The History of the University

Giving students a competitive edge for their future. That’s what we do, and it’s what we have been doing since our very first students passed through our doors in 1894. The University was established with an aim to educate men and women who had a thirst for knowledge and a hunger to succeed. Whilst times have changed, our belief in the power of education and innovation remains the same.

Battersea College of Technology

The University of Surrey was established on 9 September 1966 with the grant of its Royal Charter but its roots go back to a late 19th century concern to provide greater access to further and higher education for the 'poorer inhabitants' of London.

The forerunner of the University, the Battersea Polytechnic Institute (founded 1891, first students admitted 1894) began concentrating on science and technology from about 1920 and taught day and evening students for degrees of the University of London. Its academic reputation steadily grew to the point in 1956 where it was one of the first colleges to be designated a 'college of advanced technology'. It was renamed Battersea College of Technology in 1957.

The move to Guildford

By the beginning of the sixties the College had virtually outgrown its main building in Battersea Park Road and in 1962 it had already decided to move to Guildford. Shortly afterwards (1963), the Robbins Report proposed that Battersea College, along with the other colleges of advanced technology, should expand and become a university awarding its own degrees. The greenfield site for the University-designate was acquired from Guildford Cathedral, Guildford Borough Council and the Onslow Village Trust in 1965, and the move from Battersea was completed in 1970.

Current reminders of the University's origins include the street signs displayed in Union House and the houses in Battersea Court Hall of Residence, which are named after Chairmen of the Governing Body and Principals of the Battersea Polytechnic.

The University of Surrey first validated courses at the Roehampton Institute London in 1980. Following the University's accreditation of Roehampton's taught course provision in 1991, the Institute was granted Taught Degree and Research Degree awarding powers by the Privy Council in 1993 and 1998 respectively.

In 1998, as a result of the continuing development in the relationship between the University of Surrey and the Roehampton Institute London, the two institutions decided to form an academic federation. In November 1999, the Privy Council approved the necessary changes to the University's Charter and Statutes and the Roehampton Institute became The University of Surrey Roehampton at the beginning of 2000. The University of Surrey and Roehampton worked together as the Federal University until 1st August 2004 when Roehampton became a University in its own right, thus ending a unique partnership although the two Universities continue to support collaborative activities.

Associated institutions

Since its foundation, the University of Surrey has fostered links with other educational bodies in the local community and region. For example, in recent years it has validated courses at and subsequently accredited St Mary's College - a College of the University of Surrey, Wimbledon School of Art and Farnborough College of Technology. The University currently validates courses at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot), Guildford School of Acting Conservatoire, Guildford College of Further & Higher Education, King Edward VII Hospital Department of Staff Development, The Nuclear Department at HMS Sultan, St John's Seminary, Southern Theological Education & Training Scheme (STETS), the Pre-Retirement Association and SHL (UK) Ltd.

In 1982 the University became the trustee of the building of the Guildford Institute and uses parts of the building for its adult education programme which ensures a University presence in the heart of Guildford. The Assessment and Qualification Alliance (formerly Associated Examining Board) moved from Aldershot to its own headquarter building on the Stag Hill campus in 1985.

Surrey Research Park

One of the most significant site developments by the University has been the Surrey Research Park, which currently accommodates over 100 companies employing 2,500 staff engaged in research and development activities, many of which relate closely to the work of the University's own Faculties.

Outstanding achievement

In 1991 the University was granted the Queen's Award for Export Achievement, and in 1997 it was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher & Further Education in recognition of the University's outstanding achievement in satellite engineering and communications, teaching and research by the Centre for Satellite Engineering and its associated companies. In 1998 Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) was awarded the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement. This was presented in person by The Queen on her second visit to the University, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Duke of Kent, Chancellor of the University.

For a university of its size and age, Surrey has one of the highest number of staff who are academicians of the learned societies: 4 Fellows of the Royal Society, 21 Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, one Fellow of the British Academy and 6 Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Developing further: 2001 - 2008


The University celebrated its 35th anniversary year in with a major event in Guildford Cathedral and the gift of the Surrey Scholar sculpture (by Allan Sly FBS), located at the bottom of the town's historic High Street, to the people of Guildford.

The Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) was set up with the support of funds from the South East England Development Agency and two European Union projects. With a remit to investigate how the older labour market works and how society can make better use of the talents and potential of people over 50. That year also saw the opening of the Advanced Technology Institute, which was opened by Lord Sainsbury and brought together six research groups from across the University to stimulate cross-disciplinary research in high-speed electronics and wireless, opto-electronics and photonics, large area electronics and displays, carbon nanotechnology and optical and biological sensors.


A new Local Plan was adopted that allocated Manor Park for development for future university purposes taking the land out of the Metropolitan Green belt. The year was also marked by the opening of International House with accommodation for some 200 students, the launch of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre bringing together in multidisciplinary approach the sleep expertise from various disciplines, and the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education awarded at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace for the University's outstanding work over three decades in the fields of ion beam applications and optoelectronic devices.

On a more sombre note, 2003 also saw the death of Sir George Edwards the University's first Pro-Chancellor. A memorial service was held In his honour at Guildford Cathedral


More awards came Surrey's way with SSTL receiving the World technology Network Award for Space and the Queen's Award for Enterprise. The development of the Stag Hill campus continued with the official opening by Dr Kim Howells, MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning of the School of Management Building which houses computer laboratories, a professional kitchen and restaurant suite for use in hospitality and food degree programmes and high quality seminar rooms. The piazza just over from the new building also saw the unveiling by HRH the Earl of Wessex of a bronze statue of Alan Turing.


The Postgraduate Medical School and the first phase of the Manor Park residences were opened. Phase 1 at Manor Park has provided smart, modern, residential accommodation for 683 students and 50 staff.


To improve the student experience a new Registry Student Centre opened as a one-stop shop for student registry enquiries. The Surrey International Study Centre opened in purpose-built accomodation, offering a Foundation Year programme for international students wishing to enter selected undergraduate degree programmes at the University. Surrey's international strategy moved forwards with an agreement between the University and Dongbei University of Finance & Economics (DUFE) in China, to offer Surrey degrees at its campus in Donbgei. The 7 Schools of the University of Surrey were restructured into 4 new faculties to facilitate a more streamlined and student-focussed education.

2008 and beyond

EADS Astrium, Europe's leading space company, entered into an agreement to acquire SSTL. This provides the financial and industrial resources required for SSTL's expansion and future development, and the University will retain strong links with the company. This landmark deal is believed to be the largest cash sale ever of a university spin-out company.

Our long-standing relationship with the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) become even closer as the conservatoire, which specialises in acting and musical theatre, signed a merger agreement with Surrey. The GSA will relocate to the Stag Hill campus in autumn 2009.

In spring 2010 the Manor Park campus will be the home of the multi-million pound Surrey Sports Park providing a world-class sporting facility for our staff, students, and the local community.

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