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‘It’s an inherently good place’ - what makes UEA so popular?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:13 09 May 2017

An aerial picture of the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East Anglia

An aerial picture of the University of East Anglia. Picture: University of East Anglia

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It is, as its students often chant, a wonderful place to learn. Having landed its highest league table spot to date last month, education correspondent Lauren Cope looks at what makes the University of East Anglia (UEA) so popular.

With its eye-catching ziggurats, pioneering research and thriving arts scene, the University of East Anglia is certainly a notable campus.

It is also one which hovers high on student satisfaction surveys - and sits comfortably in the top 1pc of universities worldwide.

In April, UEA landed its highest league table rank so far - 12th out of 129 universities in the Complete University Guide (CUG), a jump of 15 places over three years.

Its popularity has been put down to its respected courses, busy social scene - there are more than 200 clubs and socities - and proximity to Norwich, which is in itself often found on lists of happiest cities to live in.

Vice-chancellor professor David Richardson agreed that its location was a key factor.

“We do have a very strong reputation among students and other universities for offering a strong university experience, which is in part thanks to the design of the campus.

UEA vice chancellor professor David Richardson. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY UEA vice chancellor professor David Richardson. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

MORE: Mixed results for Norwich universities in new league table

“It’s a beautiful campus which is situated on the edge of a wonderful city, which has all the offer of a bigger city.”

Its academic reputation is also part of its appeal - it is respected for its creative writing course, environmental research and focus on the arts.

In the CUG, UEA also appeared in the top 10 for nine of its 35 subjects.

But when we asked graduates for their thoughts, it was student experience which came out on top.

Sophie Childs, a former politics student who graduated last year, said: “For me it was how welcoming everything is - my course was great, and the lecturers brilliant, but the UEA campus really felt like home from the moment I arrived.”

IC009_UEABeingBuilt_One of the new blocks under construction IC009_UEABeingBuilt_One of the new blocks under construction

Fellow graduate Courtney Pochin, who finished a Film and English Studies course in 2015, said that having grown up in Norfolk, she was initially unsure about studying so close to home.

“Over the three years I studied there, I realised it didn’t matter that I’d stayed close to where I’d grown up, because UEA felt like a whole other world all together,” she said.

“The mass of concrete which may be off-putting at first quickly began to feel like home and two years on it still does. There’s just something inherently good about the place.”

Looking to the future

In 2016, Mr Richardson outlined an ambitious 15-year growth plan for the university.

IC011 UEA Being Built. Taken on 16/06/67

A frontal view of the biology building which is under construction.

(From Archive) IC011 UEA Being Built. Taken on 16/06/67 A frontal view of the biology building which is under construction. (From Archive)

The 2030 vision includes increasing the 16,000-strong student body by another 3,000, and its academic staff by 100.

The plan also hopes to see the university, which contributes £346m a year to Norwich’s economy, forge closer links with the city and invest £300m in its campus.

MORE: 15-year vision for UEA includes £300m campus investment

The sum is split into half for new buildings, and half to upgrade existing ones.

But a key aim is to ensure the university does not lose its good reputation as it grows - work Mr Richardson said is already ongoing.

“We are being very careful that as we grow the university we protect the things that give it such a high student experience,” he said.

A new view of the University of East Anglia taken from the air by EEN photographer Charles Nicholas, 1968. Picture: Charles Nicholas A new view of the University of East Anglia taken from the air by EEN photographer Charles Nicholas, 1968. Picture: Charles Nicholas

“Over the last three years we have moved from 27th to 12th in the CUG, and we have grown by about 1,000 students, which shows that as we are growing we are growing with quality.”

And reflecting on the past

• 1963 - UEA opens its doors to 87 students.

• 1966 - Some of its iconic buildings, including the Ziggurats and teaching wall, take shape.

• 1971 - Its famed creative writing course, the first in the UK is launched. Student newspaper Concrete starts in 1973.

• 1972 - Centre for Climatic Research opens.

• 1978 - Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts opens its doors.

• 1984 - School of Law moves to Earlham Hall, once home to Elizabeth Fry and the Gurney family.

• 2000 - Government chooses UEA as site for Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.

• 2001 - Sportspark built after £14.5m Sport England grant.

• 2008 - The £35m INTO building opens for international students.

• 2009 - Computer servers at Climatic Research Unit hacked, stolen information made public.

• 2013 - UEA marks its 50th anniversary.

• 2015 - Radio 1’s Big Weekend is held at UEA.

• 2017 - Queen Elizabeth II visits Sainsbury Centre, and Sir Anthony Gormley unveils three sculptures on campus.

MORE: Pictures from UEA’s past

• Do you have fond memories of UEA? Leave your comments below.

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