About the University of Leicester

History and campus

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'.

Students were first admitted to the college in 1921, sitting examinations for external degrees awarded of the University of London. In 1927 the institution became University College, Leicester; 30 years later the college was granted its Royal Charter. This gave it the status of a University with the right to award its own degrees.

The University won the first ever series of University Challenge, in 1963.


Our very compact campus contains a wide range of twentieth century architecture, though the oldest building dates from 1837. The main campus is a mile south of the city centre, adjacent to Victoria Park and Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College.

The central building, now known as the Fielding Johnson Building, houses the University's administration offices and Leicester Law School. This was formerly the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum. Adjacent to the Fielding Johnson Building are the Astley Clarke Building and the Danielle Brown Sports Centre.

The skyline of Leicester University is punctuated by three distinctive, towering buildings from the 1960s: the Engineering Building, the Attenborough Tower and the Charles Wilson Building.

The University's Engineering Building was the first major building by important British architect Sir James Stirling. It comprises workshops and laboratories at ground level, and a tower containing offices and lecture theatres. It was completed in 1963 and is notable for the way in which its external form reflects its internal functions.

The 18-storey Attenborough Tower, housing several departments within the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, has one of the very few remaining paternosters in the UK. The Ken Edwards Building, built in 1995, lies adjacent to the Fielding Johnson Building.

Built in 1957, the Percy Gee Building is home to Leicester University's Students' Union. The David Wilson Library was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in December 2008, following an extensive refurbishment.

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