The University traces its origins to schools and colleges established in the middle of the nineteenth century as a result of the energies and visions of individual educational reformers and philanthropists throughout Devon and Cornwall.
A hundred years ago, a large part of the Streatham estate was owned by a millionaire family of former East India Company merchants. Pennsylvania was an exclusive suburb, where children were discouraged from walking in the streets, and even chased away if they failed to raise their hats to residents.
St Germans, now the site of many halls of residence, was a private estate of Victorian family villas guarded by a lodge entrance in St Germans Road. Streatham Farm, now at the heart of the main campus, really was a farm and in the 1820s served teas, junket and Devonshire cream to summer Sunday strollers. St Luke’s and Camborne were completely separate establishments.
In North Exeter, the Great Exhibition of 1851 spawned local Schools of Art and Science, which in 1868 were housed in the Albert Memorial Museum. Enthusiasm for extra-mural studies grew and, with support from the University of Cambridge, the college became in 1893 the Exeter Technical and University Extension College.
In 1900 its official title was changed to the Royal Albert Memorial College. This in turn became the University College of the South West of England in 1922 and, finally, in 1955, to great rejoicing amongst its students, the College received its Charter as the University of Exeter. Her Majesty the Queen was welcomed to the campus in the following year.
In 1995 Her Majesty the Queen, with His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, returned to the University for its 40th anniversary celebrations. She was able to see at first hand the way in which the University, its staff, students and supporters, had responded to the words of aspiration in her royal charter for ‘a university of the highest standing’.
This aspiration was much in evidence in 1996 and 1998 when the University received Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for research into, respectively diabetes and children’s health and exercise.
These achievements in the fields of health and medicine were developed further with the creation of the Peninsula Medical School, a new medical school run jointly by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and the NHS in the region.