Birmingham University

This is an unusual post as it deals with a place of education, but of a very extraordinary type. It was founded in 1900 by Joseph Chamberlain as a  new model of higher education, the first of what became known as ‘red brick’ universities.  It was the first to have its own campus, with purpose built buildings, a really impressive collection, like a toned down Portmeiron. It was the first to be civic rather than religious, so admitted students of any faith, or of none, after centuries of institutions founded by wealthy benefactors to train men mostly as clerics, lawyers and doctors.  It also had a female hall of residence and a purpose built students’ union

I visited to see an exhibition at the Barber Institute of Art, built in 1932 which has one of the best collections of art, from classics to modern, and it is free. You just have to get to the campus at Edgbaston, about ten minutes by train from the centre of Birmingham. It has an auditorium for concerts, and a library for students.

There is also an impressive amount of public art scattered about the campus, though I only got this one.


It is also associated with some very impressive names in their fields.


This is all rather extraordinary bearing in mind that compulsory education was only introduced in 1880 for children between the ages of five to ten. Most of the country still went to work at the age of fourteen.


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