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University passes 20-year challenge
Oxford Brookes University is top of the former polytechnics in the new edition of The Complete University Guide.
The news comes as the institution prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary as a university with the unveiling of a new portrait of the man after whom it was named, John Henry Brookes.
The portrait, by former Oxford School of Art student Anthony Morris, will go on display at the Mall Galleries, London, today until Friday, May 18.
Brookes, which started as the Oxford School of Art in 1865, has now been a university for nearly as long as it was a polytechnic.
It has been a school of art, a technical school, and a college of technology before it became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970, its title for 22 years.
It is ranked 45th out of all universities.
And vice-chancellor Prof Janet Beer said one of the things that had not changed over the decades was the link with the professions.
She said: “So many of our graduates are making a really substantial contribution to Oxford and Oxfordshire because many of them, for instance our nurses, go straight into the workforce here when they have finished.”
Other aspects have changed more dramatically.
The university is in the middle of a major £130m building project, set to finish in September 2013.
And, for the first time last year, the university brought in more than £10m in research grants and awards.
It is also in the top 10 in the UK in terms of its intellectual property – the licensing of discoveries Prof Beer said: “We make a very positive national contribution in a way perhaps we didn’t 20 years ago in terms of research, but also educating people to work all over the country and all over the world.”
While 25 per cent of Brookes students are from Oxfordshire, there are now people from 140 different countries studying at the university, which Prof Beer said would not have been the case 20 years ago.
She said: “For our students today, the term ‘new university’ means nothing to them. Some weren’t even born in 1992.”
Mr Morris’s portrait will eventually hang in Brookes’s new Abercrombie building when it is complete.
He offered to paint the picture of Mr Brookes after being contacted by fundraisers at the university.
He said: “I told them I always thought they could do with a good portrait of the founder.”
Mr Morris, 73, is from Headington Quarry originally and attended the Oxford School of Art for four years between 1954 and 1958, meeting Mr Brookes twice.
He is a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
The Oxford School of Art opened in 1865 in one room in the Taylor Institution in the city centre. Five years later the School of Science was incorporated, then in 1891 it was taken over by Oxford City Council’s technical instruction committee and renamed Oxford City Technical School. In 1934, Oxford City Technical School and the School of Art merged to form the Schools of Technology, Art and Commerce. It was scattered around 19 sites across the city until 1949 when a 25-acre home was found in Headington. In 1956, the institution became Oxford College of Technology and was officially opened at the completed site in Headington by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1963. The college became Oxford Polytechnic, above, in 1970, acquiring a new campus in Wheatley six years later when it amalgamated with Lady Spencer-Churchill teacher training college, then incorporating Oxford School of Nursing in 1988. It finally became Oxford Brookes University in 1992, with Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy becoming the latest institution to join forces with the new university. John Henry Brookes, the Northampton-born son of a bootmaker, became vice-principal of the Oxford City Technical School and head of the School of Art in 1928. His initiatives included introducing a school of architecture in 1929, and the principle of day release classes for employees. When the technical school and school of art merged in 1934, he was elected the first principal. The following year, Oxford University awarded him an honorary MA. He was heavily involved in the development of the institution until his retirement in 1956, campaigning for a single campus for the institution until finally persuading Oxford City Council to approve planning for the Headington site in 1952. He was awarded the OBE in 1953, and also served as a magistrate and chairman of the Oxford bench from 1960 to 1963.