The University of Buckingham (UB) is a non-profit, private university in the UK and the oldest of the country’s five private universities. It is located in Buckingham, England, and was founded as the University College at Buckingham (UCB) in 1973, admitting its first students in 1976. It was granted university status by royal charter in 1983. Buckingham offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees through five “schools” (or faculties) of study.
The university was closely linked to Margaret Thatcher, who as Education Secretary oversaw the creation of the university college in 1973, and as Prime Minister was instrumental in elevating it to a university in 1983 – thus creating the first private university in the UK. When she retired from politics in 1992, Margaret Thatcher became the university’s second chancellor, a post she held until 1998.
The university’s finances for teaching operate entirely on direct student fees and endowments: it does not receive state funding (via HEFCE or otherwise). It has formal charity status as a not-for-profit institution dedicated to the ends of research and education.
The university is a member of the Independent Universities Group, created in January 2015 by eight non-profit and for-profit institutions with degree-awarding powers and/or university title. The group’s aim is to be “the Russell Group of the alternative sector” and to dissociate its members from more “dodgy” for-profit colleges. The university is one of the twenty-six English universities with a School of Medicine, i.e. it trains doctors at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
The university was incorporated as the University College of Buckingham in 1976 and received its Royal Charter from the Queen in 1983. As of May 2016, it is the only private university in the UK with a royal charter.
Its development was influenced by the libertarian Institute of Economic Affairs, in particular, Harry Ferns and Ralph Harris, heads of the Institute. In keeping with its adherence to a libertarian philosophy, the university’s foundation-stone was laid by Margaret Thatcher, who was also to be the university’s Chancellor (nominal and ceremonial head) between 1993 and 1998.
The university’s first three Vice-Chancellors were Lord Beloff (1913–1999), former Gladstone Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford; Sir Alan Peacock, the economist, founder of the Economics department at the University of York, and Fellow of the British Academy; and Sir Richard Luce, now Lord Luce, the former Minister for the Arts.
Near the centre of the town of Buckingham is the riverside campus, which is partly contained within a south-turning bend of the River Great Ouse. Here, on or just off Hunter Street, are some of the university’s central buildings: Yeomanry House (which contains the reception and central administration); the Anthony de Rothchild building (which contains Business and Economics); the Humanities Library; and also some of the student accommodation, looking northwards across the river. Prebend House, a recently restored Georgian house, contains parts of the department of Politics and also Economics.
Further on, up the hill, on the London Road, is another element of the campus, in particular the School of Law, which is housed in the Franciscan Building, surrounded by other student accommodation blocks. This is opposite the swimming pool and leisure centre. The university has been expanding in recent years. It has acquired a new site on the west side of the river, which will increase the capacity of the river-side campus as a whole.
The Department of Education has two aspects, research and vocational: it conducts research into education and school provision, and also maintains various PGCE courses for teacher training. The Department of Education has been home to some of the most prominent educationalists in Britain, including the late Chris Woodhead (former head of Ofsted) and Anthony O’Hear (director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy). Its postgraduate certificate in education – which deals with both the state and the independent sector – is accredited with Qualified Teacher Status which means that it also qualifies graduates to teach in the state sector.
The university offers traditional degrees over a shorter than usual time-frame. Students at Buckingham study for eight terms over two years, rather than nine terms over three, which (with extra teaching) fits a three-year degree into two years. (The MBChB course lasts 4.5 years.) From September 2009, tuition fees for full-time UK and EU undergraduatestudents have been £8,040 per year for these two-year bachelor’s degree programmes. For non-EU students, fees are equivalent to £13,500 p.a. Because Buckingham’s degrees take two years to complete, the university views its courses as cost-effective compared to other UK university courses, once living expenses and the income from an extra year’s employment are taken into account. In some subject areas, notably Humanities, the university is now offering its degrees over different time-scales, i.e., the 2-year ‘intensive’ model, working the extra summer term per year, and the traditional 3-year model with the usual summer break each year.
The Humanities Research Institute includes academics working in a range of disciplines, particularly military history, security studies, political history, the history of art, 19th-century literature and social history.
Alan Smithers runs the Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER), from within the School of Humanities.
From the English department, John Drew runs Dickens Journals Online, the project which has put the whole of Dickens’s journalistic output on free-access on the web.
Anthony Glees is Director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies
The University of Buckingham Press publishes in the areas of law, education, and business through its journal articles, books, reports and other material. In 2006 the press relaunched The Denning Law Journal and it is now available in print and its whole archive is online.
It also publishes three other journals: The Buckingham Journal of Language and Linguistics, The Journal of Prediction Markets, and The Journal of Gambling Business and Economics. It has a co-publishing arrangement with Policy Exchange for its Foundations series.