DMU celebrates 150 years in the heart of Leicester

Today marks a very special day in the history of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Exactly 150 years ago, on 14 October 1869, a meeting was held that led to the creation of Leicester’s first art college.

Hawthorn 1906 003

The former Leicester Colleges of Art & Tech; now the Hawthorn Building

A group of men and women met in town, just a few minutes from where the DMU campus is now, and agreed that work must begin ‘to afford authoritative instruction in art to the people of Leicester’.

That pledge – aimed partly at lifting a perceived stigma over Leicester’s lack of arts education provision – led to classes being held within a few months, in March 1870.

From those grew the institution we see today, with its 26,000 students, 2,600 staff, and with friends, partners and positive influence across the globe.

textiles class in the 1930s
Students during a textiles class in the 1930s

There have been many changes since 1869 – of name, of faces and of course the fabric of the university itself. But the commitment to work with people from every background and unlock their potential has remained constant. That is something to reflect on – and celebrate.

The coming months – and especially in DMU's official anniversary year in 2020 – will offer an exciting calendar of events connected by an understanding that a university is its people.

A key milestone next year will be a special celebration to be held on Sunday 1 March, when the campus will open up to visitors from across the city and beyond and invite them to take part in a day of activities. 

Carpentry class 1920s
A group of students learn carpentry during the 1920s

But today – to mark this momentus date – the DMU family’s oldest known living alumna, Yvonne Vardy, who graduated from the Leicester College of Art and Leicester College of Technology 72 years ago, has been sharing her memories and says she can “still remember it like it was yesterday”.

At 88 years old, Yvonne recollects her studies with great affection: “Coming here was the biggest break of my life,” she said. “It was the best education I could have ever wished for – I brag about being a DMU graduate to everyone!”

Yvonne Vardy
Yvonne Vardy as a student at Leicester Colleges of Art & Tech 

 Interim Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Andy Collop, said: "As our anniversary year begins in less than three months, it's important we take a moment to think about those individuals who came together 150 years ago today with an idea that, down the decades, would touch hundreds of thousands of lives.

"I’m certain they would approve of the work our staff and students are doing today – whatever it may be – and of everyone's commitment to a great institution."

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Posted on Monday 14th October 2019

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