The University of Surrey’s Royal Charter was signed on 9 September 1966, establishing us in Guildford
from our roots in Battersea, London.
Explore our history, learn more about our research and discover how you can be part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations.
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We're proud of our rich heritage and the positive, life-changing impact we’ve had globally through the strength of our research, teaching, innovation and enterprise.
To celebrate this, we’ve captured 50 standout moments - from across the decades - that showcase the extraordinary achievements of our staff, students and alumni.
Take a look at our interactive timeline and learn more about Surrey's fascinating 125-year heritage.
Read the latest news and features about our 50th Anniversary year.
In 2005, the we secured a preservation order on an eleventh century moat on our campus.
The remains of the ancient water-filled moat once surrounded a royal hunting lodge, which originally stood within Guildford’s medieval royal deer park.
This deer park dates from the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) and was used by the crown until its sale in 1630. The manor lodge expanded from a modest house in the twelfth century to replace the castle in the town as the occasional royal residence by the fourteenth century.
There was major building work at the lodge for Henry VIII in the early sixteenth century and Elizabeth I is believed to have stayed there on several occasions.
The deer park functioned until its sale in 1630, after which the land was split into farms and the royal residences were demolished.
Today, you can glimpse the water in the moat from a footpath near Surrey Sports Park.
Engineers at Surrey have taken inspiration from the surface of a moth’s eye and the light-absorbency of the world’s blackest substance, Vantablack, to develop a new material that has the potential to power the homes of the future cleanly and efficiently via enhanced solar cells and even ‘smart’ wallpaper.
Unlocking the secrets of moths’ eyes
Moths’ eyes have microscopic patterning that allows them to see in poor light. These work by channelling light towards the middle of the eye while eliminating reflections. This means that little to no light (energy) is lost.
By replicating this surface on graphene (a process known as biomimicry), engineers have created an ultra-thin material capable of absorbing and storing 95 per cent of incident light across a broad spectrum, from the UV to the infrared.
These sheets are 1,000 times faster than conventional materials for electron conduction and 100 times stronger than tensile steel.
Through Surrey’s EPSRC funded Graphene Centre, researchers are working with industry partners to fulfil the potential of this new technology.
Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the Advanced Technology Institute, said: “Nature has evolved simple yet powerful adaptations from which we have taken inspiration in order to answer challenges of future technologies.”
The University’s £45 million School of Veterinary Medicine puts Surrey on the map as a pioneering centre for interdisciplinary research to improve animal and human health.
A new breed of veterinary education
The School – one of only eight in the UK and the second Vet School to open in the UK since 1965 – was officially launched by Her Majesty the Queen in October 2015.
Chris Proudman, Professor and Head of School of Veterinary Medicine, said: “As the UK’s newest School of Veterinary Medicine, we are creating a Vet School that is different. Whilst embracing the traditional values of professionalism, scientific curiosity and clinical excellence, we are also developing a school with broad horizons. “Our extensive network of partners in clinical practice, industry and research, opens up unique learning opportunities for our students and for industry-relevant research. “Our global outlook ensures an international perspective on all aspects of veterinary science.”
Surrey student vets
Watch the video to learn what it’s like to study at the UK’s newest vet school.
The University’s SETsquared incubation centre gives the region’s high-tech start-ups the vital support they need in a dynamic environment.
Surrey is one of five universities (including Bath, Bristol, Southampton and Exeter) who formed the SETsquared partnership in 2002, with the aim of incubating new businesses, helping to commercialise research and giving students a better entrepreneurial experience.
Helping start-ups thrive
SETsquared Surrey creates a safe environment for technology start-ups to grow. Most importantly, new ventures have access to our experienced in-house Entrepreneurs in Residence who share their knowledge, experience and networks.
Celia Gaffney, Director of Partnerships, said: “Ranked as the global number one business incubator in the University Business Index (UBI), SETsquared has directly supported more than 1,000 companies, helping them raise over £1 billion since its inception. We are proud to be integral to that achievement.”
Learn more about SETSquared.
If one person can be said to have spurred the University’s – and the country’s – success in satellite technology, it is Professor Sir Martin Sweeting OBE.
In 1985, Sir Martin and his team establish Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) with four employees and capital of just £100.
Surrey Satellite Technology
SSTL has now grown to 500 staff with an annual turnover of £100 million and exports exceeding £700 million, and is recognised as a world-leader in small satellite technology.
Low cost small satellite missions have made observation and communication from space more affordable and accessible for everyone, including start-ups, developing nations and organisations who require constellations of multiple satellites.
Sir Martin Sweeting launched the University owned spin-off company, SSTL, after pioneering UoSAT-1, the first modern, 70 kg microsatellite that used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components.
He was knighted in 2001 and in 2016 was listed in The Sunday Times as one of Britain’s most influential engineers and as one of Britain’s 500 most influential citizens. He is now chair of the Surrey Space Centre.
Queen’s Anniversary Prize
In 1996, the University was awarded The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of its outstanding achievements in satellite engineering and communications.
In 1998, SSTL received The Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement and in 2005, The Queen’s Award for Innovation.
See the TechDemoSat-1 satellite in orbit.
Rock group Led Zeppelin performed under their new name for the first time at the University of Surrey.
In late 1968, popular group The Yardbirds officially disbanded, with future performances still booked.
Undeterred, guitarist Jimmy Page swiftly formed a new band. Originally called The New Yardbirds, in a twist of fate they were forced to change their name due to a legal dispute.
Fortunately, they chose to reveal their new name, Led Zeppelin – a humorous nod to their chances of ‘going down like a lead balloon’ – at their performance for the University of Surrey’s Students’ Union at Battersea.
Learn more about the Surrey performance.
Throughout their stellar career, Led Zeppelin set records for concert attendance, and their album sales reached between 200 and 300 million copies worldwide.
Nearly 40 years later, on June 20, 2008, the University of Surrey conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of the University to Jimmy Page for his services to the music industry.
In 2003, Surrey Satellite Technology launched the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC).
The DMC is the world’s first earth observation constellation of low-cost, small satellites which has monitored the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and many other natural disasters.
The data captured has allowed aid agencies and governments to prevent unnecessary loss of life, plan delivery of food and supplies, and secure evacuation routes.
Capturing data about disasters
The constellation takes images of the damage caused by a natural disaster within hours of it happening. Earth observation data on floodwater incursion, damaged bridges and roads, and wildfires is supplied, free of charge, to the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters which co-ordinates the provision of satellite mapping to affected countries and aid agencies.
The DMC has also been used to monitor preparations for the Beijing Olympics, deforestation and illegal logging in the Amazon Basin rainforest.
Learn more about how DMC Constellation is used.
In 2016,student James Lynn won the global NASA Space Apps Challenge.
James, who is studying an MEng in Electronic Engineering with Space Systems, won the Best Use of Hardware award which recognizes pioneering technologies that aid astronauts and space exploration, as well as helping improve life on earth.
The NASA SpaceApps Challenge is a global hackathon with over 163 events being held across the word over a 72-hour period with over 15,000 contestants competing to try to come up with the most innovative solutions to the problems set.
James was part of a team responsible for creating Canaria, a unique biometric monitor measuring heart rate, blood oxygen levels, respiration rate, as well as collating data and movement to monitor ambient CO2.
The team included Alex Moss, an artist, writer, and entrepreneur and Surrey alumnus, Dr Rob Finean.
Monitoring astronauts’ health
Finding a way to measure potentially dangerous CO2 levels was the initial brief from NASA, but the team recognised that measuring health information about astronauts would be beneficial.
Astronauts play a big part in human medical experiments. Current wearable technologies are cumbersome and uncomfortable and by finding a more practical solution they have revolutionised the collection of vital medical data.
The team’s moment of genius came when they identified the one small area of the body that had previously been ignored by designers: that imperceptibly small space behind the ear.
Professor G Q Max Lu, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “Winning this prize is a great personal achievement and I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to James. “Research and innovation is a focus for our undergraduate programmes and the University actively encourages students to push the boundaries of what is possible.”
Discover more about our electrical and electronic engineering degrees.
The Surrey Research Park opened in 1985, and has since become one of the most successful science and technology parks in Europe.
Worth over £110 million and generating £500 million of economic activity for the region annually, Surrey Research Park has set the standard for collaborative spaces for industry and academic researchers working on the next generation of business ideas.
It is one of the few research parks in the UK still owned and operated by a university. Because of its success, Dr Malcolm Parry OBE, Managing Director and CEO, has been called on by UNESCO and the United Nations Economic Commission to Europe as a world expert on the importance of science and technology parks as instruments in economic development.
The report that led governments to reconsider growth for the benefit of the environment.
In 2009, in his role as Economics Commissioner for the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), Professor Tim Jackson, released his controversial report Prosperity without Growth?
It becomes the most downloaded report in the SDC’s history. His message influences government responses to the global financial crisis, informs the Rio+20 Summit in 2012 on environment and development, and the Sustainability Goals set by the UN in 2015.
The report drew on two decades of research from Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability. It radically made a case against continued economic growth in developed countries for the sake of ecological and social wellbeing, while proposing that prosperity is possible with finite resources.
In November 2009, Tim Jackson published a revised version of the report as a best-selling book, Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, which has since been translated into 17 languages, including Chinese.
Watch TIm’s TED talk An economic reality check.
In 1969, the first commemorative tree - a coastal redwood - was planted on campus, starting the University’s 1,600 strong collection of beautiful and rare trees from around the world.
The collection has grown with donations and commemorative plantings, additions as new buildings have been constructed, and purchases of rare specimens from other countries by our passionate landscaping team.
The legacy of Gordon Hartman
One man in particular infused the University with his enthusiasm for making the campus an arboreal landscape and instigated the tradition of planting trees to note special occasions, or in memorial to people connected with the University.
The late Gordon Hartman taught Biochemistry at the University from 1965 until 2001 and started the University Tree Club which arranged lectures and visits, and Saturday morning planting sessions.
There are now over 320 species in the University’s grounds, ranging from the common Britzensis to a Gold-tip Oriental Spruce and a Hungarian Oak.
Learn more about our campus.
In 1986, the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) was founded by Professor Josef Kittler at the University of Surrey.
Technology that’s changing the world
CVSSP is recognised internationally for pioneering research in machine intelligence; creating machines that can see, hear and understand the world around them.
It’s home to the development of some of the most exciting and groundbreaking technologies, from facial recognition for security and medical image understanding for cancer detection, through to 3D reconstruction from video to enable visual effects production in film.
The Centre is one of the largest in Europe, with over 120 researchers and a research grant portfolio in excess of £14.5 million, bringing together a unique combination of sound and vision expertise.
In 2000, Professor Adrian Hilton, Director of CVSSP, pioneered new computer imaging technology that allowed creation of life-like animated 'digital doubles' of people that are able to walk, run and jump.
These highly realistic digital doubles revolutionised film, computer games and personalized online avatars.
In 2007, partnering with the BBC, Professor Hilton and his team extended this research to sports TV production introducing 'free-viewpoint video' which allows a virtual camera to be placed anywhere on the pitch - for example, to give the goalkeeper’s view in a football match.
Film special effects
In 2012, CVSSP spin-out company, Imagineer Systems, was awarded a Technical OSCAR for pioneering visual effects solutions for film.
Its pioneering work features on productions including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Harry Potter series.
Learn more about CVSSP.