Lancaster University

Lancaster University is a collegiate public research university in Lancaster, Lancashire, England. The university was established by royal charter in 1964, one of several new universities created in the 1960s.
The university was initially based in St Leonard's Gate in the city centre, before moving in 1968 to a purpose-built campus at Bailrigg, to the south. The campus buildings are arranged around a central walkway known as the Spine, which is connected to a central plaza, named Alexandra Square in honour of its first chancellor, Princess Alexandra.
Lancaster is a residential collegiate university; the colleges are weakly autonomous. The eight undergraduate colleges are named after places in the historic county of Lancashire, and each have their own campus residence blocks, common rooms, administration staff, and bars.
Lancaster is ranked in the top ten in all three national league tables, and received a Gold rating in the Government's inaugural Teaching Excellence Framework. The annual income of the institution for 2016-17 was £267.0 million of which £37.7 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £268.7 million. Along with the universities of Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, Lancaster is a member of the N8 Group of research universities. Elizabeth II, Duke of Lancaster, is the visitor of the University. The current chancellor is Alan Milburn, since 2015.


After the Second World War higher education became an important concern of government as it tried to cope with the demands of an expanding population and the advent of a new technological age. Between 1958 and 1961 seven new plate glass universities were announced including Lancaster. The choice of Lancaster as the site of the fourth new university was announced on 23 November 1961 in a written answer in the House of Commons.
The university was established by royal charter in 1964. The charter stipulated that Princess Alexandra of Kent be the first chancellor. She was inaugurated in 1964. The ceremony also saw the granting of various honorary degrees to dignitaries including the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Princess Alexandra retired as chancellor in 2004 and was the longest serving chancellor of any British university. On her departure, she gave approval for the Chancellor's Medal to be awarded for academic merit to the highest-performing undergraduates and postgraduates. Each year presentations are made to up to five graduates of taught masters' courses and up to six to the highest-performing undergraduates.
The university accepted its first students in October 1964 and there were initially 13 professors, 32 additional members of teaching and research staff, 8 library staff and 14 administrators on academic grades. The motto, "patet omnibus veritas",, was adopted. The first science students were admitted in 1965.
The university was temporarily based in the city. A lecture theatre and the university's first Junior Common Room were based in Centenary Church, a former Congregational church beside the old factory premises of Waring & Gillow, which were used to accommodate the new students. Many new students were housed in Morecambe. The Grand Theatre was leased as a main lecture room and 112 and 114 in the St Leonard's Gate area became teaching and recreational rooms. The library occupied the old workshops of Shrigley and Hunt on Castle Hill.
Bowland and Lonsdale were founded as the University's first two colleges, and all staff and students were allocated to one of the two, although the first college buildings would not be completed until 1966. The first students moved into residence and set up the first JCRs in October 1968.
The University moved from the city to the new campus at Bailrigg between 1966 and 1970.
In 2014, Lancaster University celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of events throughout the year, involving alumni, staff, students and local community members.




The purpose-built campus occupies Bailrigg, a site donated by Lancaster City Council in 1963. The campus buildings are located on a hilltop, the lower slopes of which are landscaped parkland which includes Lake Carter duck pond and the university playing fields. Lake Carter is named after Charles Carter, the first Vice Chancellor of the university, and it was built in the early 1900s. The site is three miles south of the city centre. Construction of the Bailrigg campus began in November 1965, with the first building completed a year later. The first on-campus student residences opened in 1968.
In contrast to some of the other campus universities, Bailrigg was designed to integrate social, residential and teaching areas. Another major feature of the design was that there would not be a large central Students' Union building, but that the individual colleges would be the centre of social and recreational facilities. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic is separated: this is achieved by restricting motor vehicles to a peripheral road with a linking underpass running east–west beneath Alexandra Square. The underpass accommodates the Bailrigg bus station and was refurbished in autumn 2010. Car parking is arranged in cul-de-sacs running off the peripheral road.
The campus buildings are arranged around a central walkway known as "The Spine". The walkway runs from north to south-west and is covered for most of its length. The main architect was Gabriel Epstein of Shepheard and Epstein. On a barren hilltop on a windswept day in 1963 the two architectural partners surveyed the future site of the university, Peter Shepheard recalled that day:
"We went up there on a windy day, and it was freezing cold. Every time we opened a plan it blew away. And we said Christ! What are we going to do with these students, where are they going to sit in the sun and all that? Well, we decided, it's got to be cloisters. All of the buildings have got to touch at the ground. We then devised this system and it had an absolutely firm principle: it had a great spine down the middle where everybody walked. That led everywhere. The cars were on the outside, on both sides. When you came into the spaces things were square, they were rectangular courtyards and they were all slightly different. There were two or three essentials: one was that the covered way had to be continuous, the buildings had to be three or four storeys high and connecting to the next one. I thought it worked very well."

Between 2016 and 2018 the Spine was extensively remodelled in a project known as "Design The Spine", with the aim of replacing the decaying wooden canopy, widening bottlenecks, and creating new landscaped green spaces.
Alexandra Square is the University's main plaza. Named after the first chancellor, HRH Princess Alexandra, it is situated at the centre of the original campus and contains the library in the south-west corner, designed in 1964 by Tom Mellor and Partners, the first phase opening in September 1966, the second in July 1968 and the third in January 1971. The library was extended in 1997 and underwent a phased refurbishment in 2014, which was completed in 2016. In 1998 the Ruskin Library designed by Sir Richard MacCormac was opened. On the west side of the square is University House as well as various banks and shops. To the south-east of the square is the tallest building on campus: the fourteen-storey Bowland Tower, which contains accommodation and disguises the boiler room chimney.
One of the most distinctive of the Bailrigg buildings is the free-standing University Chaplaincy Centre. Opened on 2 May 1969, the architects were the Preston-based firm Cassidy & Ashton. The building has a trefoil plan with a central spire where the three circles meet. The university's former logo is based on the spire.
A plan existed to have a twin campus with another eight colleges to the east of the M6 motorway at Hazelrigg. This would have been linked to Bailrigg by a flyover. The plan was abandoned in the 1970s during a period of financial difficulties.

South-West Campus

The university began expansion onto the lower slopes of Bailrigg with the development of new buildings for Graduate College in 1998, which is now part of South-West Campus. Development continued with the construction of InfoLab 21 and Alexandra Park which now houses Lonsdale College, Cartmel College and the en-suite rooms of Pendle College. The development of InfoLab 21 met objections with the proposed building being described as a ’Dalek factory’.
Cartmel College is built around Barker House Farm, a listed 17th-century farmhouse and outbuildings that form the centre of the college.

Health Innovation Centre

The university is building a ’Health Innovation Campus’ adjacent to the existing campus. The campus will create 2,000 jobs and boost the local economy by around £100 million. The £29.7 million contract for construction of the first building was awarded to BAM Construction in October 2017, and construction began in December 2017 and will be completed by Spring 2020. The building is 80,000 square feet and requires the construction of an access road with a junction to the A6.


The Bailrigg campus hosts a range of shops and services. Services on campus include Bailrigg post office, Barclays Bank, Santander Bank, a health centre, a pharmacy and a dental practice. Shops on campus include a SPAR supermarket, LUSU Central, a Subway, a charity shop, a WHSmith, a hairdressers, Greggs, Costa, Blackwells, Go Burrito, Wok In, Juicafe, Sultan of Lancaster, Wongs and an ice cream parlour open in the summer months. The campus also hosts , providing vehicle repairs, services & MOT's as well as a filling station and car wash.

Cultural venues

At the north end of campus, the University's Great Hall Complex comprises three venues open to both students and the public; the Peter Scott Gallery, the Nuffield Theatre and the Lancaster International Concert Series. In 2009, these three organisations were combined as one department by the University – initially termed ‘The Public Arts’ but later renamed ‘Live at LICA’ – with Matt Fenton overseeing this unification. In August 2015 Live at LICA was rebranded to 'Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University' to avoid confusion with the department of LICA, then director Jamie Eastman stated that; "This new name and logo communicates who we are, where we are and what we’re offering."
The Peter Scott Gallery is open to the public free of charge. The Gallery is located on the Bailrigg campus and houses the University's international art collection, which includes Japanese and Chinese art, antiquities, works by twentieth-century British artists including works by artists from the St Ives School, Sir Terry Frost, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Barbara Hepworth and William Scott. Among other British artists whose work is represented are Norman Adams, Patrick Caulfield, Elisabeth Frink, Kenneth Martin and Winifred Nicholson. Within the last fifteen years works by Andy Goldsworthy, Peter Howson and Albert Irvin have been acquired. The university collection also includes prints by significant European artists such as Dürer, Miró, Ernst and Vasarely.
Lancaster International Concert Series is the main provider of classical music in north Lancashire and Cumbria. Concerts are held within the Great Hall. Between October and March each year the series offers a varied diet of music which includes: orchestral concerts, chamber music, events for young people, jazz, family concerts and world music. Under the leadership of Professor Tony McEnery, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, music as a subject for study at Lancaster was abandoned in 2009.
The Nuffield Theatre, a black box theatre, is one of the largest and most adaptable professional studio theatres in Europe. It presents public performances in the fields of theatre, contemporary dance and live art from some of the best-known and respected companies from the UK and abroad. The focus of the work is new and experimental practice, a focus it shares with many of the teaching and research interest of Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. The Nuffield presents up to 30 visiting professional shows a year, plus public performances by students from Theatre Studies, and the university's student theatre and dance societies and a range of local community organisations.
The Ruskin Library houses archive material related to the poet, author and artist John Ruskin. It is open to the public, although only a small part of the collection is on public display at once. The building was constructed in 1997 by architect Richard MacCormac. The Whitehouse Collection housed in the Ruskin Library is the largest holding of books, manuscripts, photographs, drawings and watercolours by and related to John Ruskin in the world.


The University maintains two rooms at The Storey in Lancaster city centre as postgraduate study space.
In 2016 the University purchased the 165-acre Forrest Hills conference centre and golf course, located on the M6 opposite the main campus, which it continues to operate as a conference venue.

Chancellor's Wharf

Chancellor's Wharf is the name of Lancaster University's off-campus student accommodation. It consists of three buildings by the Lancaster canal on Aldcliffe Road. The location near the city centre, opposite ‘the Water Witch’ pub and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. It is open to members of all of the University's colleges. Residents remain members of their various colleges, with Chancellor's Wharf itself being only a hall of residence.

Organisation and administration


The university has nine colleges. Formerly, these were quasi-autonomous bodies providing for accommodation, welfare, social-life and student discipline, but are currently centrally controlled. All members of the university are members of a college, although in recent years academic staff have had decreasing involvement. Most colleges have about eight or nine hundred members and all on-campus accommodation is linked to a college, with blocks or individual flats being linked to one college or another each year according to demand. The colleges were governed by a syndicate, including a principal, a Dean and assistant deans, together with a senior advisor, heading a team of College Advisors. These were previously known as Senior Tutor and College Tutors, but the titles were changed in 2011 to Advisor to avoid possible confusion with "Academic Advisors" in students' academic departments. Collectively, the colleges are run by their individual SCR and JCR, the latter being made up of student members of the college.
Prior to the founding of the ninth college, Graduate College, in 1992, the eight colleges housed both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Today all postgraduate students are members of Graduate, which was founded to specifically address the needs of postgraduates and provide year-round provision for courses with different term dates. Students on integrated master's degrees however are still considered undergraduates and therefore remain in their original colleges.
Seven of the eight undergraduate colleges are named after regions of the traditional county of Lancashire, whilst County College is named after Lancashire County Council which financed its construction.

NameFoundationColoursStudents Named after
Bowland College19641,230Forest of Bowland
Cartmel College19681,080Cartmel peninsula
The County College19671,530Lancashire County Council
Furness College19661,010Furness peninsula
Fylde College19681,040The Fylde peninsula
Graduate College19923,610Status as a postgraduate college
Grizedale College19751,160Grizedale Forest
Lonsdale College19641,420Lonsdale Hundred
Pendle College19741,160Pendle region

The college buildings accommodate a number of academic departments, but are primarily social and accommodation facilities, each with its own bar, which forms part of the university's Commercial Services and is open when profitable.

Academic departments

The University is divided into four faculties. Each faculty is led by a Dean, and each academic department by a Head of Department.
The various administrative and technical departments that exist outside of the four faculties are collectively known as Professional Services, and include Facilities, Admissions, and the Library.


The University is governed by three main statutory bodies: the Council, the Senate, and the Court.
The Visitor of the University is Queen Elizabeth II. The visitor is the final arbiter of any dispute within the university, except in those areas where legislation has removed this to the law courts or other ombudsmen. Student complaints and appeals were heard by the visitor until the Higher Education Act 2004 came into force. All student complaints are now heard by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.


The Chancellor, currently Alan Milburn, is the formal and ceremonial head of the University.
Former Chancellor Sir Chris Bonington serves as the Chancellor's Ambassador, whilst Roger Liddle is the current Pro-Chancellor and chair of the University Council.
Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy LG GCVO1964–2004
Sir Christian Bonington CBE2005–2014
Alan Milburn2015–present


The Vice-Chancellor is the chief academic and executive officer of the University. The Vice-Chancellor is supported by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, three Pro Vice-Chancellors, and the Provost for Student Experience, Colleges and the Library. Andrew John Schofield was appointed Vice-Chancellor in November 2019, after the resignation of Mark Smith in September 2019. Andy took up the post of Vice-Chancellor on 1 May 2020, with Steve Bradley holding the position of Interim Vice-Chancellor during the interim period.
Sir Charles Carter1964–1980
Philip Reynolds CBE1980–1985
Harry Hanham1985–1995
William Ritchie OBE1995–2002
Paul Wellings CBE2002–2011
Mark Smith CBE2011–2019
Andy Schofield2020–

Academic profile


In terms of average UCAS points of entrants, Lancaster ranked joint 25th in Britain in 2014. The average entry standard at Lancaster is around 159 UCAS points, with almost all courses requiring at least AAA or AAB at A-level as of 2017. The university gives offers of admission to over 90% of its applicants, the third highest in the UK.
According to the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, approximately 10% of Lancaster's undergraduates come from independent schools. In the 2016-17 academic year, the university had a domicile breakdown of 66:10:23 of UK:EU:non-EU students respectively with a female to male ratio of 51:49.

Reputation and rankings

In The Sunday Times 10-year average ranking of British universities based on consistent league table performance, Lancaster was ranked joint 19th overall in the UK. As of recent years, the university has been placed within the top 10 by UK newspaper league tables and in the top 150 worldwide by the main global rankings. It was also ranked the top university in the north-west of England for all ten years of recordings by The Complete University Guide.
In 2014, its 50th year, Lancaster University was ranked 10th in the THE 100 Under 50, a list of the world's best universities under 50 years old. It also appeared in the lists of QS 50 under 50 in all the years before 2014 when it was under 50 years old.

Joint programmes

Lancaster University partnered with Sunway University, Malaysia to offer dual awards undergraduate program since 2006.
Lancaster University entered into a dual degree program with the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Lahore. It simultaneously offered two degrees, from CIIT and Lancaster University; graduates would be alumni of both universities. This was the first programme between a UK and a Pakistani university. However, the dual nature of the programme proved problematic and the relationship ended.
A partnership in a new university venture, University Academy 92 was announced in 2017 and began operation in 2019. Lancaster now provides teaching in media, sport, business and psychology at a new campus in Trafford, Greater Manchester. The project was set up by the 'class of 92' Manchester United soccer players Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes. Lancaster wanted a base in Manchester. Subtext, Lancaster's in house critical newsletter, asked: "Why are we taking a 40% financial stake and a 100% reputational share of what is essentially a new university set up with a group of retired footballers?" Local opinion on the project was also divided as reached the planning application stage.

Programmes abroad

In October 2013, Lancaster University announced the opening of a branch campus in Accra, Ghana, to serve the population of Ghana and all of Africa, providing a British university-level education locally to those students. The campus is operated in partnership with Transnational Academic Group Ghana Limited, and offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in management, business, Economics & international relations, Politics & International Relations, Accounting & Finance, Marketing, computer science, law and psychology along with an EMBA programme.
An additional small campus in Leipzig, Germany opened in 2019 to beat restrictions on employment and European research funding resulting from Brexit.
Lancaster opened the Joint Institute for Environmental Research and Education in Guangzhou, China in 2016, in partnership with the South China Agricultural University. A joint Environmental Science undergraduate degree began in September 2016 with students spending two years at each institution.
The Chinese Ministry of Education gave permission in April 2016 for Lancaster to establish Lancaster University College - Beijing Jiaotong University in Weihai, Shandong province.


Lancaster's research income for 2015-16 was £38.3 million. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment, Lancaster was ranked 18th out of 128 UK universities, including 13th for the percentage of world-leading research. The University places a particular focus on interdisciplinary research, encouraging collaborative research across academic departments.
In 2012, Lancaster University announced a partnership with the UK's biggest arms company,, and four other North-Western universities in order to work on the Gamma Programme which aims to develop "autonomous systems". According to the University of Liverpool when referring to the programme, "autonomous systems are technology based solutions that replace humans in tasks that are mundane, dangerous and dirty, or detailed and precise, across sectors, including aerospace, nuclear, automotive and petrochemicals".

International Foundation Year

The International Foundation Year is a programme of academic subjects, study skills and English language preparation which is specifically designed to provide international students with a pathway to degree study at Lancaster University.
Students select one pathway from one of six: Business and Management, Engineering and Computing, Law, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics or Social Studies. Once the student completes the programme and achieve the required grades, then the student can enter the first year of their chosen undergraduate degree at Lancaster University.

Student life

Students' Union

is the representative body of students at the university. Unusually, there is no main union building – instead the union is organised through the eight college JCRs, each of which has its own social venues and meeting spaces. The union is, however, allocated an administration building by the university. SCAN is the union's newspaper and was established in 1967. LUSU owns a nightclub in Lancaster called The Sugarhouse ; operates a shop on campus, LUSU Central; and also an off campus housing agency LUSU Living.
LUSU also helps to support LUSU Involve, a volunteering unit allowing Lancaster University students to become involved with communities locally and internationally.
There are over 175 different societies operating within Lancaster University. Common areas include sports, hobbies, politics, academic, culture and religion. There are several fairs during the Freshers period in which various clubs and societies promote themselves.


Every summer term the students take part in the Roses Tournament against the University of York, this is often described as the biggest varsity competition in Europe. The venue of the event alternates annually between Lancaster and York. The competition takes its name from the 15th-century civil war, the War of the Roses, and is organised by the universities' respective student unions, LUSU and YUSU.
Lancaster University Athletics Club was formed in May 2011. The start of the 2011/12 academic year saw the first athletes join the club and by the end of the year receive awards for LUSU 'Society of the Year 2012' and were winners of the Lancaster Athletics Cup 2012. In the 2012/13 academic year the club was given the opportunity to compete in BUCS and Roses along with other sporting societies at Lancaster University.
Lancaster University Swimming and Water Polo Club competes in both BUCS and Roses in the sports swimming and water polo. The swimming team also competes in other charity galas, such as Quest for The Crest, held at Manchester Aquatics Centre. The BUCS swimming competitions include BUCS Short Course National Championships, BUCS Team Championships, and BUCS Long Course Championships, of which there has recently been attendance from Olympic swimmers such as James Guy and 50m & 100m World Champion Adam Peaty. In addition, the water polo team competes in the UPOLO league. LUSWP won the Lancaster University 'Club of the Year' in both academic years 2015/2016, and 2016/2017.

Intercollegiate sport

A number of intercollegiate sporting events exist within the university. Leagues exist in football, netball, pool, darts and dominoes. Pool, darts and dominoes collectively form an overall "bar sports" league known as the George Wyatt Cup. The Carter Shield is contested between every college with bi-weekly matches open to all, and is intended as a light-hearted competition to promote lesser-known sports.
There are also a number of annual sporting events between specific colleges:
Alongside sport, Lancaster University has a vast selection of arts societies across campus in the areas of performance, media and music. Examples of performance-based societies include Lancaster University Theatre Group, the Comedy Institute, Lancaster University Film Production, University of Lancaster Music society and Hiphop and Breakdance. There is also the Vagina Monolancs, a student-run group performing the Vagina Monologues, raising awareness of domestic violence against women and girls. In addition, the four established student media groups consist of the student radio station Bailrigg FM, the student newspaper SCAN established in 1967 and the student union's television station and Take 2 Cinema, an on-campus cinema, based in Bowland Main Lecture Theatre, established in 1964.

Religious groups

The Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre is located at the north end of campus incorporating various religious groups such as Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, as well as various religious societies such as the Bahá'í, the Chinese Christian Fellowship, the Postgrad and Mature Students Group and the Pagan society which hold regular events and meetings. The Islamic Prayer Rooms are located across from the Chaplaincy Centre, in Ash House.

Notable people