A history of the University

To appreciate fully the significant contribution that Falmouth University has made to Higher Education (HE) both within the County of Cornwall, and in the wider world, it is necessary to consider its achievements within the context of its history, and refer back to the 1870s when Miss Anna Maria Fox (1815-1897), the daughter of an esteemed Quaker family, founded The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society (RCPS) in Falmouth.

The establishment of this august institution was in response to the diminution of scientific activities in the region that was brought about by the decline of the Cornish mining industry, and it was subsequently to become “the pioneer of education in art and science in the County1”.

It was reported in Lake’s Falmouth Packet, Cornwall Advertiser and Visitors’ List on Saturday 30 August 1902 that:

“The formal opening this week of the new Art School recalls to mind that in Falmouth the art movement, like that of the technical, has only had an enduring career of success in latter years. Classes commenced as far back as 1870 under the aegis of the Polytechnic Society made considerable progress, so much so, in fact, that they bid fair to take the premier position in the County.

Ten years later, however, prospects had altered for the worse, and by 1886, owing to the withdrawal and loss of some of the valuable teaching staff, the students and income had so declined that only classes in art and building construction were carried on, and even these were subsequently abandoned. It was the formation of a Technical Instruction Committee for the district which in 1891 gave a fresh impetus to science and art instruction in Falmouth, and at the request, and with the assistance of this committee the Polytechnic classes were restarted.

Since then there has been no looking backward. Both branches have flourished. Soon the Polytechnic accommodation proved insufficient, and new quarters were provided at the Passmore Edwards Building. But so rapid was the growth of all sections that quickly the complaint of “being cabbined, cribbed and confined” became pretty general, with the result that today Falmouth possesses a well-equipped Art School where excellent work is done by numerous students who have the advantage of very superior tuition at nominal fees. Those who have borne the heat and burden of the day in achieving such a desirable end are to be commended and congratulated.”

1 Lake's Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, 15 February 1902 

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 1902 - 1950s}

At the official opening of the School’s original premises in Arwenack Avenue in August 1902, Sir William Preece noted that the School “was destined to make its mark on the education of Cornwall2.” How prescient this remark proved to be.

A pioneering spirit and a determination not to be defeated by the “heat and burden of the day” characterizes the University’s history – and it is this attitude that underpins the ambitious, successful institution that it has become a hundred years on – a leading specialist university, with an international reputation for excellence in art, design and media at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and the driving force behind the Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative (CUC).

In 1902, Falmouth School of Art was a wholly private venture and offered classes such as Freehand Drawing, Model Drawing, Painting from Still Life, Drawing from the Antique, Drawing in Light & Shade, and Memory Drawing of Plant Form. Students were charged between four and ten shillings per session for the privilege, and were offered the opportunity to enter for Board of Education exams.

In 1938, the Local Education Authority (LEA) took over the administration of the institution.

In the 1940s, courses became the responsibility of the Head of Truro School of Art, Stanley Wright was appointed Principal, the School was recognized by the Ministry of Education and began to plan ambitious expansion. At this time there were six full-time members of teaching staff responsible for 21 full-time students, 55 part-time day students and 104 part-time evening students. Students were offered the option of studying either ‘Art’ or ‘Craft’. ‘Art’, by definition, covered Fine Art, Drawing & Painting, Museum Study and Modelling & Casting (in clay). ‘Craft’ included Leather, Weaving, Bookbinding, Block Printing and Wood Inlay.

In the 1950s, the College relocated from Arwenack Avenue to Kerris Vean in Woodlane (built in 1875), Jack Chalker was appointed Principal and courses for the Ministry of Education’s Intermediate and National Diploma in Design Examinations were offered for the first time. Studios for sculpture and printed textiles were constructed in the grounds. The School now occupied a unique site in the former Fox-Rosehill sub-tropical gardens (which rivalled many others of great renown, such as Glendurgan and Trebah), Michael Finn was appointed Principal, the School began a commercial design course for vocational students as well as a junior design course for school children, and the National Advisory Council for Art Education (NACAE) was established.

2 Lake's Falmouth Packet, Cornwall Advertiser and Visitors' List, 30 August 1902 

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 1960s} 

In the 1960s, the NACAE published its first report, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost were appointed as visiting lecturers, a further storey was added to the textiles and sculpture workshops for use as a printmaking studio, and alterations to Kerris Vean presented opportunities for the study of photography. The question for Falmouth at this time was whether an art school with only 120 students, situated in a remote and economically disadvantaged part of the country, could compete for recognition with much larger institutions, against a national backdrop of changing approaches to art education. The LEA and leading artists such as Dame Barbara Hepworth, Bryan Wynter and Patrick Heron were both generous with, and energetic in, their support of the School.

The next dilemma for the School was whether it should seek the NACAE’s authorization to offer the new Diploma in Art & Design (equivalent to a degree), and at that point, it decided to focus on full-time Intermediate and National Diploma students, and relinquish both its commercial design course and some part-time classes. With the purchase of Woodlane’s Rosehill House (built by Robert Were Fox in 1820) in the offing, it had seemed certain that the School would successfully achieve the recognition that it so earnestly sought, but having underestimated the NACAE’s basic requirements for general accommodation, studio space and staffing, and having failed to convince the Council that such a small institution could survive, it was with regret that the School received the news that the NACAE had refused its application. Undaunted, the search for additional land commenced.

Encouragement came to try again from Dame Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Leach, Patrick Heron and Bryan Wynter in 1964. In 1965, the momentous day arrived when the NACAE overturned its earlier verdict, following a reassessment of the School by the Chairman and Vice Chancellor of the NACAE, and the Principal of the Royal College of Art (RCA). The School was now recognized as a centre for the Diploma in Art & Design, with Painting as a main course. Recognition for sculpture was to follow shortly. There were now 40 full-time students at the School, with a remit to expand to at least 100 students, but such expansion could only come about with a major building programme and the purchase of yet more land.

In the mid-1960s, additional studios and technical workshops were added to the School’s estate, and the LEA acquired Rosehill House on its behalf. Of great architectural merit, this building became the centre for Complementary Studies with History of Art, and the Library. Additional land was then purchased at the southernmost boundary of the Woodlane site to enable the enlargement of the painting studios and to provide a cinema, canteen, common room and games room.

At this time, the School offered a pre-diploma (the precursor of our modern-day Foundation programme), a Diploma in Art & Design (DipAD) which superseded the National Design Diploma (NDD), and entrance examinations for postgraduate art and design institutions such as the RCA and the Slade. Design became an important aspect of the School’s curricula, with Patrick Heron teaching two-dimensional design, and Dame Barbara Hepworth and Bernard Leach teaching three-dimensional design. Photography appeared in the College’s academic portfolio for the first time in 1963. The number of teaching staff at the School had risen from six in the 1940s to 25 in the 1960s.

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 1970s} 

In the 1970s, the School acquired an hotel opposite the Woodlane site and converted it into an hostel for 21 students, John Barnicoat was appointed Principal, and the School was recognized by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) as a centre for a three-year programme of study leading to the award of a BA(Hons) degree in Fine Art. In 1976, Tom Cross was appointed Principal and the School continued to develop its resources by improving its sculpture studios and creating a new studio for ceramic sculpture. A purpose-built facility for photography and film was added, the library was enlarged, and the acquisition of a further student hostel in Woodlane, at Lamorva House, enabled the School to offer accommodation to 57 students. In addition, the original Arwenack Art School was handed back to the School to serve its introductory Foundation course as a centre for three-dimensional studies.

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 1980s} 

In the 1980s, BA(Hons) Fine Art was the principal academic course. A two-year BTEC General Art & Design course was added to the School’s portfolio and additional facilities for printmaking, photography, textiles and fashion were then created in buildings adjacent to the School in Woodlane. At this point, the School had a population of approximately 200 students on both HE and FE courses.

By 1984, the School was under threat of closure from the National Advisory Board (NAB) on the grounds that its Fine Art degree course “was academically and geographically isolated.” The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the School’s Board of Governors, the acting Principal, Ian Carrick, the acting deputy for the Principal, Charles Hancock and Patrick Heron, quickly implemented the School’s only available strategy for survival and galvanized the support of local MPs, renowned artists, former students and friends of the School. The response received was overwhelming and an extraordinary number of individuals wrote to the NAB in support of the School from both within the County and outside it. The NAB subsequently withdrew its threat of closure and agreed that it would turn its attention to reviewing Cornwall’s art and design provision in its entirety instead.

Historically there had been no overall LEA policy for art and design education in Cornwall beyond an accepted notion that Fine Art should be taught at Falmouth School of Art and ‘applied’ Art at Cornwall College, and it had been observed on several occasions that this anomaly presented the greatest impediment to the development of a real centre of excellence for art and design education in Cornwall.

As a result, a joint working party involving senior specialist staff from both institutions was formed by the LEA to consider the future development of art and design in the County.

In 1978, Cornwall College, a predominantly FE orientated institution, had formed a Faculty of Art & Design. It offered full-time, three- and four-year vocational courses in Graphic Design, Technical Illustration, Display & Exhibition Design, and Ceramics to 150 students, leading to the award of South West Region Diplomas in Design and Licentiateship to the Chartered Society of Designers. In the early 1980s, these courses were converted to BTEC National Diploma (ND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) courses. A one-year Foundation Design course was also in operation and in 1982, the CNAA validated the Faculty’s Postgraduate Diploma in Radio Journalism.

By 1986, the student population of this Faculty had risen to around 500 Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs). The Faculty had significantly outgrown its resources at Cornwall College’s main campus and there were no residential facilities for the increasing number of students that it recruited nationally.

In 1987, it was subsequently agreed by Cornwall County Council, and endorsed by the Secretary of State for Education, that Falmouth School of Art and Cornwall College’s Faculty of Art & Design would merge to become Falmouth School of Art & Design. This new institution would be located at the Woodlane Campus in Falmouth.

The portfolio of courses to be offered by the new institution to the combined population of 636 full-time students included: BA(Hons) Fine Art, BA(Hons) Scientific & Technical Graphics, PgDip Radio Journalism, BTEC ND and HND Graphic Design, BTEC ND and HND Technical Illustration, BTEC HND Ceramics, BTEC ND Design, BTEC ND General Art & Design and a Foundation course.

In the same year, the first phase of new building work to provide accommodation for BA(Hons) Scientific & Technical Graphics commenced at Woodlane, the newly-formed Board of Governors for Falmouth School of Art & Design appointed Professor Alan Livingston as Principal, and a structure comprising eight Study Areas led by Principal Lecturers was agreed.

As a result of the Education Reform Act, the School became an independent Higher Education Corporation in April 1989.

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 1990s} 

The 1990s witnessed the rapid development of the College’s academic portfolio – particularly in the nationally burgeoning areas of design and media. It was at this juncture that Falmouth School of Art & Design became Falmouth College of Arts to signify its recognition of media as an arts subject. From 1992, the College’s awards were accredited by the University of Plymouth. By 1996, the student population included 906 full-time and 60 part-time undergraduates, 38 full-time and 68 part-time postgraduates, and 290 FE students.

1998 and 1999 were particularly auspicious years for the College. Former Fine Art graduate, Tacita Dean, was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, the College’s first purpose-built Student Residence, Henry Scott Tuke House was completed and officially opened, and the College became the only HE institution in the country to be awarded 24 out of 24 for its teaching of art and design at undergraduate and postgraduate level by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). The College also acquired its second campus at Tremough, an 18th Century, grade II listed country house and 70-acre estate in the nearby ancient town of Penryn, and developments towards a Combined University for Cornwall gained momentum with ambitious plans for expansion gathering apace.

As the new century dawned, the College expanded yet further with BA(Hons) degrees in 3D Design, Spatial Design: Interior & Landscape, Textile Design and Film Studies, and Postgraduate Diplomas in Broadcast Television and Professional Writing being added to its burgeoning portfolio.

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 2000s} 

By Autumn 2001, a state of the art, multi-million-pound Media Centre had been built at the College’s Tremough Campus, containing world-class, broadcast industry standard facilities. In May 2002, this resource was officially opened by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, during Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Tour of the UK.

The College’s new Design Centre opened at Tremough in the Autumn of 2003 as part of a £50 million development of the Tremough Campus under the CUC initiative, including social facilities, additional teaching accommodation and a Learning Resource Centre.

Under the auspices of the CUC, the University of Exeter’s operations in Cornwall transferred to Tremough in 2004, as this campus has been designated as the ‘Hub’ of the CUC (with Cornwall’s FE Colleges forming the ‘Rim’). Exeter and Falmouth have also jointly financed student residences at Tremough, with nearly 1200 beds.

The additional investment that the College's participation in the CUC brings not only benefit the institution in terms of increased facilities and opportunities, but it also allows the College to make an even greater contribution to the economic regeneration of the County it serves.

In 2004 the Privy Council granted us the power to award taught degrees in our own name, and in 2005 we marked this new, higher status with a new name: University College Falmouth.  

On 6 April 2008, University College Falmouth merged with Dartington College of Arts, bringing a wealth of exciting new opportunities for students. The merger secured the future of Dartington’s portfolio of Performance courses and international reputation. It also resulted in dynamic new courses at University College Falmouth in Music, Theatre and Dance, and strengthened our courses in Writing and Art.

{mospagebreak title=A history of the University College: 2010 - present} 

The year 2010 marked a vital milestone in our evolution towards Arts University Cornwall, as we welcomed the students, staff and researchers from our Dartington Campus to high-specification, purpose-built facilities in our brand new Performance Centre on the Tremough Campus.

The Dartington Campus Relocation Guide was created to present all you need to know about the relocation project, while the Relocation Newsletter provided more targeted information in the year leading up to the move.

University College Falmouth's sense of history and its achievements of the past underpin the University College's ambitious plans for expansion. Whilst it will undoubtedly be obliged to bear "the heat and burden of the day" at other strategic points during its evolution, its future as a leading specialist University College with an international reputation for excellence remains assured.

On 7 August 2012, University College Falmouth's Rector & CEO, Professor Anne Carlisle, announced plans to rename the institution. In 110 years, the institution has changed its name several times to reflect its development from a small, rural art school to the impressive, globally-recognised Higher Education institution that it is today, yet one element of the name has remained firmly in place and that is the word ‘Falmouth'.

The name ‘Falmouth University' has been approved by the Board of Governors who welcome messages of support from the community to accompany the next stage of the process for achieving full University title.

Professor Anne Carlisle said, "This new name will have a genuinely positive impact on the town and surrounding area, and help to enhance Falmouth's local, regional, national and international profile even more. Other naming options were considered, some of which did not include the town's name at all, but I am delighted with the decision to retain ‘Falmouth' in recognition of the town's vibrant community, fascinating heritage and superb location." She added, "Falmouth itself is one of the key reasons why students choose to study here. We hope our local community will celebrate this exciting and momentous decision in our long history of providing creative arts education in Cornwall and welcome your messages of support to help us on the next stage of our journey to gain full University title."

In December 2012 the Privy Council officially approved University College Falmouth's bid to be granted full University status.