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Fonds UWA - Aberystwyth University: Institutional Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Aberystwyth University: Institutional Archive


  • 1824-[ongoing] (Creation)

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Extent and medium

27.9 cubic metres

Context area

Name of creator

Aberystwyth University (1872-[ongoing])

Administrative history

Established in 1872, the University College of Aberystwyth was was a founding member of the former federal University of Wales. Its establishment was prompted by the inadequacies of the further education system in Wales during the nineteenth century. The main concern was the absence of a university, apart from the country's various theological colleges. The campaign for a university began in the early 1850s, but was sidetracked by the foundation of a teaching college in Bangor. In 1863, it was revived by one of the university's most prominent supporters, Sir Hugh Owen. As leader of the campaign, he felt that it's failure to capture the public imagination had caused great damage and that by this point the establishment of an university was a matter of great urgency.

In 1867, Owen and his collaborators made a decisive move and bought, with the little money they had raised, an unfinished, recently bankrupted hotel on the Aberystwyth sea front. It was hoped that the physical existence of a home for the university would encourage people to join the campaign. Appeals were made to the public for personal contributions and the people of Wales, especially the inhabitants of Aberystwyth, quickly responded. As a result of this popular effort in collecting 'the pennies of the poor', the university finally did become a reality. It opened at what is now the Old College, in 1872, with a mere 25 students and was formally incorporated by Royal Charter in 1889.

The University's initial mission was limited - merely the establishment in Wales of a non-denominational university to bring education to the masses. The first Principal, Thomas Charles Edwards (1872-91), saw the university through its infancy. He steered it through the disastrous implications of the 1881 Aberdare report on Intermediate and Higher Education in Wales, ensuring its survival despite the establishment of University Colleges in Bangor for North Wales and Cardiff for South Wales. 1894 saw the unification of all three colleges into the University of Wales. Edwards also ensured that the college survived the testing times that followed the fire of 1885, co-ordinating the resultant re-building programme.

Subsequent years saw a continuous increase in both students and members of staff at Aberystwyth. The range of subjects taught also rapidly expanded. Halls of residence and new facilities were being built and student societies were also appearing and developing, providing a busy social life for Aberystwyth students. The work of academic departments also developed from the original remit of teaching students, to the conduction of groundbreaking research noted on both a national and international scale. Today, the University of Wales Aberystwyth has over 7,000 registered students, including over 1,100 postgraduates, across eighteen academic departments.

As of the 1st of October 2007, the University of Wales, Aberystwyth changed its name to Aberystwyth University. The Privy Council has approved Aberystwyth University's new charter and statutes which includes powers to award its own degrees. Despite the name change, Aberystwyth University will continue to award University of Wales degrees and the new status does not, in any way affect degrees awarded to past students or the programmes being followed by current students.

Archival history

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

The archive contains papers created by various officers of, and departments within, the university, along with associations directly related to the university. These include the Court; Council; Senate; Principal; Registry; Academic faculties; the Library; Old Students' Association; Non Professional Staff Association; and various student associations. The archive also includes the university photographic collection.

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Conditions governing access

Access to certain series of confidential records may be restricted. The papers may be consulted through application by e-mail to: or by post to: Aberystwyth University, Archives, Information Services, Llandinam Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DB. Tel: 01970 628593.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English
  • Welsh

Script of material

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Finding aids

Basic finding aid available on request from Archives staff.

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Archivist's note

Description originally compiled by Rhian Phillips, Archives Hub project archivist, with reference to Ben Bowen Thomas, Aber: 1872-1972, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1972), E L Ellis, The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1872-1972, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1972), and

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128.3 KiB


June 10, 2011 9:39 AM