

The senior management board reports to the university's Senate, the main academic administrative body. The senate has around 100 members and meets at least four times a year and advises on areas such as student entry, assessment and awards. Membership includes Deans, Heads and elected representatives of Schools, as well as professional staff and students. The Senate in turn reports to the Council, which is the supreme governing body of the university, setting strategic direction, ensuring compliance with statutory requirements and approving constitutional changes. The Council meets four times a year, and comprises a broad representation of lay members drawn from commercial, community and professional organisations.[45]

On 24 March 2016 it was announced that William Waldegrave was to be the new Chancellor of Reading University.[46] Lord Waldegrave is the fourth Conservative politician to be appointed Chancellor of the University, following Austen Chamberlain, Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Carrington. Waldegrave’s predecessor, Sir John Madejski is also a supporter of, and contributor to, the Conservative Party.[47]

Academic profile

National rankings
Complete (2020)[48]40
Guardian (2020)[49]46
Times / Sunday Times (2020)[50]40
Global rankings
ARWU (2018)[51]201–300
CWTS Leiden (2019)[52]90
QS (2020)[53]
THE (2020)[54]201–250
British Government assessment
Teaching Excellence Framework[55]Silver

Departments in the University have been awarded the biannual Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education four times: in 1998, in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Law category, for work on Shakespeare; in 2005, in the Environment category; in 2008, again in Humanities, Social Sciences and Law; and in 2011, for "teaching and design applications in typography, through print and new technologies" in Typography & Graphic Communication.[56] Reading was ranked 35th in the UK amongst multi-faculty institutions for the quality (GPA) of its research[57] and 28th for its Research Power in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.[58] In total, 98% of the University's research is labelled as 'internationally recognised', 78% as 'internationally excellent and 27% as 'world leading'.[59]

Its School of Agriculture Policy and Development was ranked top in the UK and 11th in the world, according to the QS classification of universities by subject.[60]


In recent years the university has been beset by controversy, with the closure of departments and job losses among staff.[16][17][18] The university lost 7.7% of its HEFCE funding in fiscal year 2010–2011.[61] In 2016 a move to reorganise the structure of Reading University provoked protests.[26]

Affiliated institutions

The Gyosei International College in the U.K. was established on property acquired from the University of Reading in 1989. The college, later renamed Witan International College, was acquired by the University of Reading in 2004.[62] Witan College closed in 2008.[63]

Student life

Reading University Students' Union (RUSU) is the affiliated student organisation which represents the students' interests. The university also has a number of Junior Common Rooms that are linked to the Students' Union. The Students' Union has been the launch pad for many political careers including Penny Mordaunt (MP for Portsmouth North), who was the 1994–5 President of the Students' Union.

The Students' Union runs the student radio station Junction11 Radio. It broadcasts locally from the Whiteknights campus in university retail outlets and over an internet live stream on a full-time basis. The station was formed in 1997 and started broadcasting in 2001 on 1287AM and transferred to solely online in 2007. It also publishes Spark*, a newspaper aimed at the student population of the University, which is published fortnightly during term-time only and award-winning student television station RU:ON.

The union provides a free advice service to students, and facilitates over 160 different activities for students to get involved in.[64] The Students' Union building on Whiteknights Campus contains a 2500 capacity venue called 3sixty (recently renovated in 2018), with seven bars, and a number of retail outlets. The retail outlets include an Asian supermarket, a cafe and a hairdressers.

Halls and accommodation

Student accommodation is provided in a number of halls of residence offering a mix of partially catered (19 meals per week) and self-catering accommodation, along with other self-catering accommodation. Following a major review the University is now proceeding with the integrated Halls and Catering Strategy, that will see several halls replaced as well as new ones created with social, catering & welfare facilities provided in hub areas.[65] Most of the halls of residence lie close to the northern campus periphery and in residential areas close by.

Wantage Hall is thought to be the oldest purpose built hall in England[66] outside of 'Oxbridge' and is built in the style of an 'Oxbridge' college.

St. Andrews Hall closed in 2001, and is now the home of the Museum of English Rural Life.[67]

St. George's Hall and the Reading Student Village (renamed Benyon) are leased back to the University from UPP. The cost of leasing back the Student Village to the University, according to the University accounts, was £1.3 million in 2002–03 and £1.5 million for 2003–04.

In 2011 the management of the mature and international halls, Hillside and Martindale, was taken over by the "Estates management team", as was Bulmershe Hall in 2012, the sale of which was finalised in 2014.[68] In the same year the new Kendrick Halls were opened on the ground of halls which had not been in use for many years. These are not managed by the university.

Working with business

Reading hosts a number of private sector businesses on its campuses, either occupying dedicated buildings or in managed space at the Science & Technology Centre or Enterprise Hub.

Science & Technology Centre

The University of Reading Science & Technology Centre is situated on the eastern side of Whiteknights Campus. The Science & Technology Centre supports and accommodates technology companies from start-up through to larger SMEs.[69][70][71]

Notable companies currently or previously based at the Science & Technology Centre[72][73] include Reading Scientific Services Ltd.

Reading Enterprise Hub

Reading Enterprise Hub is a business incubator opened in 2003. The hub was jointly sponsored by the university and SEEDA, and sought to attract startup high tech companies, particularly those with interests in environmental technology, information technology, life sciences, and materials science.[74]

The hub was originally situated in World War II era temporary office buildings on the university's Whiteknights campus. During the summer of 2008 the hub was demolished, along with the neighbouring former agriculture buildings, and the remaining tenants relocated to a building on the London Road campus. As of April 2010, a new Reading Enterprise Centre is being constructed on the hub's original site.[75]

Notable people


Principals of University College, Reading

Chancellors of the University of Reading

Vice-Chancellors of the University of Reading

Notable academics

Notable alumni


In July 2018, the University became subject to mass criticism on Twitter for their plans to give free university education to 14 refugees living in the surrounding area, and their response received further criticism for its "unprofessional" language in telling those who had criticised the plan "Tough: Jog on". Many parents and students felt this was a poor response from the institution.[95]

See also


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