Keele University is a campus university near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, England. It was the first new British university in the 20th century, founded in 1949 as an experimental college dedicated to a broad curriculum and interdisciplinary study, Keele is most notable for pioneering the dual honours degree in Britain.The university occupies a 620 acre (250 ha) rural campus close to the village of Keele and houses ascience park and a conference centre, making it the largest main campus university in the UK.The university’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing and Midwifery also operate the clinical part of their courses from a separate campus at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire inHartshill, Stoke-on-Trent.
Keele’s goal is to become the “ultimate 21st-century campus university”. The campus is largely rural with 19th-century architecture. It is close to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hanley (which is the main centre of the City of Stoke-on-Trent). By rail, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool are about an hour and London about 90 minutes by rail and three to four hours by road.
Apart from increasing numbers of academic and residential buildings, other facilities include an astronomical observatory, art gallery, arboretum, chapel, Islamic centre, shops, cafés and places to eat and drink. Keele Golf Course and practice range are close by. The campus also has science, business enterprise parks and conference centres. It is also home to the Earth Science Education Unit (ESEU).
The university has planning permission for a building programme on an 80 acres (32 ha) part of the campus for a mixture of academic and residential buildings to accommodate increased student numbers.
Halls of residence
There are five halls of residence on the main campus: Barnes, Lindsay, Holly Cross, The Oaks and Horwood. Hawthorns Hall is located off site inKeele Village just outside the main entrance. These halls provide accommodation for approximately 70% of all full-time students.
Barnes Hall has no M block (it has A to L and N to X) because the building became unsafe due to subsidence and was demolished. The large open area adjacent to L block helped an urban legend develop that M block sank into the ground due to an abandoned mine tunnel. Another building anomaly is the seventh floor of O Block in Horwood. Although the top storey has windows and walls, the roof was never added.
Students in their first year are not guaranteed accommodation, only for students which make Keele University their first choice, leaving students who choose Keele as their insurance to find another form of accommodation. Final Year students have previously been guaranteed accommodation, and the current prospectus still states that this is the case. However, as of 15 December 2011 students have been informed that from this date on only a few hundred rooms of the 3,200 will be allocated to final year students.
Reputation and academic organisation
The university’s distinctive profile reflects the aims of its founders: breadth of study and community atmosphere.
Breadth of study was guaranteed by the “pioneering” four-year dual-honours degree programmes initially offered by Keele. The university’s curriculum required every student to study two “principal” subjects to honours level, as well as further “subsidiary” subjects, with an additional requirement that students should study at least one subject from each of the subject groupings ofArts, Sciences and Social Sciences. The cross-disciplinary requirement was reinforced by the Foundation Year, an innovation which meant that for the first year of the four-year programmes, all students would study a common course of interdisciplinary “foundation studies”. In the words of the first UCNS Prospectus, the programme offered:
“…a broad education based upon an understanding of the heritage of civilisation, movements and conditions, and of the nature, methods and influence of the experimental sciences”
Standard three-year degrees were introduced in 1973 and the numbers of students following the Foundation Year course have steadily dwindled since. The Foundation Year has never quite been formally discontinued, however, and remains an option for prospective students who qualify for entry into Higher Education, but lack subject-specific qualifications for specific degree programmes. By contrast, the Dual Honours system at Keele remains distinctive and popular, with almost 90 per cent of current undergraduates reading dual honours. Able to combine any two available subjects, students have a choice of over 500 degree courses in all. The university also offers a study abroad semester to most of its students.
As an experimental community, Keele was initially founded as a “wholly residential” institution. Of the initial intake of 159 students in October 1950, 149 were resident on campus, and it was required of the first professors appointed that they should also be in residence. With the expansion of the university, total residency has long since been abandoned, but the proportion of students and staff resident on campus remains above average at 62% in 2011 of full-time students having fallen from 70% in 2006. A significant proportion of staff also currently live on campus.
The university also had a reputation for political activism, especially left-wing radicalism, having been dubbed, in its early years, a “School for Socialists” and “The Kremlin on the Hill”.This left-wing radicalism largely faded over time, and symbolically appeared to end in January 2008, when Keele became the last university in Britain to close its ‘industrial relations’ department, though the courses in industrial relations continue to run and recruit well.
Keele has a graduation rate of over 90%, with over 60% achieving 1sts or 2:1s. 90% of undergraduates are state-educated (a figure exceeded by only two traditional universities in England), and over 25% of students are from working-class backgrounds. In recent years Keele has attempted to boost this number by reaching out to local schools and hosting a summer school at the university. In February 2011, a Sutton Trust report revealed that 3•4% of Keele had had free school meals, whilst 7•9% had attended independent schools.This compares the national figures for England of 14% eligible for free school meals,and 7% independently educated.