University of Wales, Lampeter

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University of Wales, Lampeter
Prifysgol Cymru, Llanbedr Pont Steffan


Crest of the University

Motto Gair Duw Goreu Dysg
The word of God is the best teacher
Established 1822
Chancellor (UW) HRH the Prince of Wales
Pro-Chancellor (UW) Dafydd Wigley
Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert A Pearce (List of UWL VCs)
Location Lampeter, Wales, UK
Students 2,000
Member of University of Wales, ACU, Universities UK

University of Wales, Lampeter (Welsh: Prifysgol Cymru, Llanbedr Pont Steffan) is a university in Lampeter, Wales, the oldest degree awarding institution in Wales, and the third oldest in England and Wales after Oxford and Cambridge. The university started life in 1822 as St David's College (Coleg Dewi Sant), becoming St David's University College (Coleg Prifysgol Dewi Sant) in 1971. It is now part of the federal University of Wales. With under 2,000 full-time undergraduates, it is one of the smallest public universities in Europe. In many ways, then, it is miraculous that the university has survived in the increasingly competitive atmosphere of the British Higher Education sector, and the institution's financial health is often a cause for concern. Principal J.R. Lloyd Thomas's decision to lead the institution into the University of Wales in the 1970s rescued the college from bankruptcy once, and more recently, the college has had to pioneer foundation degrees and distance learning through its Voluntary Sector studies and Welsh language departments, which may have rescued the college once more from failure. Through this adversity, however, the university continues to rate highly in its teaching and research, particularly the Theology, Religious Studies and English Literature and Language departments which received the top rating in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise. The campus' beautiful setting in the Ceredigion hills, on the banks of the River Teifi attract a high proportion of mature students and students from outside Wales, who wish to escape the urban environments of the majority of the other British universities.



When Thomas Burgess was appointed Bishop of St David's in 1803 he almost immediately identified the need to establish a College in which young men could train for the Ministry of the Church.

Burgess had no Welsh connections; he was born in England in 1756 and after Winchester and Oxford he had short stays in Salisbury and Durham before being appointed to his first bishopric in Wales in 1803. Originally Burgess intended to build his new college to train priests in Llanddewi Brefi, which at the time was similar in size to Lampeter, but ten kilometres from it, and with an honoured place in the Christian history of Wales. When Burgess was staying with his friend the Bishop of Gloucester in 1820, however, he met John Scandrett Harford, a wealthy landowner from Gloucestershire, who donated the three acre (12,000 m²) site called Castle Field in Lampeter. so called for the Norman castle once contained in the field. This is the site on which the present University stands.

Missing image
Engraving of Bishop Burgess
St David's College was thus founded just outside Lampeter in 1822. Burgess left St. David's in 1825 to become Bishop of Salisbury, but work on the college continued, largely supervised by Harford. The 16,000 required to erect the college had been raised from public donations, a government grant, and highly publicised gifts, including one from King George IV. The main college building was completed in 1827, and the college officially opened on St. David's Day of that year, welcoming its first 26 students. As such, after the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and those in Scotland, it is the oldest university institution in Britain, receiving its first charter in 1828. In 1852, the college gained the right to award the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, (BD), and in 1865 the degree of Bachelor of Arts (BA), long before the other colleges in Wales gained their own degree awarding powers.

Although it continued as a centre of clergy training until 1978, there was always a considerable proportion of students who did not intend to be ordained - The 1896 charter specifically stated that the college could accept anyone, regardless of whether they intended to take Holy Orders. In 1971, after years of discussion, Principal J.R. Lloyd Thomas led the college into the federal University of Wales, and suspended its own degree-awarding powers. It became St David's University College (SDUC). By the this time, the college had begun shifting its specialisms, and whilst Religious Studies continued to be a strong point, students could choose from a much wider range of liberal arts subjects. In 1996 the Privy Council - in response to a petition from the University - agreed to change its title again to the University of Wales, Lampeter in line with moves elsewhere in the University and the recognition of its growth and changing status.

Today, the university specialises in Theology, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Classics Anthropology, Archaeology, English and History. In the early 1990s there also existed a hugely influencial Human Geography department at the college. This was closed in 2001, but the diaspora of the Lampeter Geography School continue to have an influence on their field.

University buildings

The Old College

Missing image
The St David's Building at the University of Wales, Lampeter

C.R. Cockerell designed the original college, now called the Saint David's Building in the centre of the Campus. It contains lecture rooms, common rooms, student residential accommodation and the following three main areas:

The Old Hall was the refectory until the present one came into use - in 1969 - and fell into disuse until 1991 when it opened after much restoration; it is now used as one of the main public rooms for meetings, conferences and use by outside organisations. It is also used for examinations.

St David's Chapel was originally consecrated in 1827. In 1879 it was closed and rebuilt according to the specifications of the architect Thomas Graham Jackson of Cambridge. It re-opened on the June 24 1880. It was then refurbished again during the 1930s mainly by the provision of a new reredos in 1933 and a major overhaul of the organ in 1934.

The Founders' Library was the library until the new library opened in 1966 and now houses the University's oldest printed books (1470-1850) and manuscripts (the earliest from the thirteenth century), given to Lampeter from 1822 onwards, as well as the archives of the university. It is a priceless collection unique to Lampeter. Named after its founders - Thomas Burgess (1756-1837), Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) and Thomas Phillips (1760-1851) - it is a fundamental resource for teaching, research and scholarship within the University.

Recent additions

The Original Canterbury Building
The Original Canterbury Building

There have been a number of notable additions to the university in recent times

The Canterbury Building was originally built to house a growing number of students at the end of the 19th Century. The foundation stone was laid by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1885, and the building was officially opened on June 24, 1887. It contained a physical science laboratory, two lecture rooms, and new accommodation. Structural problems forced the university to demolish the original building in the Summer of 1971, however. The current Canterbury Building was opened on October 20 1973 by the Vice-Chancellor or the University of Kent at Canterbury and now houses the History and English departments.

The New Library was opened on July 7, 1966 by the then Chancellor of the University of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was extended, and then reopened by the Prince of Wales on June 21 1984.

The Arts Building was opened by The Rt. Hon Peter Thomas, Secretary of State for Wales on October 4, 1971, in time for it to house the new Geography department. The Archaeology and Anthropology department has since moved into the building.

The Cliff Tucker Theatre, on the banks of the River Dulas, was officially opened by Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1996 and incorporates teaching rooms and lecture theatres, and a large computer room.

The Sheikh Khalifa Building completed in 1997, and named after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, a benefactor of the university, is the new purpose-built home of the Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, one the largest departments of its kind in the United Kingdom. Behind the departmental building is a small mosque, used by Islamic students and residents of the town.

Academic robes

Lampeter currently awards University of Wales degrees, and as such, the academic dress matches that of the University of Wales - graduates wear a black stuff gown, with bell sleeves and a mazarin blue shot green. The traditional Lampeter academic dress differs from this slightly.

Undergraduates wore a black stuff gown, with bell-sleeves, with the whole sleeve split open in front.

Bachelor of Divinity. A black gown, of MA pattern (long closed sleeves), with a double crescent cut at the end of each sleeve. A black silk hood, lined with dark violet silk, and bound with 1" white silk. Originally, it could be made in either the Oxford or the Cambridge shape, but Cambridge became the norm.

Bachelor of Arts. A black stuff gown of Cambridge BA pattern. A black silk hood, part-lind and bound with 'miniver' - white fur with black spots. (Rabbit was usually used, with 'stick-on' spots, on account of the cost of real miniver!). As with the BD, it could be made in either the Oxford or the Cambridge shape, but Cambridge became the norm.

There was also a two-year course for those who could not afford the full three-year one. From 1884, this was called the License in Divinity (LD). Holders wore the undergraduate gown, with a black stuff hood, lined with black stuff, and bound for 1" with white silk. This was always Cambridge shape. The LD was not awarded after about 1940, and in 1969 the hood was used for the DipTh, which was awarded until the College ceased clergy training in 1978.

The College currently awards a number of Licences (Theology, Religious Studies, Islamic Studies, Latin, Classical Greek): holders may wear the University of Wales BA gown, with the old Lampeter BD hood.


The university owns a sports hall with badminton and squash courts, and a multigym with weight training equipment. For outdoor sports, the University has tennis courts, a cricket field and facilities for football and rugby.

Lampeter has active Hockey, Soccer and Rugby football teams, all of whom play in the traditional college colours of black and gold.


Rugby was introduced to Lampeter by Vice-Principal Rowland Williams around 1850, and as such Lampeter Rugby Football Club can claim to be the oldest Rugby football team in Wales. The club was one of the founder members of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1881, but following trouble at a match against the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1933, were reprimanded from the union. The team continues to be one of the more successful sports team at Lampeter, however. The club's nicknames are Mad Pilgrims and Fighting Parsons, the latter reflecting Lampeter's history as a theological college.

The College Yell

Taken from the Student Handbook 1938-39, the College Yell was originally used at sporting and other competitive events. It has largely fallen into obscurity in recent years, though is occasionally resurrected by zealous students.

Hip Hip Hooray
Hip Hip Hooray
Hip Hip Hooray
Nawr Dewi. Nawr Dewi. Nawr Dewi.
Dy Blant. Dy Blant. Dy Blant.
Backshe Odinthorog. Backshe Odinthorog.
Niri Giri Wari. Niri Giri Wari.
Zey Zey Zey
Bing Bang Odin. Bing Bang Odin.
Io Dewi. Io Dewi. Io Dewi.
Dewi Sant. Dewi Sant. Dewi Sant.

Student life

The Students' Union at Lampeter is heavily involved in Student Life and entertainment. Three full time sabbatical officers and 10 non-sabbatical officers oversee student entertainment, welfare and childcare, as well as ensuring that the views of Lampeter students are represented on a national level, through affiliation with the National Union of Students.

Lampeter is over an hour away from the nearest city, and as such, many students find it difficult to adjust to rural life. As such, the union entertainments officer has to work tirelessly, organising events for students. The union building, purpose built on the banks of the Afon Dulas in 1996, contains a student bar and small club, which hosts various parties and live music events, and the university's film society shows films in the Arts Building hall. There is also a student newspaper 1822, which offers a satirical viewpoint on 'Lampeter life'.

Notable academics

Missing image
Reverend Professor Rowland Williams

Important Academics Past and Present:


Famous alumni include:

Academic departments

Defunct departments


  • D T W Price, A History of Saint David's University College, Lampeter, University of Wales Press, Cardiff. Volume One, to 1898 (ISBN 0-7083-0606-3) Volume Two 1898-1971 (ISBN 0-7083-1062-1).
  • D T W Price, Yr Esgob Burgess a Choleg Llanbedr: Bishop Burgess and Lampeter College, University of Wales Press, Cardiff (ISBN 0-7083-0965-8)
  • Nicholas Groves Academical robes of Saint David's College Lampeter (1822-1871), University of Wales, Lampeter Special Publications.

See also

External link

cy:Prifysgol Cymru, Llanbedr Pont Steffan no:University of Wales, Lampeter


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