Interview: University of Leicester celebrates centenary

university of leicester

This October the University of Leicester is celebrating 100 years, and marking it with their ChangeMakers Centenary Festival on Saturday 2 October.

With such a long history in the city, and with the ChangeMakers Festival event free for the public to attend, we caught up with Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer, Kerry Law, to find out more about the centenary plans.

How long have you been planning for the Centenary celebrations?

100 years! We’ve been planning the centenary for about three years. Our celebrations officially started with the naming of our new square in the heart of the campus –  Centenary Square – which was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 2018. It’s a very special time for the University and we want to ensure that we provide memorable events that connect with our whole community – both locally in Leicester and around the world – we have students, staff and alumni in every continent (except Antarctica).

What makes the University of Leicester unique?

The University was founded as Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College in 1921. The site for the University was donated by a local businessman, Thomas Fielding Johnson, in order to create a living memorial for all local people who made sacrifices during the First World War. This is reflected in the University’s motto Ut vitam habeant – ‘so that they may have life’. The people of Leicester then gave to create the university. In effect we were crowd funded by the local community. This makes us pretty unique.

The Centenary has come at a time when the University has moved up the league tables, what’s been the catalyst for this rise do you think?

This rise is testament to our excellent teaching, student support and the fantastic achievements of our students. Our top 30 position reflects the progress we have made in implementing our student-centred education strategy and the commitment to excellence at Leicester.

Our rise in the league tables wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our fantastic staff.

university leicester centenary

Tell us a little about what people can expect on the day of the ChangeMakers Festival?

University of Leicester is the city’s university – we were created by and for the people of Leicester – so we want to open our doors and show what’s on offer. It’s a packed day with something for all ages. We’ve got tours around the campus, world-leading researchers talking about their work, workshops, exhibitions, music and in homage to the connection the Attenborough family has with the university we will be showing Jurassic Park. All the activities show how Leicester has changed the world.

Which part of the day are you most looking forward to?

I’m really excited about our self-guided campus tour which is narrated by Michael Attenborough (Richard Attenborough’s son and David’s nephew), the ‘How to be a Super Hero’ and ‘The Beasts we Breath Out’ talks and the visit to a crime scene. Oh, and who doesn’t love an outdoor cinema – we’re showing Jurassic Park!

How important is it for the University to be seen as part of the local community?

Very important – we were created by the community, for the community. We are proud to have our home in Leicester, the city’s reputation for being friendly, welcoming and multi-cultural reflects how we want to been seen. Our successes and discoveries are as much the city’s as our own, from DNA Fingerprinting to space research to finding Richard III. Whether we’re cheering on the Foxes or dancing at Diwali, together we want to put Leicester on the map and celebrate the wonderful place it is.

The University uses the term “Citizens of Change”, what does this mean for the students and community?

Citizens of Change reflects the University’s heritage and is a core part of our identity – it’s who we are. Going back to our founding you can see that the citizens of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland delivered real change with establishment of the University. We encourage everyone who is part of our community to make change, to volunteer and make a difference.

Tell us a little about the work that is taking place next to the campus? How will this improve the University’s facilities?

Freemen’s opens in autumn 2022. An extension of our campus, it will provide a vibrant community for students, staff and local residents to enjoy and experience. As part of this we are building a new four-storey Teaching and Learning Centre which will boast two large lecture theatres and a range of flexible teaching spaces. Alongside this will be a wide range of modern accommodation for up to 1,200 students. The new buildings will be set in tree lined walking routes and include wildflower planting and gardens for staff and students to enjoy.

Our new Percy Gee building officially opens in winter. This is home to our Students’ Union alongside dedicated study spaces, a media centre, informatics lab and a performance space. It also boasts a large selection of food and drink outlets and Nada, the zero waste shop has just opened their second store here in the building.

And finally we have our new Business School, Brookfield, situated in the historic Stoneygate Conservation Area. Set in seven acres and located a ten-minute walk from the University, Brookfield is conveniently located between campus and The Village accommodation in Oadby. Brookfield offers a variety of state-of-the-art learning and teaching spaces, including a Harvard-style lecture theatre and a Trading Room, home to 16 dual-screen Bloomberg terminals, all focused on creating an outstanding environment for our students.

What else is coming up at the University?

This autumn we also launch our public lecture series, Difficult Conversations where we’ll be inviting people to come and get involved with the big issues of our time, such as Hate Crime, Air Quality, Menopause and Nuclear Power. In the Spring we will see the return of the Literary Leicester Festival and we’ll have the official opening of Space Park Leicester – our centenary year is a busy one!

space park leicester

To find out more about the centenary celebrations and to register your free ticket to ChangeMakers Festival, visit the University of Leicester website