Birmingham City University
Coat of Arms
Birmingham City University
Former names
  • Birmingham College of Art
  • Birmingham Polytechnic
  • University of Central England in Birmingham
MottoLatin: Age Quod Agis
Motto in English
"Do what you are doing; attend to your business"
Established1992—gained university status
1971—City of Birmingham Polytechnic
1843—Birmingham College of Art
Endowment£5.3 m (2015)[1]
ChancellorSir Lenny Henry (outgoing)
Vice-ChancellorProfessor David Mba
Students26,930 HE (2019/20)[2]
Undergraduates20,940 (2019/20)[2]
Postgraduates5,990 (2019/20)[2]
Other students
275 FE
Location, ,
52°28′56″N 1°53′19″W / 52.48222°N 1.88861°W / 52.48222; -1.88861
CampusUrban (multiple)

Birmingham City University (abbrev. BCU) is a university in Birmingham, England. Initially established as the Birmingham College of Art with roots dating back to 1843,[3] it was designated as a polytechnic in 1971 and gained university status in 1992.

The university has two main campuses serving four faculties, and offers courses in art and design, business, the built environment, computing, education, engineering, English, healthcare, law, the performing arts, social sciences, and technology. A £125 million extension to its campus in the city centre of Birmingham, part of the Eastside development of a new technology and learning quarter, is opening in two stages, with the first phase having opened in 2013.[4][5]

It is the second largest of five universities in the city, the other four being the University of Birmingham (which is the largest), Aston University, University College Birmingham and Newman University.[6] Roughly half of the university's full-time students are from the West Midlands, and a large percentage of these are from ethnic minorities. The university runs access and foundation programmes through an international network of associated universities and further education colleges, and has the highest intake of foreign students in the Birmingham area.[7]


Birmingham Institute of Art and Design

The Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) was the art and design faculty of Birmingham City University. It has now been merged into the university's Faculty of Arts, Design and Media,[8] and is based at the Birmingham City University City Centre Campus and the Birmingham School of Art on Margaret Street. The main BIAD campus and library is located at The Parkside Building, just north of Birmingham city centre, and about three-quarters of a mile from both Birmingham New Street station and the Custard Factory. It is adjacent to Aston University.

Institute history

BIAD reached its full maturity in the 1890s, as the Birmingham Municipal School of Art at Margaret Street, under the leadership of Edward R. Taylor. BIAD's archives hold extensive records on the history of art and design in Birmingham, and 20 similar collections have also been deposited with the archives.

School of Art

Further information: Birmingham School of Art

The Fine Art Department on Margaret Street, formerly the Birmingham School of Art

The Birmingham School of Art was originally a municipal art school but was absorbed by Birmingham Polytechnic in 1971 and then became a part of the BIAD in 1988. Its Grade I listed building located on Margaret Street remains the home of the university's Department of Fine Art and is still commonly referred to by its original title. It currently houses the Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR).[9]

Birmingham School of Architecture

The Birmingham School of Architecture facility was opened in 1908.[10][11]

Birmingham Polytechnic

In the 1960s, changes were made to the higher education system creating an expansion of polytechnics as a more vocationally orientated alternative to the typical university.

The City of Birmingham Education Committee was invited to submit a scheme for the establishment of a polytechnic bringing together a number of different colleges in the city in 1967.[12] Late in 1969, the post of director of the polytechnic was advertised.[13] Although the city lagged behind other parts of the country,[14] Birmingham finally gained a polytechnic in 1971—then the 27th in the UK[15]—designated by the Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher as the City of Birmingham Polytechnic. This was the second polytechnic in Birmingham, the first – Birmingham Polytechnic Institution – having existed in the mid-19th century for ten years.

Early Birmingham Polytechnic prospectuses showing the original logo

It was formed initially out of five colleges. Some of the colleges' staff fought against the merger[16] but later changed their minds. The colleges were:[15]

The latter's new Perry Barr campus (which began construction in 1971) became the centre of the new Polytechnic, although the institution continued to have a number of different campuses spread across the city. This has sometimes been seen as a weakness of the polytechnic, with the dispersal of sites considered confusing to visitors.[17]

Site of Perry Barr (later City North) campus before building began in the early 1970s

In the early 1970s, the Perry Barr campus was the site of building work for what later became the centrepiece of the polytechnic: the Attwood and Baker buildings. Later in the 1970s, the campus was increased in size with the building of what later became the Cox, Dawson, Edge, Feeney and Galton buildings. In the early 1980s, the William Kenrick Library was added to the site. Other, smaller buildings were subsequently constructed, and the estate became known as the City North Campus of Birmingham City University.

From its opening, the polytechnic was considered very strong in the field of art and design. As early as 1972, fashion and textile courses were heavily oversubscribed; there were 100 applications for every 30 places.[16] Also in that year, the polytechnic held the Design in a Polytechnic exhibition, which was opened at a reception hosted by Sir Duncan Oppenheim, the chairman of the Council of Industrial Design.[18] Arts courses remained strong at the polytechnic through the 1970s, with twice as many arts students compared to those doing engineering or technology courses.[19]

In 1975, three more colleges were added to the polytechnic:

In the mid-1970s, the polytechnic's then-chairman, William Kenrick, sparked criticism from politicians for saying his students were "second-class" students.[20] In 1978, a lecturer in law, Francis Reynolds, was convicted and fined £150 for preparing instruments of property conveyance without being a solicitor. He did this to challenge the monopoly solicitors held over conveyancing, which he felt led to higher costs.[18]

Logo after the late 1980s

By 1979, the polytechnic was one of the biggest in the country, though that did not prevent it from being "starved" of resources and money. There was a concern that without sufficient investment, the quality of its degree courses in areas such as engineering could not be maintained to the desired standard.[21]

In 1988, the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) was established from the merging of the polytechnic's Faculty of Art and Design with Bournville College of Art. The extensive archives from these earlier incarnations, including over 10,000 artworks, were housed at the polytechnic's Margaret Street campus.

Following the UK Government's Education Reform Act in 1989, the polytechnic ceased to be under Birmingham Local Education Authority control and became an independent corporation with charitable status.[22] It was funded by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council and no longer by the local education authority. The polytechnic continued to have close links to Birmingham City Council, and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham continued to serve as the university's chancellor for many years.

The change in status enabled a tighter union between the polytechnic and industry, and by 1989 it had 30 lecturer's posts sponsored by firms.[23]

University status

The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 allowed all polytechnics to adopt the title of "university". The name University of Central England in Birmingham was approved by the Privy Council on 16 June 1992. The name change took place in time for the new academic year starting later that year. Students who graduated in mid-1992 were given certificates bearing the name University of Central England, even if the entirety of their study had taken place at the polytechnic. The original design was created by Amba Frog Design[24] after a meeting with delegates from university student councils.

Inside view of Vittoria Street, School of Jewellery, which reopened in 1995

In 1995, two more colleges were absorbed—Birmingham and Solihull College of Nursing and Midwifery, and the West Midlands School of Radiography—and the Birmingham School of Jewellery opened on Vittoria Street in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter. The Faculty of Engineering and Computer Technology provided the basis for the creation of the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) in 2000. The following year, the Faculty of Health incorporated the Defence School of Health Care Studies.

In November 2003, the university pursued a merger between UCE and Aston University-another university in Birmingham,[25] that, according to The Guardian, "would create an institution of 32,000 students with a £200m turnover".[26] The plans were announced by the then Vice-Chancellor Peter Knight, and approved by lecturers.[27] The new institution would use the established Aston University name, and all UCE staff members' jobs and employment conditions would be kept intact, although Vice-Chancellor Knight would not be part of its management team. He estimated a completion date for the merger of August 2006.[28]

Michael Sterling, vice-chancellor of University of Birmingham, welcomed the initiative and said it was time for some creative thinking about higher education in the city. "Clearly, with three very distinct universities in one city, it's sensible to take a hard look at the big picture and how we can best work together, whether separately, in combination, or even as one institution," he said. His intervention provoked a furious reaction from Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of UCE, who made it clear his approach was only to Aston University.[29]

The Aston University Council discussed the proposal during a meeting on 3 December 2003 and concluded that it should be rejected. Aston University said that "Whilst the Council respects UCE's distinctive mission, it does not share UCE's analysis of the potential opportunities that might arise from any merger", and cited influencing factors such as Aston's approach to research and teaching, the "significant differences between the missions and strategies" of Aston and UCE, and the negative impact that prolonged discussions would have on both institutions.[30] Aston suggested that it, UCE and the University of Birmingham should instead begin discussions about the three universities' contribution to the future of local and regional higher education.[30]

In August 2005, the University of Central England rebranded itself as UCE Birmingham for marketing and promotional purposes, though the original name remained for official use. This decision was reversed in March 2007, following the arrival of a new Vice-Chancellor, and the fuller title University of Central England in Birmingham was resurrected for all purposes.


In June 2007, it was announced that the university would be renamed from 'UCE Birmingham',[31] with three possible names being proposed: Birmingham City University, Birmingham Chamberlain University, and Birmingham Metropolitan University.[32] Staff and students (both current and alumni) were asked to complete a survey on what they wished the name to be changed to. On 1 October 2007, Vice-Chancellor David Tidmarsh unveiled the name change from UCE Birmingham to Birmingham City University.[33] 48.2% of those who voted on the survey voted for this name,[34] although 62.1% of staff had voted for Birmingham Metropolitan University.[35] The University of Birmingham Council had previously advised UCE that their preferred choice was Birmingham Metropolitan University, and that it considered Birmingham Chamberlain University "unacceptable" because of Joseph Chamberlain's historic involvement and association with the University of Birmingham.[32]

The proposed name change was met with mixed reaction from students and student union officials.[36] A common argument was that money should be spend on facilities and building repair work, and some students felt ignored by the establishment. The rationale for the name change was a perceived confusion of the location of the university and to give a "shorter, more powerful name".[37] The rebranding of the university, which included changing signage and stationery,[38] cost £285,084.[39]

The university's current logo, designed by Birmingham-based BHMG Marketing,[38] is based on the tiger in the crest originally used when it was awarded university status.[40] The crest itself originated from the Birmingham College of Commerce, one of the institutions that formed the polytechnic in 1971. In 2009, the logo was revised to include the word "CITY" in upper-case on the first line instead of in lower-case on the second.

Moving to the city centre

Since 2011, the university has moved more of its operations to the centre of Birmingham, with teaching at the longstanding Perry Barr site gradually wound down. At the City Centre Campus, the Parkside Building for Design and Media students opened in 2013; the Curzon Building, which houses Business, Law and Social Science courses as well as library, IT and student support facilities opened in 2015; and a new music building for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire opened in 2017.[41] The university also announced plans to revive the former Belmont Works site nearby as STEAMhouse — a place for small and medium-sized businesses to collaborate with students and academics. This building opened in 2022.[42]

Education courses moved to the City South Campus, where health programmes were already based, leaving the university with two main sites in the city, together with a small number of satellite buildings. Demolition of the Perry Barr campus began in 2018 and was completed by summer 2019.[43]


Throughout its history the university has been spread across a number of different sites in Birmingham. As of 2022, the university is at the following campuses:

The Parkside and Curzon buildings are part of the City Centre Campus

The university has completed a "flagship" extension to its campus in Birmingham City Centre, next to the existing facilities at Millennium Point. The City Centre Campus is a £150 million scheme, as part of Birmingham's Eastside development, with design and media students moving into Phase 1 of the development in 2013, from the former Gosta Green Campus and City North Campus, respectively. Business, English, law and social sciences followed when Phase 2 of the new building was completed in 2015.[5]

As of September 2017, Birmingham City University invested approximately £220 million into campus infrastructure while moving its campus into the city centre. The university focused on building cutting-edge facilities for students and updating internal systems used for human resources and finance. The university purchased Oracle ERP Butt and HCM Butt to update its IT strategy and standardise employee-facing functions, which became crucial in the institution's efforts to modernise its IT infrastructure.[45]


University House (formerly known as the New Technology Institute or NTI) is located close to the City Centre Campus and is home to a number of the university's professional service departments. The International Project Space (IPS) is an art gallery located at the Bournville Centre for Visual Arts.

Moor Lane is a venue for sports, business training and conferences near to City North Campus. Previously, a dedicated sports centre was located behind The Coppice, a student accommodation block next to the former City North Campus, and included tennis courts, bowls, football and rugby pitches, running track and a social club. The university announced a £7 million sports complex would be built on the site, formerly the Ansells Sports Club, with construction to start in mid-2008 for completion in 2009.[46] The Doug Ellis Sports Centre, named after Doug Ellis, opened on 4 January 2010 and includes a fitness suite, workout classes, and a sports hall.[47] Lawyers at Wragge & Co have advised Birmingham City University on the outsourcing of work for the sports centre to international service company Serco. Under a new 10-year agreement, the FTSE 100 company will run both the sports centre and the existing Pavilion sports facility in Perry Barr.[48]


University Locks is a residential halls of residence located adjacent to the City Centre Campus.[49] The university also offers accommodation in a number of privately owned halls of residence, these include Jennens Court, My Student Village: Birmingham (formerly clv Birmingham) and Curzon Gateway in the city centre and Queens Hospital Close near Five Ways.[50]

Organisation and governance


After the former Birmingham Polytechnic was granted University status it installed the city's Lord Mayor as its Chancellor each year. It was one of only two national institutions to adopt this link with its local region.[51] On 21 July 2016 the university announced[52] that Lenny Henry would become its new Chancellor, for an initial term of five years. In 2024, the university announced[53] that Henry was stepping down from his role.

Name Duration
Chauhdry Abdul Rashid 2008–2009
Michael Wilkes 2009–2010
Len Gregory 2010–2011
Anita Ward 2011–2012
John Lines 2012–2013
Mike Leddy 2013–2014
Shafique Shah 2014–2015
Ray Hassall 2015–2016
Sir Lenny Henry 2016–2024

Faculties and schools

Birmingham City University is a large university and has departments covering a wide range of subjects. The university's system was re-organised into four faculties in September 2014,[54] composed of numerous schools and departments.

Faculty of Arts, Design and Media (ADM)

The faculty was created in 2014 by the merger of the Faculty of Performance, Media and English with the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. This faculty includes the art and design related courses taught by the School of Art, School of Architecture and Design, School of Fashion and Textiles, School of Jewellery and School of Visual Communication.

The new building for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire opened in 2017

It is also home to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, an international conservatoire and junior school and a major concert venue for many of Birmingham's principal concert promoters and organisations, hosting over 300 events annually.[55] Their Junior Department provides tuition to over 200 young musicians aged 3 to 18 in classical music, chamber music, North Indian music and jazz.[56] Birmingham School of Acting founded in 1936, merged with the university in 2005, and in September 2017 it merged to become part of the Conservatoire. The school is based in purpose-built facilities within the City Centre campus at Millennium Point which include 11 studios. Alongside its undergraduate programmes in Acting, Stage Management and Applied Theatre, the school offers specialist postgraduate programmes in Professional Voice Practice and an MFA in Acting: The British Tradition.[57]

The School of English has undergraduate English programmes specialising across Literature, Language Studies, Drama and Creative Writing; and joint honours programmes in English and Media.

The Birmingham School of Media, was one of the first media schools in the country to teach media as part of the Skillset Academy Network. Its courses have received approval from the Broadcast Journalism Training Council and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.[58][59]

The Faculty is currently made up of the following Schools:[60]

Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences (BLSS)

This faculty includes Birmingham City Business School, a major centre for business and management education. It incorporates three academic departments and two specialist centres:[61] the Department of Accountancy, Finance and Economics (AFE), the Department of Business and Marketing, the Department of Management and Human Resources, the Centre for Leadership and Management Practice, and the Centre for Internal Audit, Governance and Risk Management. The Faculty also includes the university's School of Law and School of Social Sciences.

Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences

The Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences (known as HELS) began in 1995 by a merger of Birmingham and Solihull College of Nursing and Midwifery, West Midlands School of Radiography and the University of Central England. In 2002, the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) joined the university to offer Ministry of Defence students and nurses better key skills in nurse training.[62] It also provides courses for intending teachers, serving teachers or those simply interested in education issues covering the entire range of school phases from infant to continuing education, at every study level from full-time undergraduate to postgraduate level and PhD.[63]

It is formed of four schools:

Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

The Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, (known as CEBE) based entirely in Millennium Point until 2023 and later incorporating STEAMhouse as the new home going forward,[64] is a national centre of excellence for learning, innovation and technology transfer.[65] The faculty was temporarily known as the Faculty of Technology, Innovation and Development (TID) from 2008 until 2009, when the university relaunched the faculty through the merger of three of the more successful departments—the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC), School of Computing, and the School of Property Construction. It now has two schools:[66]

Libraries and collections

Steps up to front entrance of Kenrick Library, City North Campus (now demolished)

The university has four libraries across Birmingham on all campuses that contain around 950,000 books and 9,000 print and electronic journals:[67]

Kenrick Library, named after William Kenrick in recognition of his role as the first Chairman of Governors when the Polytechnic was formed in 1971, was located at the City North Campus. The library closed in May 2018 when the remaining schools based at Perry Barr moved to the City South Campus.

Controversy over Mapplethorpe

In 1998, the university was involved in controversy when a book by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe (1992), was confiscated. A final year undergraduate student was writing a paper on Mapplethorpe's work and intended to illustrate the paper with a few photographs. She took the photographs to the local photo-studio to be developed and the photo-studio informed West Midlands Police because of the unusual nature of the images. The police confiscated the library book from the student and informed the university that the book would have to be destroyed. If the university agreed to the destruction, no further action would be taken.

The university Vice-Chancellor, Peter Knight, took the view—supported by the Senate—that the book was a legitimate book for the university library to hold and that the action of the police was a serious infringement of academic freedom. The Vice-Chancellor was interviewed by the police, under caution, with a view to prosecution under the terms of the Obscene Publications Act, which defines obscenity as material that is likely to deprave and corrupt. The police focused on one particular image, 'Jim and Tom, Sausalito 1977', which depicts one man urinating into the mouth of another.

After the interview with the Vice-Chancellor, a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has to take the decision as to whether or not to proceed with a trial. After a delay of about six months, the affair came to an end when the DPP informed Knight that no action would be taken as "there was insufficient evidence to support a successful prosecution on this occasion". The original book was returned, in a slightly tattered state, and restored to the university library.[68]

Partner institutions

Birmingham Metropolitan College, one of the university's partner institutions

The university runs access and foundation programmes through an international network of associated universities and further education colleges.

Academic profile


The university has five Centres of Research Excellence, which are the main focus of its research activity.[69] Following the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Birmingham Post reported that more than 70 per cent of research work submitted by Birmingham City University—including in business and management studies, education, English, social work and social policy, and town and country planning—was "officially recognised as of an international standard", and 15 per cent of that work was "rated as world leading". Its art and design submission was among the ten highest ranked in the country, and Birmingham Conservatoire was rated one of the top three conservatoires, and the best outside London.[70] The university was ranked sixty-third based on average assessment scores.[71][72]

Rankings and reputation

National rankings
Complete (2025)[73]93
Guardian (2024)[74]95
Times / Sunday Times (2024)[75]110
Global rankings
QS (2025)[76]1001–1200
THE (2024)[77]601–800

The university has a number of courses accredited by Creative Skillset, the government's skills sector council for audio, visual and creative industries.[78] With regard to post-production, the university also has Avid Mentor status,[79] and is the Midlands' accredited training centre for Apple's Final Cut editing software.[80]

For health and social care, Birmingham City University was awarded national recognition as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.[81] The university has an on-site virtual operating suite for health students, the first at a university in England.[82] In the Smithers-Robinson League Table, for initial teacher training, Birmingham City University and three other institutions are consistently ranked top ten.[83] Ofsted inspection scores for teacher education courses are frequently among the best.[81]

Student life

Roughly half of the university's full-time students are from the West Midlands, and a large percentage of these are from ethnic minorities. The university runs access and foundation programmes through an international network of associated universities and further education colleges,[81] and it has the highest intake of international students in the Birmingham area. For 2009 entry, applications rose by 37 per cent from 2008, one of the biggest increases at any university.[84] There are almost six applications per place and a typical entry tariff of 112 UCAS points for honours degree programmes; other courses' requirements vary.[82]

Students' Union

Lounge North, the Students' Union bar at City North Campus closed in 2015, and has since been demolished

Birmingham City University Students' Union (abbreviated to BCUSU) has its main offices at the city centre campus. There are several reception offices located at other campuses.[85] BCUSU is affiliated with the National Union of Students, and all students are automatically members of the union.

Student media at the Union comprises a student magazine; Polygon, which originally went into publication in the 1980s and, after a short period under other names, was brought back to life in 2019, and the award-winning student radio station; Scratch Radio,[86] which is housed in the Curzon Building at the City Centre Campus and broadcasts on DAB in the city and online.

The student union of Birmingham Polytechnic was condemned in November 1974 when its council passed a resolution supporting IRA terrorism.[87] The polytechnic's student radio station, then known as Radio G, was the runner-up in the 1989 Guardian/NUS Student Media Awards.[88]

Now Birmingham City Students' Union, it holds elections every year to elect the five full-time Sabbatical Officers who run the union and act as its Company Directors.

Notable staff and alumni

Main article: List of Birmingham City University people

Further information: Category:Academics of Birmingham City University and Category:Alumni of Birmingham City University

Current and former staff of the university and its former entities include novelists Jim Crace[89] and Stephen Booth,[90] nurse-author Bethann Siviter, journalist Paul Bradshaw, Nigerian researcher and pollster Bell Ihua, scientist Kevin Warwick,[91] environmentalist Chris Baines, politicians Khalid Mahmood (MP for Perry Barr) and Lynne Jones (former MP for Selly Oak), former Member of the European Parliament David Hallam, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn and former Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales Paul McDowell.

Notable graduates of the university and its predecessor institutions working in broadcasting include children's television presenter Kirsten O'Brien, sports TV presenter Mary Rhodes, radio and TV presenters Fiona Phillips and Margherita Taylor, investigative journalist Mark Williams-Thomas[92] and Yemisi Akinbobola, founder of IQ4News and African Women in the Media. Several work in broadcast journalism, such as Sky News news presenter Marverine Cole,[93] and BBC news presenter Charlie Stayt.

Art and design alumni include cartoonist Alex Hughes,[94] artist Barbara Walker, fashion designer Betty Jackson,[95] photographer Ravi Deepres, artists Jack Skinner[96] and Rob Pepper, industrial product designer Hans Ramzan,[97] British-born architect Laurie Baker (1917–2007), former Renault chief designer Patrick le Quément, and Saiman Miah, designer of the £5 Olympic coins for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Graduates in the performing arts include musicians Roy Priest (formerly of Sweet Jesus) and Nick Duffy, singer-songwriter Stephen Duffy, actors Jimi Mistry, Catherine Tyldesley and Tom Lister, comedian Frank Skinner,[98] singer and The X Factor contestant Rhydian Roberts,[99] and bass guitarist John Taylor, founder of Duran Duran.

See also


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