UEA 50th: How Norwich golf course was transformed into university campus for over 13,000 students

The view towards the clubhouse along the eighth and fifth fairways of the Earlham golf course in May

The view towards the clubhouse along the eighth and fifth fairways of the Earlham golf course in May 1962, where the University of East Anglia stands today.

Staff and students of the UEA will be celebrating the university's 50th anniversary on a very different campus to the one its first cohort of students found in 1963.

Prof. Frank Thistlethwaite, the first vice-chancellor of the UEA. Photo: Bill Smith.

Prof. Frank Thistlethwaite, the first vice-chancellor of the UEA. Photo: Bill Smith. - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

The UEA accepted its students into mostly temporary buildings as building work continued upon the 272 acres of the sloping former Earlham Golf Course.

The first vice-chancellor of the UEA, Frank Thistlewaite, commissioned Denys Lasdun to bring his vision of a modern campus to life.

Mr Lasdun, who was knighted in 1976, was briefed to design a university suitable for 3,000 students. Today the UEA is home to more than 13,000 students.

In 1967 the famous Ziggurats were completed, giving the campus its distinctive look. In 2003 the student residencies were Grade II listed and have also previously been voted eighth in the top 10 of best university architecture by the Architect's Journal.


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Professor Christopher Bigsby, of the UEA's School of American Studies, is well-known to many former students. He arrived in Norwich in 1969 and has witnessed the university's growth and cultural impact.

He is the founder director of the university's Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies and has presented its International Literary Festival for more than 20 years.

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'When I arrived, people were already saying that I'd missed the golden age of UEA,' Prof Bigsby said. 'The university's motto is 'do different' – and it was different.

'The first vice-chancellor, Frank Thistlethwaite, was a historian of the US and brought some of those ideas back. The university pioneered interdisciplinary study and seminar teaching.

'Other English departments were suspicious of living writers – the only good writer was a dead one as far as they were concerned,' he continues. 'Quite a lot of people came from Oxbridge whose modern syllabus went up to about 1910. But UEA was teaching contemporary literature.'

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