Celebrating 100 years

The story behind the film

The film was written and storyboarded by a small team of University staff who worked with Leicestershire production company Affixius Films to bring it to life and tell the story of Dr Astley Clarke's involvement in the founding of the University.

During the war, Astley was an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. A military hospital was set up on the site which is now the University’s Fielding Johnson Building.

Astley first spoke publicly about the need for a new university in 1912 in his presidential address to the Leicestershire Literary and Philosophical Society. When war broke out in 1914 the idea was set aside. By late 1917 thoughts were turning towards a future peace and Astley’s proposal formed a focus for the foundation of the living memorial, which today stands as the University of Leicester.

fielding johnson military hospital

A timeline of Astley's involvement

  • October 1912: Astley gives a speech as President of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society. He points out that there are young people in the area who have more than enough potential to succeed in higher education but do not have the opportunity to do so due to the lack of a local university.
  • 14 November 1917: An editorial in the Leicester Daily Post newspaper entitled ‘The Best War Memorial’ argues the case for creating a university as a war memorial. The publication of the article is swiftly answered with letters of support citing Astley’s 1912 speech
  • 26 November 1917: Astley writes to the newspaper in support of the idea, “Let higher education be our war memorial”.
  • 11 November 1918: Astley donates £100 to create the “Leicester University Fund” for the founding of the University.
  • October 1921: the first students are admitted to the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College.
  • Astley went on to hold several key positions which shaped the University College in its early years.

Crowd funding 

On 11 November 1918, the First World War came to an end and the following day Astley wrote to the local newspaper to announce the creation of the 'Leicester University Fund' in celebration of peace and for the founding of a university as a memorial. Astley made the first contribution of one hundred pounds and another physician, Dr FW Bennett, donated five hundred pounds. During the following few years, many local people gave money for the founding of the University, a process which today we would call crowd funding.

Widening access to higher education and cutting-edge research

The ambition was to create a university or university college to provide access to higher education for young men and women who did not have the financial means to move away to study at the established universities across the country. New universities had been founded in recent decades in cities such as Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol. Leicester was a prosperous town, soon to achieve city status. Not only would higher education benefit the communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, scholarly research would also benefit local industry and business. Both the widening of access for students from all backgrounds to enter higher education, and a passion for world-changing research are still at the heart of the University’s work today. But now our students come to Leicester from around the world and our research ranges from the atomic level of molecular medicine to inter-planetary exploration and the study of distant galaxies.

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