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The University of Plymouth is the largest university in the southwest of Englandmarker, with over 30,000 students and is the fifth largest UK university based on student population. (Larger universities are Openmarker, London, Manchestermarker, and Manchester Metropolitanmarker respectively). It has almost 3,000 staff (one of the largest employers in the southwest), and an annual income of around £160 million .

The University

Plymouth is a modern university that has undergone a great deal of development, including several new buildings. On the basis of the results of the 2008 RAE Plymouth has leapt 15 places to join the top 50 universities, showing the greatest improvement in the UK in research performance since the last RAE, in 2001. The university jumped 33 places in The Guardian's national university league tables published in May 2006, from 73rd place in 2005 to 40th place in 2006. It is settled at 35th place in the 2007 publication; The Times table, which unlike The Guardian takes research performance into account, places it 55th and bills it as one of the top two modern universities in the UK. The Guardian describes the University as "forward thinking", as well as placing Plymouth in the "top 20" for ten subjects including social work (5th), architecture, fine art and drama. In conjunction with the current restructuring, the university's aim is to become the enterprise university', pivotal in a city acknowledged as the enterprise capital of the south west.

Professor Roland Levinsky was the University's vice-chancellor (VC) up until his death on 1 January 2007, when he walked into live electrical cables brought down during a storm. He was temporarily replaced by Professor Mark Cleary (now VC of the University of Bradfordmarker), and then by Professor Steve Newstead. Professor Wendy Purcell became VC on 1 December 2007.


The university was originally a Polytechnic College, with its constituent bodies being Plymouth Polytechnicmarker, Rolle College, and Seale-Hayne College. It was renamed (unpopularly ) Polytechnic South West in 1989 and remained as this until gaining university status in 1992 along with the other polytechnics. The new university absorbed the Plymouth School of Maritime Studies and Tavistock College.

Construction of the new Arts Complex on the Rowe Street building site at the Southern end of campus.
Under then Vice-Chancellor Roland Levinsky, the university began a policy of centralising its campus activities in Plymouth. The Faculty of Arts based in Exeter moved to the new Roland Levinsky arts building in August 2007, bringing subjects including Fine Art, History of Art, Photography and 3-D Design to Plymouth. Theatre & Performance, based in Exmouth also moved at this time.

The Exmouth campus - Rolle College - housed the Faculty of Education and relocated to the new Rolle Building in August 2008. The decision was unpopular with students and the town of Exmouthmarker itself, there were several protest marches and a campaign to keep the campus open.

An exception to the trend of centralising activities are the University's extensive activities in education for the health professions. In addition many of its students are taught at Further Education Colleges throughout Devonmarker, Cornwallmarker and Somersetmarker, such as Dartington College of Artsmarker. A new building which opened in 2008 is shared between the Peninsula Medical School and the Faculty of Health and Social Work, highlighting some movement towards Plymouth.

Recently completed developments include Portland Square, a library extension, refurbished and new laboratory and teaching facilities in many of the campus buildings, halls of residence near the Business School and a new £16 million Peninsula Medical School headquarters at Derriford, in the north of the city.

Jointly with the University of Exetermarker and the National Health Service in the region, the University runs the recently founded Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. A new £13 million building on the University of Plymouth's main campus provides teaching rooms, office space, a clinical skills laboratory and research facilities for the Plymouth-based activities of the School, along with the Faculty of Health and Social work.

In 2006 part of the remains of the World War II Portland Square air-raid shelter were rediscovered on the Plymouth campus. On the night of 22 April 1941, during the the Blitz, a bomb fell here killing over 70 civilians, including a mother and her six children. The bomb blast was so violent that human remains were found in the tops of trees. In 2006, an appeal was made to raise money for a public sculpture to honour those who lost their lives.

The University was selected by the Royal Statistical Society in October 2008 to home its Centre for Statistical Education.

Faculties and courses

The Portland Square Building

New Faculty and School structure

The University of Plymouth has revised its academic structure to fully reflect its enterprise vision. Key developments include: the creation of a dynamic new Business School dedicated to ethical, sustainable business skills, and supporting the economic regeneration of our city and region; bringing together complementary subjects in a new combined faculty of Science and Technology and creating the largest Marine Science and Engineering School in Europe. This new structure will be reflected on the university website in the coming weeks as information becomes available. Please check for updated information at

The University of Plymouth has a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which are currently taught at its main city campus in Plymouthmarker. The University scores well in law, psychology, geographical sciences, computing (including digital media) and computer science, fine art and art history. The Planetary Collegium, the international centre for research in art, technology and consciousness is based at Plymouth, with nodes in Milan and Zurich.

Faculty of Arts

This faculty is host to the School of Architecture & Design, School of Art & Media and the School of Humanities. Arts subjects are usually held in the Roland Levinsky building and the Scott building, a 19th Century building located next to Roland Levinsky which was modernized externally in 2008 to keep to the universities current design. The faculty offers degrees in Architecture, English, History, Art History, 3D Design 3D Design's own website, Photography, Media Arts and Dance Theatre.

Faculty of Education

Home to the School of Early Years and Primary Education Studies, the School of Partnership, Enterprise and Professional Studies and the School of Secondary and Further Education Studies. As well as PGCE programmes, the school can offer degrees in Early Childhood Studies and Education Studies.

Faculty of Health and Social Work

This faculty is home to the School of Applied Psychosocial Studies, the School of Health Professions and the School of Nursing and Community Studies. The school offers courses in Adult Nursing, Child Health Nursing, Dietetics, Paramedicine and Health and Social Care Studies.

Faculty of Science

Home to the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Geography, the School of Earth, Ocean & Environmental Sciences and the School of Psychology. The faculty offers courses in Animal Science, Applied Biosciences, Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Human Biosciences, Human Biology with Psychology, Marine Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Psychology, Applied Psychology, Psychology with Sociology, and Psychology with Criminology.

The University of Plymouth is particularly renowned for its courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology and Earth, ocean & environmental sciences. The University is also globally renowned for its courses in international shipping and logistics.

The University provides professional diving qualifications on a numbers of its courses, the only university in the country provide this. This is provided by the University's own diving centre based next to Queen Anne's Battery Marina, with its full time team of instructors and dedicated boats and equipment.

In October 2005, The Sun newspaper voted the University of Plymouth as having the most bizarre degree course in the country, the BSc (Hons) in Surf Science & Technology. Commonly known as "surfing", this course is actually centred on coastal/ocean sciences, surfing equipment/clothing design and surfing-related business, which has its popularity increased by the geographical location of the University.

Faculty of Social Science and Business

The faculty is home to the Plymouth Business School and the School of Law and Social Science. Courses on offer include in the areas of: Accounting Banking and Finance, Business, Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, Economics, English as a Foreign Language, Hospitality, International Relations, Law, Management and Leadership, Marketing, Modern Languages, Politics, Public Services, Shipping and Logistics, Social Research, Sociology, Sports Management, Tourism.

Plymouth University also has strong links with the cruising industry; the Plymouth Business School, located within the grounds of the campus, offers courses in the Maritime and Cruising sector. The school offers BSc (Hons) in Cruise Management, where students can opt to take a year out to work with P&O or Princess Cruises for a period of two, four month periods.

Faculty of Technology

Home to the School of Computing, Communications & Electronics, the School of Engineering and the School of Mathematics & Statistics. Courses include: Composite materials, Electronics, Robotics, Civil, Coastal & Structural Engineering, Building & Construction Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics.

The University offers a course in "Digital Art and Technology" - a new media and computer science hybrid course, as well as postgraduate music study in an interdisciplinary group of musicians, scientists and technologists (the "ICCMR"). Another possibly unique course is the BA in Business & Perfumery.

Peninsula Medical School

The Peninsula Medical School was established in 2000, and operates as a partnership between Plymouth and the University of Exetermarker.


The University of Plymouth Colleges (UPC) network is a partnership between the University of Plymouth and local colleges that brings degrees to local doorsteps. There are hundreds of higher education courses available. UPC also provides many opportunities for progression on to other qualifications. For example, someone who has spent two years studying for a foundation degree at their local college – and who has successfully passed their exams – can, if they wish, move on to the final year of a full honours degree at the University of Plymouth.

UPC Associates:


For first year students, halls of residence and cluster flats are approved by the university. About 50% of first year students can gain a room in these facilities; unsuccessful applicants have to search for alternative accommodation. A 'Find a Home Event' has been introduced in order for first year students as well as other returning students to help find accommodation.

Halls of Residence

The University Partnership Programme (UPP) supplies and manages the student halls of residence at the university. The halls are split up and placed together in a 'student village'. All halls of residence come complete connected to the University of Plymouth's computer network free of charge, students can access internet and email facilities both internal and external. Different halls of residence offer different facilities:

Hall Name Location Facilities
Francis Drake Hall of Residence Centre of campus (Next to Rolle) En suite rooms and some studio flats
Gilwell Hall of Residence (Refurbished in 2009) Opposite the main campus Cluster flats with six students sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities
Mary Newman Hall of Residence Centre of campus En suite rooms (Refurbished in 2007)
Pilgrim Hall of Residence Near to the Business School En suite rooms
Radnor Hall of Residence Behind Pilgrim Hall of Residence En suite rooms
Robbins Hall of Residence Opposite Pilgrim Hall of Residence En suite rooms, standard rooms and interior rooms (which are located at the top of two blocks with windows in the sloping roof)

Cluster Flats

Cluster flat developments close to the university which are owned and managed by Unite plc. Places are allocated exclusively to first year students by the University of Plymouth and rents are collected by the university as authorised agents of Unite. The university is not involved in the day to day management of these buildings.

There are a variety of rooms available, from standard rooms with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities to en suite rooms with private bathrooms but still with shared kitchens. There are also a few self-contained studio flats with private kitchens and bathrooms. There are also a few specially adapted studio flats. Both blocks are self-catered and of mixed gender.

Approved Accommodation

The University of Plymouth provides an approved accommodation database. Approximately half of all first year students and virtually all second and third years choose their accommodation from the approved database. All properties are visited and graded by Student Accommodation staff to check standards of safety and suitability.

The database lists rooms in a variety of different properties:

  • student share houses ranging in size from 1 to 31 bedrooms;
  • rooms in cluster flat developments;
  • studio flats;
  • homestay accommodation

Alternative Arrangements

Special arrangements can be made for different types of students, these range from different rooms in halls of residence to different contract lengths for the following:

  • Postgraduate students
  • International students
  • Students with families
  • Faculty of Health & Social Work students
  • Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry students
  • Two Year Fast Track Degree students
  • Students with medical conditions

Notable academics

Staff include Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, who have written extensively on electoral systems, voting behaviour, polling results and British politics and have regularly appeared on national television election programmes for both the BBC and ITV. Other notable academics include Dr Roy Lowry who, in August 2006, broke the world record for launching the most rockets at once. , Dr Iain Stewart who has hosted BBC documentaries like Journeys into the Ring of Fire and Journeys from the Centre of the Earth, and Dr Angela Smith who has published several celebrated works on the subject of gender and 20th Century warfare.

Notable alumni

English rock band Muse graduated from the university in 2008 with honorary Doctorates of Arts.CBBC Presenter Jeff Turner graduated in 2002.

Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

In 2005 the University of Plymouth was successful in being awarded four HEFCE funded Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs). In addition, Plymouth is a partner in a fifth successful bid, led by Liverpool Hope University College.The University’s CETLs are:
  • Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning (CEPPL)
  • Experiential Learning in the Environmental and Natural Sciences
  • Higher Education Learning Partnerships CETL
  • Centre for Sustainable Futures (Education for Sustainable Development)
  • Learn Higher

Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research team (ICCMR) at the University of Plymouth is formed of scholars from different backgrounds and from different departments across the University: School of Computing, Communications and Electronics, Faculty of Education, Music, and the School of Art and Media. The team is lead by Professor Eduardo Reck Miranda.

ICCMR is a member of the Arts, Science, Technology Research Consortium (AZTEC) at the University of Plymouth.

The ICCMR comprises 4 interconnected research teams. The Evolutionary Music Team is concerned with the problem of musical evolution. Research themes include origins of emotions, ontogenesis, evolution of grammars and generative performance. The Music and the Brain Team is mostly concerned with the problem of representation of musical experience. Research is focusing on active perception, role of timbre in musical expectancies, development of experience-dependent abstractions and brain-computer interfaces. This team overlaps with the Auditory Group at the Centre for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience led by Dr Sue Denham.

The Music Technology Team is concerned with the conversion of basic scientific research into practical music technology. Projects include tools for composition and sound design, music controllers,sound synthesis algorithms and musical robotics. The Musical Practice Team is concerned with musical practices using new technology and contemporary music. Projects include music in the community, music facilitation for disability and sonic arts. The team works in close collaboration with Peninsula Arts.

Students' Union

The University of Plymouth Students' Union, usually abbreviated "UPSU", is the third largest union in the UK. The Union is a non-profit making organisation. Each year, students elect the officers who will represent them for the following year.

The Union offers a range of services and stages a number of events throughout the year. As well as events, the Union is the base for most of the sports teams and societies at the university.

The Students' Union has a garden that has been set up by the Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF). The students of Plymouth University are free to use this garden.


External links

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