Situated on a wooded hill overlooking the M6, Lancaster University was inaugurated in 1964 by HRH Princess Alexandra, who remains the University Chancellor to this day. The 250-acre landscaped site of the university originally belonged to the Bailrigg Estate, and the Bailrigg Mansion remains at one end of the campus, housing the university's health centre.
The university is three miles from the centre of Lancaster, which has a cathedral, an abundance of historic buildings, canalside water holes, a high street and curio shops catering to locals and students alike. Lancaster is a relatively small city of approximately 135,000 inhabitants, of which there is an evident skew of several thousand towards the 18-24 age group during term-time.
The City of Lancaster is five miles from sweeping Morecambe Bay, where many of the students choose to live; 15 miles from Blackpool, with the ever-popular Pleasure Beach, and 20 miles from the Lake District National Park, with its stunning scenery and famous walks.
The university administration buildings, library, shops and transport are centred around Alexandra Square, from which a pedestrian walkway named 'the spine' extends north and south, with the departments and colleges occupying buildings along this route.
The university campus has a multi-denominational chaplaincy centre, a theatre, an art gallery, a hotel and conference centre and of course, the library. The Lancaster University Student Union (LUSU) also owns and runs The Sugar House (affectionately known as 'The Shagger'), a nightclub in the centre of Lancaster, which is solely for the use of students and their guests. Also in and around Alexandra Square are two banks, a supermarket, various cafes and eateries, a hairdressers, a charity shop, a bakers, an insurance broker, a travel agent, a fish and chip shop, a newsagent, a garage and the LUSU shop, so there is no lack of opportunity to spend the no-interest student overdraft.
The College System
Lancaster is one of only six collegiate universities in the UK. The eight undergraduate colleges are named after places of interest and/or beauty in the North West of England1, and have their own campus residence blocks, common rooms, administration staff and bar. There is also a graduate college, slightly further from the rowdy centre of campus.
The sheer number and easy walking distance between campus bars makes for a lively social scene often revolving around colleges rather than subject areas, and creates a healthy competition amongst social secretaries to create the biggest end of year 'Extrav' and attract the biggest-named band. Student drinking traditions include the nine or 18 hole 'Golf Course' involving drinking in each of the nine bars once or twice in one evening, often followed by a 'spine walk' - where a suitably inebriated and athletic student attempts to walk the entire length of the roof of the spine without their feet touching terra firma.
The colleges (north - south):
From 2003 onwards, the university is undertaking an enormous building project to the south-west of the campus, to extend the amount of student accommodation, upgrade many of the faculty buildings and facilities and provide room for future growth. This will eventually result in at least two of the colleges (currently Lonsdale and Cartmel) moving to entirely new buildings.
Lancaster University is placed 21st out of 100 in the 2003 Sunday Times league table of Universities, and is in the top ten for the following faculties:
- 3rd for Education; Linguistics
- 4th for Drama, Dance and Cinematics; Theology and Religious Studies
- 6th for Business
- 9th for Art and Design; American Studies
- 10th for Environmental Science
Trivia you may not know about Lancaster University:
The university's motto is: 'Patet omnibus veritas' which means 'Truth lies open to all'.
Magic mushrooms grow abundantly on the hill on which the campus is situated2.
The university logo is derived from the shape of the chaplaincy centre's roof.
In the autumn term of 1991 University House was occupied for over a month by students in a campus rent protest.
Pendle College is named after the area that was a infamous haunt of witches in medieval folklore.
Bowland Tower is incorrectly rumoured to be a major suicide launching pad.
The sweeping drive that enters the university campus passes a duck pond, with its attendant 'duck crossing' sign. Apparently3, this sign has been dug up and stolen by students multiple times to show off in their front rooms.