University of Plymouth

University of Plymouth
Plymouth University
Motto Indagate Fingite Invenite (Explore, Dream, Discover)
Established 1992, from Polytechnic South West
Type Public
Endowment £672,000 [1]
Vice-Chancellor Professor Wendy Purcell[2]
Admin. staff 3,000
Students 30,540[3]
Undergraduates 24,490[3]
Postgraduates 6,050[3]
Location Plymouth, England, UK
Coordinates: 50°22′27″N 4°08′19″W / 50.374121°N 4.138512°W / 50.374121; -4.138512
Campus Urban
Colours Terracotta     
Dark Blue     
Black     [4]
Affiliations Alliance of Non-Aligned Universities, Association of Commonwealth Universities
University of Plymouth logo.jpg

Plymouth University is the largest university in the South West of England, with over 30,000 students and is 9th largest in the United Kingdom by total number of students (including the Open University).[5] It has almost 3,000 staff (one of the largest employers in the southwest). The main campus is in the Devon city of Plymouth, but the university has campuses and affiliated colleges all over South West England.



The University was originally a Polytechnic College, with its constituent bodies being Plymouth Polytechnic, Rolle College, the Exeter College of Art and Design (which were, before April 1989, run by Devon County Council) and Seale-Hayne College (which before April 1989 was an independent charity). It was renamed 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.

In 2006 part of the remains of the World War II Portland Square air-raid shelter were rediscovered on the Plymouth campus.[6] On the night of 22 April 1941, during the Blitz, a bomb fell here killing over 70 civilians, including a mother and her six children.[6] The bomb blast was so violent that human remains were found in the tops of trees. Only three people escaped alive, all children. In 2006, an appeal was made to raise money for a public sculpture to honour those who lost their lives.[citation needed]

The University's first Vice Chancellor was Professor John Bull. He was succeeded by Professor Roland Levinsky who was VC until his death on 1 January 2007, when he walked into live electrical cables brought down during a storm.[7] He was temporarily replaced by Professor Mark Cleary (now VC of the University of Bradford),[8] and then by Professor Steve Newstead. Professor Wendy Purcell became VC on 1 December 2007.

The University was selected by the Royal Statistical Society in October 2008 to home its Centre for Statistical Education.[9]


Construction of the new Arts Complex on the Rowe Street building site at the Southern end of campus.

When university status was gained in 1992, the university was based in various locations. Under the subsequent Vice-Chancellor, Roland Levinsky, the university began a policy of centralising its campus activities in Plymouth. The Faculty of Arts based in Exmouth 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 Roland Levinsky Building was designed by architects Henning Larsen with Building Design Partnership.[10] The building is clad with copper sheets in a seamed-cladding technique, is nine storeys high and has 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft) of floor space.[10] The building contains two large lecture theatres, and the Jill Craigie Cinema, which is used by the film students to display their films and for showing of films to the public. There is also a public art gallery, which is where local artists groups, students and famous artists can have work displayed.

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 Exmouth itself, there were several protest marches and a campaign to keep the campus open.[11]

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 Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, such as South Devon College. Dartington College of Arts has been cited as an example but was an independent college of higher education and not a further education college. 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.[citation needed]

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.[12] A new maritime centre is being constructed behind the Babbage Building. This will house civil engineering, coastal engineering and marine sciences. This will place the University in a position to increase its engineering teaching and research and compete with larger universities.

Student accommodation

For first year students, halls of residence and cluster flats are approved by the university. About 60% of first year students can gain a room in these facilities.[13]

The University Partnership Programme (UPP) supplies and manages the student halls of residence at the university. Cluster flat developments close to the university are owned and managed by Unite plc. Places are allocated exclusively to first year students.

The University 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.[14] Special accommodation arrangements are made for students in some categories, such as postgraduate students and students with medical conditions.

Organisation and administration

Plymouth is a modern university that has undergone a great deal of development, including several new buildings.

Jointly with the University of Exeter and the National Health Service in the region, the University runs the recently founded Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry.[15] 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.

Coat of arms

University of Plymouth Coat of Arms.

The Arms, Crest, Badge and Supporters forming the University’s Coat of Arms were granted on 10 April 2008, in Grant 173/189, by the College of Arms.[16]

The books represent the University’s focus on learning and scholarship. The scattering of small stars, represent navigation, which has played a key role in the history of the city and the university. The scallop shells in gold, represents pilgrimage, a sign of the importance of the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers from a site near the Mayflower Steps in the Barbican aboard the Mayflower in 1620. A Pelican and a Golden Hind support the shield and reflect both the original and later, better known, name of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. The crest contains the Latin motto, "Indagate Fingite Invenite” which translates as "Explore Dream Discover" and is a quote from Mark Twain, reflecting the university's ambitions for its students and Plymouth's history of great seafarers.

The Letters Patent granting Arms to the University of Plymouth were presented by Eric Dancer, CBE, JP, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, in a ceremony at the University on 27 November 2008, in the presence of Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, York Herald of the College of Arms, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, Judge William Taylor, the Recorder of Plymouth, and Baroness Judith Wilcox.[17]

The Coat of Arms are rarely seen in use, other than at graduation. The university tends to use the modern globe logo on stationery and signs and are very keen to keep the Coat of Arms exclusive. The use of the arms is therefore restricted to graduations and other formal ceremonies, degree certificates and associated materials and the exclusive use by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

Academic profile

The Portland Square Building

New Faculty and School structure

Plymouth University revised its academic structure to fully reflect its enterprise vision. Key developments include: the creation of a new Business School; 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 is reflected on the University website. Please check for updated information at

Plymouth University has a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which are currently taught at its main city campus in Plymouth. The University scores well in law, psychology, geographical sciences, computing (including digital media) and computer science, fine art and art history.[18] 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 and Environment, School of Art & Media and the School of Humanities and Performing Arts. 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 university's current design. The faculty offers degrees in Architecture, English, History, Art History, 3D Design, Music, Photography, Media Arts, Theatre & Performance and Dance Theatre. Advanced research in new media art is provided by the Planetary Collegium.

Faculty of Health, Education and Society

Home to the Schools of Social Science and Social Work, Health Professions, Nursing and Midwifery and Education. As well as PGCE programmes, the Faculty can offer degrees in Early Childhood Studies and Education Studies, Adult Nursing, Child Health Nursing, Dietetics, Paramedicine and Health and Social Care Studies.

Faculty of Science and Technology

Home to the School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences, the School of Computing and Mathematics, the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies, the School of Marine Sciences and Engineering, and the School of Psychology. The faculty offers courses in Animal Science, Applied Biosciences, Biological Sciences, Environmental Biology, Environmental Science, Human Biosciences, Human Biology with Psychology, Marine Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Psychology, Applied Psychology, Psychology with Sociology, Psychology with Criminology, Composite materials, Computer Science, Computing, Computer Systems and Networks, Computer and Information Security, Web Applications Development, Electronics, Robotics, Civil, Coastal & Structural Engineering, Building & Construction Engineering, and Mathematics and Statistics.

Plymouth University is particularly renowned for its courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology[19] and Earth, ocean & environmental sciences.

The University provides professional diving qualifications on a number of its courses, the only university in the country that provides this. The University's own diving center provide this, which is 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 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.

Plymouth Business School

The faculty is home to the Plymouth Law School, the School of Management and the School of Tourism and Hospitality. Courses on offer include in the areas of: Accounting Banking and Finance, Business, Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, Economics, Hospitality, International Relations, Law, Management and Leadership, Marketing, Politics, Public Services, Shipping and Logistics, Events Management, Tourism.

The University has strong links with the cruising industry; the Plymouth Business School, 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.[20]

Plymouth University's MSc in International Shipping is regarded as one of the best in the UK.

Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

The Peninsula Medical School, part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, was established in 2000, and operates as a partnership between Plymouth University and the University of Exeter.[21]

University of Plymouth Colleges

The University of Plymouth Colleges (UPC) network is a partnership between the University and local colleges. 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 move on to the final year of a full honours degree at the University.

UPC Associates include:

  • Estover Community College
  • Highlands College Jersey
  • John Kitto Community College
  • Strode College
  • Weymouth College
  • Plymouth Devon International College (PDIC)

From September 2010 Plymouth University is the main sponsor of Marine Academy Plymouth

Reputation and rankings

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.[22] It is settled at 35th place in the 2007 publication;[23] The Times table, which unlike The Guardian takes research performance into account, places it 55th[24] and bills it as one of the top two modern universities in the UK.[25] The Guardian 2011 Guide describes the University as "delivering a first class campus", as well as placing Plymouth in the "top 20" for Anatomy and Physiology 2, Art and Design 20, Electronic and Electrical Engineering 19, Mechanical Engineering 20, Mathematics 13, Music 18, Nursing 19, Sport Science 15 and Tourism Transport and Travel 11. In conjunction with the current restructuring, the university's aim is to become the enterprise university,[26] pivotal in a city acknowledged as the enterprise capital of the south west.[27]

UK University Rankings
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Guardian University Guide 49[28] 51 48[29] 35 - 40[30] 73 59[31] 46
Times Good University Guide 63 62=[32] 60 55 57 53 52 53 57 56 56 64 68= 63 64= 62 70= 79=
Sunday Times University Guide 61 63= 61 62 61 60 60 61 60 58 58 58=
The Complete University Guide 65[33] 75 70[34] 57
The Daily Telegraph 57[35] 48
FT 64 69 72 74

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[36] who, in August 2006, broke the world record for launching the most rockets at once,[37] 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

Alumni include the world's youngest single-handed cross-Atlantic sailor Seb Clover, BBC wildlife presenter Monty Halls and Jane Wilson-Howarth, a travel writer.

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 Plymouth University 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 led by Professor Eduardo Reck Miranda.

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

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 Plymouth University Students' Union, usually abbreviated "UPSU", is the third largest union in the UK.[citation needed] 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, namely UPFC, 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 the Plymouth University are free to use this garden.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Staff details: Wendy Purcell". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  3. ^ a b c "Table 0a - All students by institution, mode of study, level of study, gender and domicile 2006/07" (Microsoft Excel spreadsheet). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  4. ^ "Academic dress and gowning". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  5. ^ "List of universities by number of students 2008/09" (Excel). The Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  6. ^ a b Tony Rees, Gerry Cullum and Steve & Karen Johnson (2007-07-08). "Portland Square Air Raid Shelter at Plymouth". Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  7. ^ "Power cable kills university boss". BBC. 2 January 2007. 
  8. ^ "University boss successor named". BBC. 4 January 2007. 
  9. ^ "Plymouth chosen for Prestigious Centre". University of Plymouth. 2008-10-17. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  10. ^ a b "The Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University". Scott Wilson website.,.aspx. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  11. ^ "Teaching college closure agreed". BBC News. 11 November 2005. 
  12. ^ "Medical school plans new headquarters". BBC Devon. 6 January 2002. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Student dental school is approved". BBC. 26 January 2006. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "University of Plymouth - an introduction". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  19. ^ "Degree courses in Marine Biology". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  20. ^ "BSc (Hons) Cruise Management". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  21. ^ "Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry". Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  22. ^ Research Fortnight website
  23. ^ "Plymouth jumps 30 places in Guardian league tables". University of Plymouth. 2 May 2006. 
  24. ^ Watson, Roland; Elliott, Francis; Foster, Patrick (5 June 2006). "Top Universities 2007 League Table". London: The Times.,,102571,00.html. [dead link]
  25. ^ "Top two position for Plymouth". University of Plymouth. 5 June 2006. 
  26. ^ "the enterprise university". University of Plymouth. 2009. 
  27. ^ "University of Plymouth". London: The Guardian. 2 May 2006.,9988,490757,00.html. 
  28. ^ "University guide 2011: University league table". The Guardian (London). 8 June 2010. 
  29. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  30. ^ "University guide". The Guardian (London). 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  31. ^ "Univ2004~subject~subjects~Institution-wide~Institution-wide~~~3". The Guardian (London).,,1222167,00.html?chosen=Central%2520England&alpha=0. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  32. ^ Watson, Roland; Elliott, Francis; Foster, Patrick. The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-04-26. [dead link]
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  34. ^
  35. ^ "University league table". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2007-07-30. 
  36. ^ "Staff details: Dr Roy Lowry". Plymouth University. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  37. ^ "Firework Record goes with a Bang". BBC. 16 August 2006. 

the football team being the biggest and best

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