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Keele University

Keele University
Seal of University of Keele
Motto Thanke God for All
Established 1949 (as University College of North Staffordshire); 1962 Royal Charter granted for university status
Type Public
Chancellor The Hon. Jonathon Porritt, CBE
Vice-Chancellor Trevor McMillan[1]
Visitor The Lord President of the Council ex officio
Academic staff
Students 9,980[2]
Undergraduates 7,600
Postgraduates 2,380
Location Keele, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Affiliations ACU
Website Keele University

Keele University, officially known as the University of Keele,[3] is a public research university located about 3 miles (4.8 km) from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England. Keele was granted university status by Royal Charter in 1962[4] and was originally founded in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire.

The university occupies a 620-acre (250 ha) rural campus close to the village of Keele and has a science park and a conference centre, making it the largest main campus university in the UK.[3] The university's School of Medicine operates the clinical part of its courses from a separate campus at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. The School of Nursing and Midwifery is based at the nearby Clinical Education Centre.


  • History 1
    • 1940s 1.1
    • 1950s 1.2
    • School of Medicine 1.3
    • 1990s 1.4
    • 2000s 1.5
  • Campus 2
    • Halls of residence 2.1
  • Academic profile and reputation 3
    • Rankings 3.1
    • Teaching 3.2
    • Research 3.3
  • Student life 4
    • Students' union 4.1
    • Student activity 4.2
    • KUBE Radio 4.3
    • Sport 4.4
      • Varsity 4.4.1
  • People associated with the university 5
    • List of university officers 5.1
      • Principals and Vice-Chancellors 5.1.1
      • Presidents and Chancellors 5.1.2
    • Notable academics 5.2
    • Notable alumni 5.3
  • Keele University in the media 6
  • References 7
    • Bibliography 7.1
  • External links 8


Keele Hall, part of the original structure of Keele University


Keele University was established in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire, at the initiative of A D Lindsay, then Professor of Philosophy and Master of Balliol College, Oxford. Lindsay was a strong advocate of working-class adult education,[5] who had first suggested a "people's university" in an address to the North Staffordshire Workers' Educational Association in 1925.[6]

On 13 March 1946, Lindsay wrote to Sir Walter Moberly, chair of the University Grants Committee (UGC), suggesting the establishment of a college “on new lines”.[7] Established practice was for new colleges to be launched without degree-awarding powers, instead taking external degrees of the University of London. Crucially, Lindsay wanted to “get rid of the London external degree”, instead forming a college with the authority from the start to set its own syllabus, perhaps acting under the sponsorship of an established university. Lindsay wrote also to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, tentatively requesting just such sponsorship.[7]

An exploratory committee was established by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, chaired by Lindsay and supported by Alderman Thomas Horwood, Vicar of Etruria and leader of the Labour group on the City Council.[8] Having secured public funding from the UGC in January 1948,[9] the Committee acquired Keele Hall, a stately home on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, from its owner, Ralph Sneyd.[10] The Hall, ancestral residence of the Sneyd family, had previously been requisitioned by the War Office for military use during World War II, and was supplied with the bulk of the Sneyd estate and a number of prefabricated structures erected by the Army, for the sum of £31,000.[10]


The university library

The first graduate was Margaret Boulds in 1954, graduating in Philosophy and English. Growing steadily, the university college was promoted to university status in 1962, receiving a new Royal charter in January of that year,[11] and adopting the name the University of Keele. This remains the official name, although Keele University is now the everyday usage. It is identified as one of the Plate glass universities.

School of Medicine

In 1968, the Royal Commission on Medical Education (1965–68) issued the "Todd Report", which considered the possibility of a medical school being established at Keele. It was thought that North Staffordshire would be a good site, having a large local population and several large hospitals. It was considered that a minimum intake of 150 students each year would be necessary to make a medical school economically and educationally viable. However, the university was at that time too small to support a medical school of this size. However, in 1978, Keele Department of Postgraduate Medicine opened. This conducted medical research and postgraduate medical education, but did not teach undergraduate medical students. In 2002, some students from Manchester Medical School began being taught at Keele. Finally Keele's own medical school opened in 2007.


In 1994, the Oswestry and North Staffordshire School of Physiotherapy (ONSSP), which had been a separate institution based at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire, merged with Keele University, becoming Keele's Department of Physiotherapy Studies, and relocating from Oswestry to the Keele University campus. In August 1995, Keele University merged with North Staffordshire College of Nursing and Midwifery, forming the new School of Nursing and Midwifery.

In 1998 and 1999 there was some controversy over the decision by university authorities to sell the Turner Collection, a valuable collection of mathematical printed books including some which had belonged to – and had been heavily annotated by – Isaac Newton, in order to fund major improvements to the university library. Senior university officials authorised the sale of the collection to a private buyer, with no guarantee that it would remain intact or within the UK. Although legally permissible, the sale was unpopular among the academic community and the controversy was fuelled by prolonged negative press coverage suggesting that the £1m sale price was too low and that the collection was certain to be broken up.[12]


Due to declining popularity and funding, the German department closed in December 2004,[13] although the university retained its physics degree despite the subject facing similar pressures.[14]

In 2009, the university was awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education, for "pioneering work with the NHS in early intervention and primary care in the treatment of chronic pain and arthritis, linking research to delivery to patients through GP networks and user groups."[15]

In 2012 Keele introduced two new foundation years, the international foundation year and the accelerated international foundation year, that add to the existing offer, as the humanities, science, social science, health, general foundation years and foundation year for people who are visually impaired.

Further expansion on site of the university from 2015 is expected to bring private investment by establishing a science centre. This would bring thousands of jobs to Staffordshire as well as the university. The creation of a smart energy centre aims to establish a sustainable energy source and promote green technology.[16]


The university chapel
The university chapel in winter

Keele's campus is largely rural with many 19th-century architectural features that predate the building of the modern university.[17] It is close to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hanley (which is the main centre of the City of Stoke-on-Trent). By rail, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool are about an hour[17] and London about 90 minutes by rail and three to four hours by road.[17]

Apart from increasing numbers of academic and residential buildings, other facilities include an astronomical observatory, art gallery, arboretum, chapel, Islamic centre, shops, cafés and places to eat and drink. Keele Golf Course and practice range are close by. The campus also has science, business enterprise parks and conference centres. It is also home to the Earth Science Education Unit (ESEU).[18]

Halls of residence

There are five halls of residence on the main campus: Barnes, Lindsay, Holly Cross, the Oaks and Horwood. Hawthorns Hall is located off site in Keele village just outside the main entrance. These halls provide accommodation for approximately 70% of all full-time students.[19]

Barnes Hall has no M block (it has A to L and N to X) because the building became unsafe due to subsidence and was demolished. The large open area adjacent to L block helped an urban legend develop that M block sank into the ground due to an abandoned mine tunnel.[20] Another building anomaly is the seventh floor of O Block in Horwood. Although the top storey has windows and walls, the roof was never added.[21]

Most students in their first year occupy on-campus accommodation as do some final year students. International students typically occupy on-campus accommodation.

Academic profile and reputation

The university's distinctive profile reflects the aims of its founders: breadth of study and community atmosphere.[22] A modern sculpture installation ("The Forest of Light") at the heart of campus in Union Square carries the motto "Search for truth in the company of friends".

Breadth of study was guaranteed by the "pioneering"[23] four-year dual-honours degree programmes initially offered by Keele.[3] The university's curriculum required every student to study two "principal" subjects to honours level, as well as further "subsidiary" subjects, with an additional requirement that students should study at least one subject from each of the subject groupings of Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences.[24] The cross-disciplinary requirement was reinforced by the Foundation Year, an innovation which meant that for the first year of the four-year programmes, all students would study a common course of interdisciplinary "foundation studies". In the words of the first UCNS Prospectus, the programme offered:

"...a broad education based upon an understanding of the heritage of civilisation, movements and conditions, and of the nature, methods and influence of the experimental sciences"[25]

Standard three-year degrees were introduced in 1973[26] and the numbers of students following the Foundation Year course have steadily dwindled since. The Foundation Year has never quite been formally discontinued, however, and remains an option for prospective students who qualify for entry into Higher Education, but lack subject-specific qualifications for specific degree programmes.[27] By contrast, the dual honours system at Keele remains distinctive and popular, with almost 90 per cent of current undergraduates reading dual honours.[17] Able to combine any two available subjects, students have a choice of over 500 degree courses in all.[3] The university also offers a study abroad semester to most of its students.[3]

As an experimental community, Keele was initially founded as a "wholly residential"[22] institution. Of the initial intake of 159 students in October 1950, 149 were resident on campus,[28] and it was required of the first professors appointed that they should also be in residence.[29] With the expansion of the university, total residency has long since been abandoned, but the proportion of full-time students resident on campus remains above average at 62% in 2011[2] having fallen from 70% in 2006.[19] A significant proportion of staff also currently live on campus.[2]

The university also had a reputation for political activism, especially left-wing radicalism,[30] having been dubbed, in its early years, a "School for Socialists"[31] and "The Kremlin on the Hill".[32] This left-wing radicalism largely faded over time, and symbolically appeared to end in January 2008, when Keele became the last university in Britain to close its "industrial relations" department, though the courses in industrial relations continue to run and recruit well.[33]

Keele has a graduation rate of over 90%,[3] with 68.4% achieving 1sts or 2:1s.[34] 90% of undergraduates are state-educated (a figure exceeded by only two traditional universities in England), and over 25% of students are from working-class backgrounds.[3] In recent years Keele has attempted to boost this number by reaching out to local schools and hosting a summer school.[3] In February 2011, a Sutton Trust report revealed that 3·4% of students had received free school meals, whilst 7·9% had attended independent schools.[35] This compares the national figures for England of 14% eligible for free school meals,[36] and 7% independently educated.[37]


(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2016, national)
The Guardian[41]
(2016, national)
Times/Sunday Times[42]
(2015, national)
The university's arms, displayed on the front of the library
UK University Rankings for Keele University
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
Guardian University Guide[43][44] 42/119[45] 41/116 45/119 50/120 54 44 50
Times Good University Guide[46] 45/116 45 42 40/109
Sunday Times University Guide 43/127 40/123[47] 44/121[48] 29/122 =32/122 40
Complete University Guide[49][50] 46 43/123 45/124 46/115 44/116 43/115 42/113 40/113 50/113
THE (Times Higher World)[51][52] 301–350 351–400 301–350

Notes (i) '=' means equal with one or more other institutions (ii) 32/122 means 32nd out of 122 institutions evaluated (iii) 301–350 means in the band between 301st and 350th rank

In May 2012 Keele was listed by the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine as among the world's top 100 new (50 years old or less) universities.[53] The periodical stated that: "The 100 Under 50 aims to show which nations are challenging the US and the UK as higher education powerhouses – and offers insights into which institutions may be future world leaders". In September 2012 the university was named as one of the UK's top 30 universities in the Sunday Times University Guide.


Keele students were ranked 1st in the UK for student satisfaction in the 2015 National Student Survey. Feedback from Keele students found them to be happy with the quality of their university experience and rated their courses as intellectually stimulating, with the staff good at explaining things and enthusiastic about what they are teaching. The University's overall satisfaction score of 95% places Keele in first position for the second year running – above the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and the Open University. Forensic Science and Sociology at Keele were ranked first for subject-level performance, with top 10 rankings for: American Studies, Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Forensics, Geology, Human Geography, HR Management, Mathematics, Medicine, Biochemistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Philosophy, Physical Geography and Environmental Science and Politics.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) conducted an audit of Keele's teaching in May 2004 and reported "broad confidence" in the university's teaching quality.[54] There are three faculties:

  • The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences contains the Schools of
    • Public Policy and Professional Practice (Education, Social Work, Gerontology, Health Policy, Public Policy, Clinical Management and Leadership)
    • Economic & Management Studies (Economics, Health Planning and Management, Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations, Management)
    • Humanities (American Studies, English, History, Languages, Music, Music Technology, Culture and Creative Arts)
    • Law (Professional Ethics, Law)
    • Politics, International Relations & Philosophy
    • Sociology and Criminology
  • The Faculty of Natural Sciences contains the Schools of
    • Computing & Mathematics
    • Life Sciences
    • Earth Sciences & Geography
    • Physical & Geographical Sciences
    • Psychology

All Keele’s courses – with the exception of Medicine and Pharmacy – are modular, with the academic year divided into two 15-week semesters, with breaks at Christmas and Easter.[3] There are approximately 14 students to every member of staff.[34]


In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 97% of Keele University’s research was rated as 'world leading and of international importance', with all disciplines it made a submission to improving on the results of 2008. Subject areas where research at Keele has been rated world class are Allied Health Professions, Primary Care, General Engineering, History, Music, English, Politics, Law, Biological Sciences, Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, Philosophy, Business and Management and Computer Science.

Medical research includes detecting Parkinson's disease early,[55] and using Stem cell research to aid the healing process.[56] The cochlear implant was developed in the Department of Communication and Neuroscience at Keele. Other notable medical research includes attempts to explain the evolution of the human brain,[57] looking into links between cannabis and mental illness (cited in the debate on 2009 reclassification debate),[58][59] as well as tumour and cancer research.[60][61]

Sociological research includes middle class behaviour[62] especially findings that suggested that the 'law abiding majority' theory was a myth,[63] and that middle class persons were more likely to commit crimes than commonly believed.[64][65][66] Other research has been undertaken into the effectiveness of social work,[67] including care for the elderly.[68] Educational research has shown how music can help a child develop in school,[69] and how health and safety had affected British children.[70] Other research has shown how e-mails have made communication more complex.[71]

The university has also undertaken sports-related research projects,[72] and has worked with the Premier League to develop technology for detecting offside players.[73] Keele academics have also conducted research into how women perceived sport.[74]

In August 2009, university astronomers, led by David Anderson, discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.[75] The planet was named WASP-17b.[76]

In 2010 Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston won the Ig Nobel prize for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.[77]

In 2010 a medical centre in Newport, Shropshire was completed, for students to learn in real medical situations and research medical sciences.

Student life

Students' union

The Students' Union building

Flirt!" night) and the Pound A Drink night on Monday. The union has several bars – The Scruffy Squirrel, Blueprint and K2, and restaurants – Blend and Munch, along with stalls outside, including a Farmer's Market every Tuesday. The Golfer's Arms, adjacent to the campus, was sold to the local council at the end of 2005. The Students' Union building underwent a major refurbishment that was completed in September 2012. In 2013 it ranked fifth in a national student satisfaction survey. There is a long tradition of professional advice and support, offered through "ASK" – Advice and Support at Keele, complementing the University's own student support services. The Keele Postgraduate Association, founded in 1963 as the Keele Research Association, has its own clubhouse and offers similar support to postgraduate and doctoral students.

The Students' Union magazine, Concourse, was founded in 1964 and is issued about once a month. In the early 1990s the union RAG committee was instrumental in the formation of the "National Association of RAGs". This wider scope of activity lead to good natured rivalry with other RAG committees, especially Warwick and Cardiff.

Student activity

The Keele team won the 1968 series of University Challenge.[78] The same team also made runner up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1979) in the 2002 special University Challenge: Reunited.

In the early 1980s Keele attracted the attention of the national press and television news when some students founded a 'cuddling society' and a 'mass cuddle' was filmed in the car park outside the students' union.

The post-modern sculpture situated outside Keele's library was stolen by a visiting sports team, only to be later retrieved and securely fitted. In 2005 the same statue was damaged in protest against the university's policy of fining its undergraduate students.

In 2007, Keele students were responsible for getting Keele featured as a location on the UK "Here and Now" version of the traditional board game Monopoly. People in the UK had an opportunity to vote for which places should make the board, and Keele was the highest "wild-card" location which made it on. It even finished higher on the board than London, and takes the place of "Fleet Street" in the game.[79] Later that year, Keele students won a competition hosted by O2 via Facebook called "The battle for the UK's favourite university", scoring over 172,000 points by uploading photos, videos and making wall posts on the group. The prize for winning the competition was a party at their students' union, hosted by O2.

KUBE Radio

There is also a student radio station called KUBE Radio (Keele University Broadcasting Enterprises), broadcast over the internet. In 2008 it was recognized as the most internationally acclaimed student radio station, with awards for Best Online Only Radio Station in both the New York Festivals and the European Radio Awards.


Keele has a tradition of participation in many different sports, ranging from rugby to lacrosse and dodgeball. Sports teams and issues raised are managed by the Athletic Union. The leisure centre is one of the largest dry leisure complexes in Staffordshire.[80] The centre has two national standard sports halls, a single court gymnasium, a fitness centre, dance studio and climbing wall. Outside there is an all weather floodlit AstroTurf pitch, tennis courts and extensive playing fields. It is also the first university centre in the UK to offer a full "Kinesis" gym facility.[81]

Keele University Sports Centre hosts the matches of Newcastle (Staffs) Volleyball Club, providing around 110 tiered seats with the perfect view of some of the best matches in English Volleyball. The university also hosts the "Keele International Cup", formerly the "Umbro International Cup", an international youth football tournament which attracts several football teams from around the world. A notable former competitor in the tournament is former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham, who played for the Manchester United Academy back when the tournament was still being held in Manchester.[82] Keele University Mens Football Club took home the mens title in 2014.

In 2012, Keele University also took part in the first official inter-university Muggle Quidditch match, winning and thus becoming the top ranked team in the country. The sport has since expanded and Keele have remained one of the forerunners, finishing in second place at the British and Irish Quidditch Cup in November 2013. The university also hosted 8 teams for the Northern Cup in March 2014.


Since 2007, Keele University's Athletic Union has played an annual multi-sports varsity series against local rivals Staffordshire University. The varsity match occurs at both universities sports facilities, alternating between the venues each year. Sports included in the contest include football, cricket, rugby, badminton, lacrosse, swimming, volleyball, netball, hockey, fencing, tennis, basketball and frisbee. Keele has won the varsity trophy for the past six years consecutively, winning in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Staffordshire University won in 2007 and 2009

People associated with the university

List of university officers

Dame Janet Finch, former Vice-Chancellor of Keele.

Principals and Vice-Chancellors

Presidents and Chancellors

The Hon. Jonathon Porritt, Keele's Chancellor

Notable academics

National Teaching Fellows[84]
  • Patrick Bailey – Dean of Natural Sciences, NTF at Manchester
  • Stephen Bostock – Head of the Learning Development Unit until 2011, now at Glyndwr University
  • Peter G. Knight – Senior Lecturer in Geography.
  • Jonathan Parker – Senior Lecturer in Politics
  • Val Wass – Head of the Medical School, NTF at Manchester
  • Zoe Robinson – Director of Education for Sustainable Develelopment
  • Roy Fisher – American Studies Lecturer and Poet
  • Oliver Harris – Professor of American literature and expert in the works of William Burroughs.

Notable alumni

Keele University in the media

Keele University was featured in Marvellous, the biographical film about honorary graduate Neil Baldwin broadcast on BBC Two in September 2014. Many scenes in the film revisited his time at the university and the start of his friendship with Keele graduate Malcolm Clarke. In 2015, the film was nominated for three BAFTA Awards, winning best single drama, with actress Gemma Jones also winning best supporting actress. Toby Jones who played Neil Baldwin in the film was nominated for best leading actor.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.8
  7. ^ a b Kolbert (2000), p.19
  8. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.22
  9. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.30
  10. ^ a b Kolbert (2000), p.37
  11. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.108
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c d
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b "Aims of the College", from the Programme for the official opening of UCNS, 17 April 1951. Reproduced in Kolbert (2000), pp.70–72
  23. ^
  24. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.48
  25. ^ UCNS Prospectus, for Session 1950–51. Quoted in Kolbert (2000), p.39
  26. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.141
  27. ^
  28. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.64
  29. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.41
  30. ^ Kolbert (2000), pp.142–151
  31. ^ The Sentinel (Staffordshire), November 1946. Quoted in Kolbert (2000), p.23
  32. ^ Kolbert (2000), p.67
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b
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  41. ^
  42. ^
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  44. ^
  45. ^
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  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Times Higher World Ranking 2011–12"
  52. ^
  53. ^ THE (Times Higher Education) 31 May 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012
  54. ^
  55. ^
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External links

  • Keele University
  • Keele University Science and Business Park
  • Keele University Students Union
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