From swamp to spaceship

12 steps to the magical University of York today

Our University has changed drastically over the past 50 years – but some things will always remain the same. Here’s how the University of York arrived at today.

1. In the early 1960’s the University of York was founded.

First came the small task of building the University… on a swamp.

Construction started in 1963
Construction started in 1963
2. The swamp was drained into a lake.

At the time it was the biggest artificial lake in Europe.


The lake was awesome… until the Department of Biology did some tests and realised the lake water was very, very nasty. Windsurfing is not advisable these days. But it still looks pretty.

3. Then stuff was built. Quickly.



4. In 1963, the first students arrived at York.

There were 230 of them.


5. Not long after the Queen and Prince Philip visited.


6. The Student Union and JCRCs were established.


7. Student media started.

The Uni of York soon became “the Fleet Street of student media” (according to Leon Morris, 2014 York Vision Editor). Our student radio station, URY, became the first independent radio station in the UK.


8. The 1960’s and 70’s went by in a blur of student protests.


9. For a long time the brochure pictures of Heslington Hall convinced would-be-students they had been accepted into a northern Oxbridge.
Heslington Hall
10. Which left them in utter confusion when they arrived on our beloved concrete campus.
Derwent College, 1966
Derwent College, 1966
11. Then lots of new shiny stuff was built.

Even a whole new campus (Heslington East). Suddenly the uni began to look more fancy than we were used to…

The Ron Cooke Hub on Heslington East
The Ron Cooke Hub on Heslington East
12. Even though we love the new buildings, the spaceship will always hold a special place in our hearts.