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John Henry Brookes
Oxford Brookes University began life as the Oxford School of Art in 1865, when it occupied one room on the ground floor of the Taylor Institution in the centre of the city. Five years later the School of Science was incorporated, offering a wide range of scientific and technical subjects and evening classes in the University Museum. In 1891, the School was taken over by Oxford City Council’s Technical Instruction Committee and renamed Oxford City Technical School.
Oxford City Technical School
John Henry Brookes became Vice-Principal of the Oxford City Technical School and Head of the School of Art in 1928 and over the next 30 years he exerted a powerful influence on the development of the institution. He was committed, throughout his life, to the goal of making education available to all. When he was appointed, the School was scattered over 19 sites around the city. In 1949, a 25-acre site was secured in Headington and Lord Nuffield laid the foundation stone six years later. Brookes referred to the move to Headington as 'setting foot in the Promised Land'.
Oxford College of Technology
After his retirement in 1956, the institution was renamed yet again, becoming the Oxford College of Technology. In 1963, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the newly completed site at Headington to preside at its official opening. Four years later, the Government announced its decision to create polytechnics, and the Oxford College of Technology became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970. Six years later, it acquired a new campus at Wheatley, just outside the city centre, when it amalgamated with Lady Spencer-Churchill teacher training college, and in 1988 it incorporated the Oxford School of Nursing.
From Oxford Polytechnic to Oxford Brookes University
Oxford Polytechnic became a university in 1992 under government legislation and decided to honour its founding Principal, John Brookes, in its new title. Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy in Oxford also became part of the new institution. In 1993, Oxford Brookes University acquired the 14-acre Headington Hill Hall site, formerly home to media tycoon Robert Maxwell. The following year, the University elected Baroness Helena Kennedy QC as its first Chancellor.
Growth and expansion
In 1995, the University opened a new £1.3million Centre for Sport, with a fitness suite, climbing wall, and sports hall. This was followed by a new Student Centre on the Headington Hill site a year later, and a new training restaurant for students of Hotel and Restaurant Management in 1999. Professor Graham Upton was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 1997, taking over from Professor Clive Booth.
In 2000, Oxford Brookes University merged with Westminster College to create the new Westminster Institute of Education. In 2001, the University appointed Jon Snow, the award-winning journalist and Channel 4 News presenter, as its new Chancellor on the retirement of Baroness Kennedy QC. Brookes also won the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its MSc course in Development Practice, a pioneering course run by the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice for humanitarian professionals who work with victims of war, disaster and urban poverty around the world.
In 2003 the first phase of a new hall of residence in Marston Road was opened, named Clive Booth Hall after our former Vice-Chancellor. This was followed in 2003 by Cheney Student Village, a 750-room hall of residence. The following year, the University's first research institute, the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development was launched, and since then a number of other institutes have opened. In 2005 Jon Snow opened the Buckley Building, a dedicated space for the University's thriving research community.
Towards the future
Extensive public consultations were held in 2006 on plans for major redevelopments of both Wheatley and Headington campuses, preparatory work for which is now underway.
In 2007 the University opened two new buildings, a state-of the-art facility dedicated to engineering and housing Brookes’ Motorsport Engineering Centre, and the Simon Williams Undergraduate Centre, an exciting social space, providing an alternative to lecture halls, libraries and study bedrooms. The buildings were officially opened by David Richards CBE, Chairman of Prodrive and new owner of Aston Martin, and Chancellor Jon Snow respectively.
2007 also saw Oxford Brookes awarded fifth place in a new environmental league table of universities and receive a first class rating for its environmental credentials, as well as a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its world-class MSc in Primate Conservation.
In August 2007 Professor Graham Upton retired as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes, and his successor, Professor Janet Beer, was inaugurated in September.
In July 2008 Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and respected human rights campaigner, replaced Jon Snow as Chancellor of the University.
In September 2010 Oxford Brookes was named the UK’s best post-1992 university for the tenth year running in The Sunday Times’ University Guide.
In January 2015 Vice-Chancellor Professor Janet Beer was succeeded by Professor Alistair Fitt, former Pro Vice-Chancellor for research and knowledge exchange at the University. His inauguration will take place in June 2015.