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After spending the last 150 years building not only an educational but a cultural centre in the heart of Southampton, the University of Southampton has a lot to offer to both visitors and students. If you have the pleasure of visiting any of its seven campuses, here’s everything you need to know.
Founded in October 1862, the University of Southampton first began as a small school of 700 students called The Hartley Institution. In 1902 the institution was renamed Hartley University College to mark its change from part-time to full-time education. Almost 100 years after its founding, the university received a royal charter that allowed it to award degrees to its students and finally renamed itself the University of Southampton. It now has over 20,000 students and seven campuses across Southampton and Winchester.
The School of Art campus in Winchester has a interesting history begun in Wolvesey Palace in 1870. Home to the bishop of Winchester, it’s assumed that rooms in the palace were assigned to drawing, painting and carving classes. While this particular site isn’t open to the public, the neighbouring castle on the property is, and with its close proximity to Winchester Abbey, it’s an easy destination to visit. The school spent around 90 years looking for a permanent home until 1962, when it completed construction of a purpose-built art school on the condition that it be designed to serve as a hospital during times of war.
Looking to the future, the university is expecting to open the U.K.’s first cancer immunology centre this summer. The University of Southampton conducts research in several fields including cancer research, Alzheimers onset, saving coral reefs, sustainability, and even black holes. Much of its research has found success and moved to clinical trials, making a real difference in the medical world.
Hartley Library is the biggest university library in the south of England. Home to more than 1.5 million books, you definitely won’t be running out of reading material here. In its 2004 renovation, the library opened a special collections gallery that, like Southampton’s other galleries, can be visited by anyone, although non-students will have to book an appointment first. This gallery has a number of rare titles and manuscripts and runs around four exhibitions a year on topics like the Duke of Wellington, the partitioning of India and the history of the University itself.
One of Southampton’s proudest establishments is the Turner Sims Concert Hall. Situated in the university’s Highfield campus, the venue hosts over 70 live concerts a year ranging in genre from jazz to folk music. It boasts a 350-seat auditorium and is recognised as one of the best music venues in the country. It even holds silent film nights.
The Nuffield Theatre was opened by the university in 1964 and has gone on to produce a series of award-winning shows that have toured as far as Dubai. Tickets range from £10-£30 ($14-$45), so there’s something for every budget. Students can also get involved in the Showstoppers Society on campus, which runs regular productions in The Annex Theatre next door and has been three times nominated for Best Society in the student union in the last 10 years. If movies are more your thing, the university’s got that covered too. Union films run the most popular movies of the month at discounted student rates.
Every University of Southampton bucket list will tell you the same: Karaoke at The Stags is a must-have experience. Held in the union bar every Thursday, karaoke is a great way for students to de-stress and can even be completely free if you’re not tempted by the great deals on cocktails and drinks. Be warned, the queue forms fast and can be up to two hours long, so make sure you get there early!
Tucked behind the students union, the Valley Garden is a hidden gem on campus. Although most students know about the garden, it still remains a quiet haven to study or have lunch in during the summer months. The garden reflects the beauty of the rest of Highfield campus, but its out-of-the-way location makes it a much more serene destination.
This article was written in association with Wessex Scene, a student publication based at the University of Southampton.