University of Sheffield

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The University of Sheffield was founded over a hundred years ago, founded on the aspirations and financial support of the people of Sheffield. They wanted to establish a university which would benefit their economy, health and children.

These far-sighted men and women could only have wondered at what would follow. Today we are a global community and our citizenship stretches around the world into over 150 countries. Like our city, our staff and students have roots and connections all over our planet.

What we continue to do is based on our values and rooted in our founding principles. Our approach inspires innovative collaboration across subject areas and with individuals, businesses and organisations to solve the more pressing problems we face, both close to home and around the world.

Being a civic university means that we are a place for open debate, for working together to solve problems and making partnerships which challenge and inspire new thinking. We are open to people, to change and to possibility.

We were founded to make real impact on the city’s economy and to improve health. A century later, we are still doing this.

The University of the Year award noted the opening of theSheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience with donations of £8m from local benefactors and patients’ groups. The centre carries out cutting edge research into neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is the UK’s leading university-manufacturing industry collaboration. Alongside Boeing and Rolls-Royce, 60 partner companies work with 200 University staff (75% are postgraduates) and 150 Prince’s Trust apprentices.

A carbon-neutral Factory of the Future sits on reclaimed colliery land, symbolising local regeneration, and the AMRC was named Boeing Supplier of the Year against competition from 17,000 companies globally – the first time this title has gone to the UK.

Project Sunshine aims to harness the power of the sun to tackle the biggest challenge facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world’s population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change.

The Grantham Centre builds on our groundbreaking Project Sunshine research into food and energy security. The Grantham Centre aims to advance the science of sustainability and connect it with the policy debate around how humans can live in a more sustainable way.

Energy 2050 explores how we can move to a secure, low-carbon energy system. The initiative addresses the energy triple challenge of of delivering affordable, secure and sustainable energy.

Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) brings together leading international researchers in the social sciences, policy makers, journalists and opinion formers to reassess and develop substantive proposals to respond to the political and economic challenges posed by the global financial crisis and its legacy.

As well as looking outwards, we have profound strengths within. The importance of students is reflected in our outstanding performance in the National Student Satisfaction Survey.

The University of Sheffield Students’ Union is consistently rated top in the country in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.

We see our students not only as consumers but as producers of knowledge, creativity and impact. For example, Sheffield Volunteering and Sheffield Raising and Giving (RAG), both run by the Students’ Union, help our students make a difference in the local community.

Sheffield Volunteering is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the UK. It is a model of best practice and holds the newSheffield Volunteer Standard.

Our community projects are created and run by students. They provide vital support networks within the community and offer services that otherwise would not exist.

An example is the English society’s For the Love of Books project. Their poetry classes in local sheltered housing have has successfully helped to reduce social isolation and improve the health and welfare of many older people.

Sheffield RAG exists to help students raise funds for charitable causes. RAG’s priority is the local community. Last year 82% of funds raised were donated to charities in the local South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire area.

The RAG Committee organises a programme of fundraising events and activities for students to take part in throughout the academic year. Their sister committee Bummit organises an annual UK hitchhike as well as an international charity hitchhike. RAG also supports societies, sports clubs, working committees, groups and individuals to fundraise for the charities they choose through projects such as the Adopt-a-Charity scheme.

We also won the Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award – a first for any university. This was for projects includingPhilosophy in the City (run by students in the Department of Philosophy); student mentoring of young people from deprived areas; activities for children who have experienced family loss; and a centre offering free legal support to the community.

Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

Faculty of Arts and Humanities Faculty of Engineering Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Faculty of Science Faculty of Social Sciences International Faculty – City College, Thessaloniki
Archaeology Aerospace Engineering Clinical Dentistry Animal and Plant Sciences Architecture Business Administration and Economics
English Automatic Control and Systems Engineering Human Communication Sciences Mathematics and Statistics East Asian Studies Computer Science
French Studies Bioengineering Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease Biomedical Science Economics English Studies
Germanic Studies Chemical and Biological Engineering The Medical School Chemistry Education Executive MBA
Hispanic Studies Civil & Structural Engineering Neuroscience Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Geography Psychology
History Computer Science Nursing and Midwifery Physics and Astronomy Information School
Languages and Cultures Electronic and Electrical Engineering Oncology & Metabolism Psychology Journalism Studies
Music Materials Science and Engineering Health and Related Research (ScHARR) Landscape
Philosophy Mechanical Engineering Law
Religion, Theology and the Bible Management School
Russian and Slavonic Studies Politics
Sheffield Methods Institute
Sociological Studies
Urban Studies and Planning


The University of Sheffield developed from three local institutions: the Sheffield School of Medicine, Firth College and the Sheffield Technical School. The School of Medicine, founded 1828, was by far the oldest. Its early history was very insecure and it was saved from collapse by the opening of Firth College, which took over the teaching of all basic science subjects to medical students.

Firth College was one of a group of university colleges founded in the later 19th century. It developed out of the Cambridge University Extension Movement, a scheme designed to bring university teaching to the large towns and cities of England, most of which lacked any university provision. The success of these courses in Sheffield led Mark Firth, a local steel manufacturer, to establish the College in 1879 as a centre for teaching Arts and Science subjects.

The Sheffield Technical School

The Sheffield Technical School was the product of local concern about the need for better technical training of the men responsible for running the great industries of Sheffield, particularly steelmaking. A movement was started within Firth College to collect funds to create a technical department, which was established in 1884 as the Sheffield Technical School. In 1886 the School moved to new premises on the site of the old Grammar School at St George’s Square.

In 1897, the three institutions were amalgamated by Royal Charter to form the University College of Sheffield. This step was part of the plan to link up with the Victoria University, a federation of the University Colleges at Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.

By 1900, however, the Federal University was disintegrating and within a few years independent universities were formed from the three University Colleges.

On 31 May 1905 the University of Sheffield was granted its Royal Charter, and in July the new Firth Court Building on Western Bank was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. St George’s Square remained the centre of Applied Science departments, with Arts, Medicine and Science being housed at Western Bank.

The University in 1905

At the time of the University’s foundation in 1905 there were 114 full-time students reading for degrees in Arts, Pure Science, Medicine and Applied Science. In 1919 when returning ex-servicemen were admitted in large numbers, the full-time student figure rose to a short-lived peak of about 1,000. By then the Faculty of Applied Science had split into Engineering and Metallurgy; the University’s first Hall of Residence (the original Stephenson Hall) had been established; and the Edgar Allen library had opened (1909).

At that time the University was as committed to non-degree teaching as to teaching full-time students. Courses covered not only many conventional academic subjects but also topics as diverse as cow-keeping, railway economics, mining and razor-grinding. During the First World War some of these were replaced by teaching of (and participation in) munitions making, medical appliances design and production, translation and politics.

Between the two wars full-time student numbers stabilised at about 750 and expansion into new areas of specialist teaching and research continued slowly. The Second World War brought with it new areas of specialist research and training – in, for example, radar, dietary and vitamin studies, production of anaesthetics and chemicals (as substitutes for materials previously imported from Europe), magnetism, fuel production and economy, naval cartography, glass manufacture and English language teaching.

Since the Second World War

Since the Second World War, many older houses have been brought into academic use and major new buildings have been constructed – the Main Library in 1959, and the Arts Tower, Hicks Building, Alfred Denny Building, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Chemical Engineering Building, University House, five Halls of Residence and the Union of Students in the 1960s.

New buildings for Geography and Psychology followed in the 1970s, along with the Crookesmoor Building (for Law and Management), the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, and purpose-built student flats. The next decade saw the opening of the Octagon Centre, the Sir Henry Stephenson Building (for engineering), and major extensions at the Northern General Hospital.

In the 1990s, new premises for the School of Clinical Dentistry, the Management School, the Division of Education, St George’s Library (incorporating Blackwell’s University Bookshop) and St George’s Flats and Lecture Theatre were opened, together with extensions to Stephenson, Halifax, and Tapton Halls of Residence, and three new blocks of student flats.

The Regent Court building, which houses the Departments of Computer Science and Information Studies and the Sheffield Centre for Health and Related Research, were also completed. The Union of Students underwent a £5 million development programme, improving welfare, social and meetings facilities.

Following the University’s integration with the Sheffield and North Trent College of Nursing and Midwifery in 1995, a building programme provided new facilities for nursing and midwifery teaching and research. This includes the extension and conversion of the St George’s Hospital site on Winter Street, and the construction of a new building at the Northern General Hospital.

The 21st century

The University’s ambitious estates strategy has continued into the new millennium. Campus additions include the £80 million refurbishment programme for laboratories in the medical, biological and physical sciences:

  • Custom-built University Health Centre
  • The Sheffield Bioincubator
  • Multidisciplinary Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences

Other projects include:

  • The Diamond, an £81 million building on the Jessop East site, which has specialist engineering teaching facilities, as well as lecture theatres, seminar rooms, open-plan learning spaces, library services and social spaces. It is predicted to bring £44.5 million into the local economy during the construction phase and first year of operation, with an ongoing annual contribution to Sheffield’s economy of £20.6 million.
  • A £20 million refurbishment of our award-winning Students’ Union and landmark University House building. The two buildings have been revamped and integrated to create outstanding facilities and services for students, staff and visitors
  • An £8 million investment programme in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health
  • A £21 million Faculty of Engineering Graduate School, the Pam Liversidge Building, featuring specialist facilities for engineering postgraduate students
  • Refurbishment of our landmark Grade II* listed Arts Tower building
  • Three buildings for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities: The Jessop Building, The Soundhouse and Jessop West
  • £160 million building programme to redevelop residential accommodation on the Endcliffe and Ranmoor sites
  • The inauguration of the £20 million North Campus (housing the Kroto Research Institute and the Nanoscience and Technology Centre)
  • The construction of the £23 million library building, Information Commons

The mile-long ‘campus’ now stretches almost unbroken from St George’s Square into Crookesmoor, with student residences concentrated in suburbs to the west of the University. For the first 50 years of its existence, the University’s full-time student population did not rise above 2,000. By 1980, however, it had reached 8,000 and in 2006 the number of full-time students had risen to 21,000. The total student population is now over 27,000 and includes students from all over the world.

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