History of Aberystwyth University


The incomplete Castle hotel is purchased by the Welsh University committee from the railway contractor, Thomas Savin for £10,000, a fraction of the amount it had cost to build.


Professor Henry Tanner of the Royal Agricultural College and Harry Parnall, Vice President of the University, seek to establish agriculture as a subject in the curriculum. Parnall financed and Tanner delivered a series of lectures on ‘The Principles of Agriculture,’ which were subsequently published in both English and Welsh. These initiatives were curtailed by the economic difficulties of the ‘Great Depression.’


After having difficulty in raising funds for the University, a special meeting of the committee convenesand resolves to reorganize the Guarantee Fund and establish five regional committees (London, Manchester, Liverpool, North and South Wales), each of which are to accept responsibility for raising an annual quota of £400 for running expenses, over a three-year period. It was soon after agreed that the College would open no later than 1st October 1872.


At 9.00 am on 16 October 1872, assisted by two professors and a Registrar-Librarian, Thomas Charles Edwards welcomes twenty-five students to the converted hotel which becomes ‘the people’s University.’ “The town of Aberystwyth observes a general holiday – there were many eloquent speeches, much music and happy singing; all was joy and marvellous triumph.”


Aberystwyth is the first University institution in Wales to offer courses in Chemistry, Comparative Philology, English Language and Literature, French Language and Literature, Geography, German, Greek, Hebrew (also Arabic, Syrian, Sanskrit, Turkishand Persian), History, Italian, Latin, Logic and Philosophy, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Astronomy.


The Literary and Debating Society begins under the Presidency of W. R. Evans and flourishes.


The first students took residence within the College.


The opening of the Music Department


Department of Welsh Language & Literature is established.

Department of Welsh & Celtic Studies

Department of Physics established – the first in Wales.

Department of Physics

The chapels throughout Wales declare that the last Sunday in October, University Sunday, will be devoted to a collection for the University. Over 70,000 people contribute (mostly small amounts, which was all they could afford), and £3,100 is raised. The generosity confirms that Aberystwyth holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Welsh people.


First volume of the College Magazine (later called the Dragon), which is embellished with the College motto, 'Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth’ (‘A World Without Knowledge, Is No World’).


Enrolment of first woman student, L. Patrick (née Davies). Student numbers top 100.


First women’s hall of residence, Abergeldie.


On 9 July, the University’s iconic building, known to later generations as ‘Old College,’ is partially destroyed by a devastating fire. The cause is never ascertained.


College scholarships are made available to all, irrespective of creed or race. The Principal, Thomas Charles Edwards had stated that ‘great colleges become what they are by opening their gates to all comers.'


Stuart Rendel buys the Gogerddan estate on Penglais and donates the land to the College.


The College Critic, intended as a less reverent alternative to the College Magazine, appears in handwritten form. It was soon suppressed.

The College Critic

Cymdeithas y Geltaidd is established.


W. T. Jones of Melbourne, Australia contributes to build an ornamental inner roof of the College corridor, thus creating the Quad. “Here, daily, between lectures an elaborate separate crocodile perambulation of men and women circulate, and all sorts of tricks and strategies had to be learned in order to circumvent the official near-segregation of the sexes!”


Principal Thomas Charles Edwards tours America and raises £1,050 from Welsh Americans to equip a new College Library. He wrote about the tour in the College Report of that year.

College Report

Three instructors in Dairying are appointed to establish travelling dairy schools to provide local training in butter and cheese making. Instruction in dairying became a prominent feature of agricultural training at Aberystwyth as evidenced by the well-regarded Dairy School.


Department of Agriculture is established.


Department of Education is established.

School of Education

The Old Students’ Association is founded by Thomas Ellis M.P. The OSA aims to enable former students to renew the fellowship of College days, to raise funds on behalf of the College and to further the educational interests of both the College and Wales in general.


The new Library in the Old College building is completed. It was funded by donations from Americans and Canadians of Welsh descent. It was known as the ‘General Library’ until 1976, when most of the collections were moved to the new Hugh Owen Library.


University of Wales incorporated by Royal Charter.


The College Song with lyrics by Professors Anwyl and Ainsworth Davies, music by Mr David Jenkins, is composed to celebrate St David’s Day.

College Song Lyrics

On 26 June, the Prince of Wales is installed as Chancellor, and the Princess of Wales opens the new women’s hall of residence in her name, Alexandra. Vulgarly referred to as ‘The Hostel,’ others soon christen the ladies’ hall ‘The Dove’s Nest.’ Prime Minister Gladstone receives an honorary degree.


Department of Law is established - the first in Wales.

Department of Law & Criminology

Department of Dairy Science is established.


First Men's halls of residence are opened.


T. A. Levi is appointed Professor of English Law and Jethro Brown, Professor of Constitutional and Comparative Law.


The mysterious and legendary College Yell is first heard in and around the Old College Quad.

College Yell

Sir C. Bryner Jones appointed as Professor of Agriculture. Bryner Jones became a figure of immense influence in the agricultural development of Wales, particularly following his appointment as Agricultural Commissionerfor Wales. He was involved in virtually every movement to promote the interests of agriculture in Wales, including the development of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, the establishment of the Plant Breeding Station, the Welsh Journal of Agriculture and the University's Department of Agricultural Economics.


The Davies family of Llandinam continue their generosity to the University through the gift of £23,000 towards the construction of the Edward Davies building.


The University's first rugby XV begins its run of 15 years undefeated. Other notable sporting endeavours include: swimming, rowing, football, hockey, tennis, cricket, athletics and golf.


Sir John Williams provides funds for the new posts of lecturers in Welsh History and Welsh Literature. The University's Archives hold a collection of miscellaneous items belonging to Sir John Williams.


The National Library of Wales opens in the Assembly Rooms.

National Library of Wales

Departments of Applied Mathematics and Pure Mathematics are established.

Department of Mathematics

Department of Agricultural Botany is established.


T. Gwynn Jones becomes the first person in the University of Wales to be promoted to the grade and title of Reader.


T.H. Parry Williams joins the Department of Welsh and is appointed Professor of Welsh in 1920.

Department of Welsh & Celtic Studies

The Education Department gives free, intensive training courses to disabled discharged soliders who wish to become teachers.


R.D. Laurie succeeds H.F. Fleure as head of the Department of Zoology. Through the generosity of Samuel Vestey, a new chair in Zoology was established 1922, with Laurie as its first occupant. In an age of financial stringencies, Laurie proved to be an inspirational leader. Unable to persuade the University authorities to fund a building for the fledgling department, Laurie and his colleagues built their own. Laurie was also active in improving the working conditions of the Britain's university staff. He was the founder, the first President and the Honorary Secretary of the Association of University Teachers.


On 29 May, Aberystwyth becomes the first University College in Britain to allow students to read for initial and higher degrees in Geography in both the Faculties of Arts and Sciences.


David Davies, together with his sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret, gives £20,000 to establish a chair of International Politics. The foundation enabled Aberystwyth to pioneer an entirely new academic discipline.

Department of International Politics

Branches of the Old Students' Association are established in India, Burma and Ceylon.


At Frongoch, the University's farm, following grants from the Empire Marketing Board, a great variety of grasses are developed (S.23 Ryegrass, S.48 Timothy, the cocksfoot varieties S.37 and S.143, and the clovers S.100 and S.123), which transform the world's grasslands.


Lawrence Philips, later Lord Milford, donates £10,000 to establish a Plant Breeding Station. On 25 April, R.G. Stapledon accepted the twin posts of Director of the Plant Breeding Station and Professor of Agricultural Botany. Under his directorship,the Plant Breeding Station became internationally renowned, due to its enormous contribution to land improvement the world over.


Aberystwyth becomes the the first Welsh College to establish a Department of Extra Mural Studies.


The Old Students' Association donates the Assembly Rooms for use as the Students’ Union. The building was officially opened by H.R.H. Edward, Prince of Wales on 30 October. To mark the event, the University unveiled the only public statue of the Prince in Britain.


Plans are made to concentrate future building developments on Penglais site.


Department of Agricultural Economics is established.


Dr Lily Newton appointed as Professor of Botany. Under her leadership, the department expanded and established a considerable reputation for the excellence of its research and teaching. In 1952, Professor Newton became Acting-Principal of the University.


Aberystwyth becomes the first University in the world to establish a chair of Welsh History, with E.A. Lewis as its first Professor.

Department of History & Welsh History

College hall destroyed by fire.


The College is awarded its crest. It includes the legend: 'Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth' ('A World Without Knowledge, Is No World').


E. H. Carr, Professor of International Politics, publishes ‘The Twenty Years Crisis’ a seminal text of international politics. This classic work is still in print, as is his 'What is History?'


Alban Davies, a retired milk-merchant, gives £35,000 to the University to buy 205 acres of land on Penglais.


Many members of staff in the Agricultural Departments and at the Plant Breeding Station, including D. W. Davies, E. T. Jones, Trevor Thomas, Moses Griffith, W. Ellison, T. J. Jenkins, Iorwerth Jones and others, are seconded to the service of the War Agricultural Committees. The work of the departments was wholly restructured to support the Food Production Campaign. The efforts of the government to increase the productivity of Britain’s land was achieved through the genius of Sir R. G. Stapledon and his colleagues. Sir Reginald Dorman Smith, Minister of Agriculture from 1937, would later claim that without the achievements of Stapledon, Britain would have starved and would not have been capable of mounting any military challenge.


E. J. Williams in the Physics Department ‘carries out the most striking of his experimental achievements……the direct demonstration by cloud chamber of the decay of cosmic ray mesons into an electron. Later Williams made contributions of decisive importance to the campaign against the U-boat, thus rendering possible the later Allied invasion of Europe from the sea’.


Plas Gogerddan, ancestral home of the Pryse family, is purchased and becomes the permanent home of the Welsh Plant Breeding Station.


Pantycelyn Hall opened.


On 8 August, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Welsh Plant Breeding Station at Plas Gogerddan.


Principal Thomas Parry is the guiding influence in the transfer from the College by the sea to the College on the hill.


Government grants and handsome donations from well-wishers enable the University to erect new buildings for Biology, Physical Sciences, the Faculty of Economics and Social Studies, the Faculty of Law, Geography, Geology and Rural Studies, as well as halls of residence.


Department of Economics is established.


Student numbers top 2000.


The iconic physical sciences building with its concave facade appears on a national postage stamp.


Ceredigion becomes a Welsh hall for male students, and Neuadd Davies Bryan becomes a Welsh hall for female students.


The Welsh Agricultural College is established with David Morris as its first Principal. In an unusual arrangement, the College was financed through a joint committee composed of representatives of all the Welsh local authorities. Its original mission was to provide vocational education in agriculture and for a number of years it provided national and higher national diploma courses before later diversifying its provision to include courses in Countryside Management and Equine Studies. A degree scheme in Agriculture, offered jointly with the University’s Department of Agricultural Sciences, followed in 1982.


Department of Computer Science is established.

Department of Computer Science

The Great Hall is completed.


Gwendolen Rees is awarded a Personal Chair in the Department of Zoology and becomes the first woman working in Wales to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. A founding member of the British Society of Parasitology, Rees was an acknowledged expert in trematodes and cestodes.


'The greatest triumph ever achieved by Aberystwyth rugby came far away in New Zealand.' Both captain, S. J. Dawes and coach Carwyn James (Welsh 1950), learnt much of their rugby on Vicarage playing fields.


J. Gareth Morris, previously a research fellow at Oxford and a Rockerfeller fellow in California, is appointed Professor of Microbiology. In recognition of the excellence of his research in microbial biochemistry and physiology, Morris was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1988. He served as a member of the Universities Funding Council and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 1991.


The Great Hall, the Bell Tower and the Concourse are awarded various prizes, including the R.I.B.A. Gold Medal for Architecture in Wales.


Department of Art is established. The only such department in the University of Wales.

School of Art

Department of Drama is founded. The only such department in Wales.


Department of Botany and Microbiology is established.


The Hugh Owen Library is completed.

Hugh Owen

There are eight Fellows of the Royal Society on the academic staff at Aberystwyth.


The Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies is established in the Old College.


RIBA Commendation and SCONUL Design Award for the Hugh Owen Building.


The External Degree through the medium of Welsh is established. Based on the internal syllabus, the scheme offers degrees in Welsh, Welsh History, Theatre, Film and Television Studies and Celtic Studies, for mature students studying on a part-time basis.


Responsibility for The Welsh Plant Breeding Station is transferred from the University to the new AFRC Institute of Grassland and Animal Production (IGAP).


Institute of Biological Sciences established.


The College of Librarianship Wales (CLW) became part of the University and formed the Department of Information Studies.


The Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies is established.

Department of Theatre Film & Television Studies

The Welsh Agricultural College joins the University and merges with the Department of Agricultural Sciences to form the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies, with Michael Haines appointed as its first Director. WIRS was later renamed the Institute of Rural Sciences.


The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences is established.

Department of Geography & Earth Sciences

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science is established.


Aberystwyth University is granted independent status and the right to award its own degrees by the Privy Council.


The Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research merges with the Institutes of Biological Sciences and Rural Sciences, to form the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences

A new Department of Psychology is established.

Department of Psychology

Aberystwyth is placed fourth in the UK for Teaching and Learning, according to the Times Higher Education's Student Experience Survey. The poll also shows that Aberystwyth University offers the best all-round student experience in Wales, with an overall ranking of 6th across the UK.


Aberystwyth University celebrates first graduates. The 2010 the first cohort of students receive their Aberystwyth University degrees following the 2007 new Charter and Statutes by the Privy Council.


The BEACON biorefining centre at IBERS new research facilities opens at Gogerddan campus. The centre is the first of its kind in Wales and houses large-scale equipment capable of taking laboratory research and scaling up to produce commercial products, services and technologies.


The new National Plant Phenomics Centre, which featured the most advanced research greenhouse in the UK at the time, formally opens at IBERS Gogerddan.


The award winning IBERS building officially opens. The building is home to the Centre for Informatics and Computational Biology Laboratory, and features seminar rooms, office space and the popular IBERbach café.


IBERS wins the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology category award at the Times Higher Education Awards. The winning entry focuses on the breeding and development of High Sugar Grasses (AberHSG) by scientists at IBERS.


In 2014, a joint project between the University and BBSRC is created to convert the 21st Century’s grand challenges of food, water and energy security into sustainable and prosperous opportunities for society, recognising that innovation in agriculture and the food supply chain will play a critical role in fostering a knowledge-based bio-economy. By December 2014, the project secures £20M funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and together with the £8.5M and £12M from Aberystwyth University and the BBSRC respectively, Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus is born. The vision for Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus is to create a world leading facility for bio-science research, developing ground breaking products for the agri-tech market.

Aberystwyth Innovation & Enterprise Campus

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 reports that 95% of the research activity submitted by Aberystwyth University is of an internationally recognised standard or higher, with world leading research (4*) identified in all 17 of the Units of Assessment submitted


Fferm Penglais welcomes first students. The new £45m student residences, Fferm Penglais welcomes first students. Inspired by the landscape and architecture of rural Wales, the new development features a series of three storey buildings with flats for six or eight students living in self-catered accommodation.


University celebrates Founders’ Day. The University celebrates its past, present and future by re-establishing Founders’ Day. Bringing together representatives from the University and local community, the celebrations reflect the ethos behind the original celebrations held in the Old College on 15 October 1872.


Pantycelyn welcomes a new generation of students.
Wales’ most famous student hall of residence has doors once more today, Friday 18 September 2020, as students return to Aberystwyth University for the beginning of the new academic year. Pantycelyn has undergone a £16.5m transformation and now offers en-suite accommodation for up to 200 students and a modern and contemporary home for the University’s Welsh speaking student community.

Pantycelyn outside view Pantycelyn

Aberystwyth University launches new School of Veterinary Science.
The new Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science at Aberystwyth University will welcome its first students in September 2021. The announcement marks the formal launch of a new Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree offered jointly by Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).

Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science

Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (Aber Innovation), located on the University’s Gogerddan campus is formally handed over to the University. AberInnovation provides world-leading facilities and expertise within the biotechnology, agri-tech, and food and drink sectors.

AberInnovation building AberInnovation