Coventry University, Plans and History


Coventry University is a British post-1992 university in the city of Coventry, England. It is the second largest university in the city, the other being the University of Warwick. The origins of Coventry University began with the College of Art and Technology, which was shortly expanded into what, became the Lanchester Polytechnic and finally Coventry University. Looking into the history of the expansion of Coventry University, it becomes clear that the City Councils plans were premeditated in order to improve the stance of the city and to appeal to the masses both locally and afar, thus improving the reputation of the city and its economy. Below is a brief outline of the plans and developments of Coventry University and the reasons in my opinion. I accumulated the information from reading pamphlets from the university library: ‘159 years of progress’ and ‘Coventry Polytechnic Annual Report 1990’.

Brief Timeline Outlining the Development of Coventry University:

In 1948, the City Council puts plans in place for a new College of Art, Technology and General Education.

In 1958, the City Council accepts the establishment of a university in Coventry and plans go underway.

In 1959, the City Council approved Lanchester College of Technology as the name for a new college, in recognition to the renowned engineer scientist Frederick Lanchester of Lanchester car fame.

In 1961, the Right Honorable Sir David Eccles in KCVO MP officially opened the Lanchester College of Technology on the 12th May whilst the College of Art took over a former secondary school in Vine Street.

In 1962, the Lanchester College of Technology was designated a Regional College as one of just five at that time, designed to attract students from towns and neighboring districts.

In 1966, the first Lanchester College of Technology Halls of Residence were opened, a 19 story block on Priory Street.

1968, HRH Prince Philip officially opened the current Graham Sutherland Building, the housing for the School of Art and Design, on Gosford Street on 25th June 1968.

In 1970, Lanchester Polytechnic, formed by the amalgamation of the Lanchester College of Technology, Coventry College of Art and the Rugby College of Engineering Technology was officially designated.

In 1971, new Lanchester Polytechnic buildings were officially opened, comprising a four story block containing Library, lecture theatres and a refectory and a two story block accommodating the Department of Civil Engineering and Building.

In 1973¸ work on N-Block to house Mathematics, Geography and Urban and Regional Planning began.

In 1974, an extension to the Library was completed.

In 1987, in re-evaluation of the Polytechnic’s identity, the Lanchester name was deleted from the title, largely to avoid confusion with the cities of Manchester and Lancaster. Thus, Coventry Polytechnic was designated.

The same year the institution adopted a new corporate identity, taking as its symbol, the Phoenix. The legend of the Phoenix is that of a mythical bird which would burn itself to death on a funeral pyre to rise once more from the ashes with renewed youth and life cycle. Such a symbol was recognized as a fitting reminder of the way in which the Coventry City Council rebuilt the city after the war and a symbol the Polytechnic was proud to be associated.

In 1990, under restructuring proposals, the institution adopted a new academic profile, comprising two schools-Art and Design and the Business School-and three faculties.

In 1992, the Further and Higher Education Act enabled Coventry Polytechnic to adopt the title Coventry University. This resulted in the ability to award its own degrees and an eight-school structure providing the university with a new, more responsive academic profile.

Below are some images I had taken of Coventry University. The images of the buildings evidence how the university has changed the  city’s landscape and has revived the city by bringing new people and developing new skills in a range of subjects. It also shows how buildings have been brought new uses such as The Ellen Terry Building and the developments of completely new ones such as the Hub.

Photographs © Sophie Moet

The initial plans and further developments that eventually formed a successful Coventry University were all planned and well thought, made even more possible when gaining independence in 1989.  The Coventry Polytechnic’s concern was to establish a strategic plan and to devise structures and processes which facilitate greater responsiveness to the environment in which it operates.  They wanted to create equal opportunities, a range of courses, were concerned with changes in employment and wanted to appeal to a wide range and amount of people across the country and internationally whilst still remaining in the city, bringing pride to the Coventry landscape and people. Also, deciding to build the entire University in the heart of city, instead of initial ideas of expanding in to Rugby, heightens the stigma of the city currently and historically. Also, as Coventry is in the centre of Britain and its developments in transport, means that’s it’s easily accessible. You can travel to all the main cities from Coventry train station.


Even using the symbol of the Phoenix was a well devised plan. It symbolizes the hardships the city has faced and how it has revived. The ruined Cathedral commemorates the war whilst the new Cathedral, designed and planned for a particular purpose, reflects the city’s rise from the ashes, as does the governments strategic plans to re-build the city centre with modern architectural designs. Deciding to even keep medieval and traditional buildings during this time of re-building was also a strategy. It shows that Coventry will always be proud of its heritage as well as attracting tourists interested in the city’s history and the Second World War, I’d imagine. The planning of a University was created for a similar effect, to prove how the city was rapidly improving, something to be excited about and would feature many modern developments, both educationally and architecturally. Building new buildings for the university whilst re-renovating old ones for the purpose of university again was a plan. It proves that how when in Coventry we make use of what we have and revive it, like the Phoenix but are also developing and with the times.

The decisions to form different buildings housing different subjects such as The School of Art and Design, The Business School, Engineering and a range of Sciences, reflects how keen the Council were to create courses and opportunities on a wide range of subjects. This would attract more people to the city showing the diverse range and opportunities the University has to offer. This again was a clever plan as the increase in population would enhance the city’s economy. It would create more people to work and spend money in the city, making Coventry prosperous once more. It would also pave way for new talent and encourage a wide range of skills.

Overall, the plans and decisions in forming Coventry University has been a successful one. The University’s promise to provide opportunity for educational and personal development of the highest quality, by promoting the advancement and active dissemination of knowledge and scholarship through teaching, research and consultancy, has attracted the masses across the country and internationally.  Placing the areas of study in a variety of new buildings and re-renovated ones shows the city’s resourcefulness as well as emphasizing the city’s reputation of rising from the ashes. The iconic symbol of the Phoenix represents the cities evolution from the damages of the war and its great achievements since, the University being a worthy example. Below is a screenshot of Coventry University website. Positivity, hope and encouragement are all this establishment hope for and has since moved up 13 places in the Guardian league of universities. The development of education in the city has been a turning point and represents the city’s ability to revive.



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