Timeline - our history at a glance

Early years

  • 1865

    Oxford School of Art founded

    Oxford Brookes University begins life as the Oxford School of Art, occupying one room on the ground floor of the Taylor Institution in the city centre.

  • 1870

    School of Science incorporated

    The School begins offering a wide range of scientific and technical subjects and evening classes in the University Museum.

  • 1871

    The Taylor Institution

    School moves into the basement in the Taylor Institution, to make way for what is now the Ruskin School of Art.

  • 1888

    New chemistry laboratory

    Provided at Wesleyan School.

  • 1891

    Oxford City Technical School

    Pupils of Oxford City Technical SchoolThe School is taken over by Oxford City Council’s Technical Instruction Committee and renamed Oxford City Technical School.

  • 1894

    St Ebbe's site is opened

    Used mainly for evening classes, but also as a day school.

  • 1899

    Rapid growth

    School's rapid growth leads to the site being declared inadequate by the Department of Science and Art. Expansion of the site is forbidden - but the School remains here for another 50 years!

The John Henry Brookes years

  • 1928

    John Henry Brookes

    John Henry BrookesJohn Henry Brookes becomes Vice-Principal of the Oxford City Technical School and Head of the School of Art. At this point, the School is scattered over 19 sites around the city. Over the next 30 years he exerts a powerful influence on the development of the institution. He is committed, throughout his life, to the goal of making education available to all.

  • 1929

    Training courses for architects are introduced within the School of Art.

  • 1931

    Visiting lecturers include Kenneth Clark, Noel Carrington and Clough Williams-Ellis.

  • 1934

    Technical School and School of Art merge

    Formation of the Schools of Technology, Art and Commerce. John Henry Brookes is elected the first Principal.

  • 1943

    City Technical College?

    It is envisaged that the institution can be transformed into a City Technical College. Negotiations begin for suitable site.

  • 1949

    A new location

    A 25-acre site is secured on Headington Hill.

  • 1950

    Planning permission rejected

    Despite Ministry of Education setting aside £250,000 for first phase of the new technical college's development, City Council rejects plans. Amidst public outcry, public campaign is launched by Kenneth Wheare, Oxford University's Gladstone Professor of Government.

    "...most local authorities make some curious decisions in their time, but we cannot recall one so astonishing as the City Council's flat rejection...of the proposed College. It seems almost impossible that such a thing could happen in Oxford, which should be in the forefront of educational matters..." - Oxford Times leader, 22 September 1950

  • 1952

    Move to Headington

    Proposals for new technical college are approved by City Council. Name of institution is changed to College of Technology, Art and Commerce.

  • 1953

    John Brookes awarded OBE

  • 1955

    Move to Headington

    Lord Nuffield lays the foundation stone. John Henry Brookes refers to the move to Headington as 'setting foot in the Promised Land'.

  • 1956

    Oxford College of Technology

    John Henry Brookes retires. The institution is renamed yet again, becoming the Oxford College of Technology.

  • 1960

    First student residence, Cotuit Hall, opened

  • 1963

    Official opening

    HRH the Duke of EdinburghHRH The Duke of Edinburgh visits the newly completed site at Headington to preside at its official opening.

  • 1967


    Government announces firm proposals for the development of 29 polytechnics, including one in Oxford.

Oxford Polytechnic

  • 1970

    Oxford Polytechnic

    Oxford PolytechnicThe Oxford College of Technology becomes Oxford Polytechnic.

  • 1974

    Control of Polytechnic passes to Oxfordshire County Council

  • 1975

    John Henry Brookes dies

  • 1976

    Wheatley campus

    Oxford Polytechnic acquires a new campus at Wheatley, just outside the city centre, when it amalgamates with Lady Spencer-Churchill teacher training college.

  • 1988

    Oxford Polytechnic incorporates the Oxford School of Nursing

    It becomes one of first polytechnics to achieve accredited status from the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA)

  • 1989


    Polytechnic becomes independent statutory corporation and ceases to be maintained by Oxfordshire County Council.

  • 1991

    Oxford Polytechnic becomes one of first allowed to confer degrees on behalf of the CNAA

  • 1991

    Government announces creation of universities from polytechnics

Oxford Brookes University

  • 1992

    Oxford Brookes University

    Unveiling the new nameOxford Polytechnic becomes a university under government legislation, and decides to honour its founding Principal, John Brookes, in its new title. Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy in Oxford also becomes part of the new institution.

  • 1992

    Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy becomes part of Oxford Polytechnic

  • 1993

    Headington Hill Hall

    Princess of Wales with studentsOxford Brookes University acquires the 14-acre Headington Hill Hall site, formerly home to media tycoon Robert Maxwell and Pergamon Press.

    Princess of Wales visits the University as part of the celebrations to mark its new status.

  • 1994

    First Chancellor

    Chancellor Baroness Helena Kennedy QCThe University elects Baroness Helena Kennedy QC as its first Chancellor, and moves into Headington Hill Hall.

    Opening of Warneford Hall increases hall of residence places to over 2,000.

  • 1994


    The Oxford Institute of Legal Practice (OILP), a joint venture with Oxford University, received its first students.

  • 1995

    Centre for Sport opens

    The University opens a new £1.3million Centre for Sport, with a fitness suite, climbing wall, and sports hall.

    Brookes wins three Partnership Awards, the prestigious national prizes celebrating innovation in teaching and learning.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu visits the University.

  • 1996

    Student Centre opens

    A new Student Centre on the Headington Hill site.

  • 1996


    Brookes judged top new university in the influential league table published by the national newspaper The Times.

    Brookes wins three Partnership Awards, the prestigious national prizes celebrating innovation in teaching and learning.

  • 1996

    New Arts Building

    School of Art, Publishing and Music moves in to newly refurbished building on Headington Hill Campus named Richard Hamilton Building in honour of founding father of Pop Art movement.

  • 1997-8

    Professor Graham Upton is appointed Vice-Chancellor in 1997, taking over from Professor Clive Booth.

    Brookes judged top new university for the second year running by The Times.

    New research centre opened, providing a central resource for research students.

    Brookes awarded Lottery funding to develop a new football pitch at Wheatley Campus.

    HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visits Brookes to see undergraduates at work in the automotive engineering laboratory.

  • 1999

    Paul Kent Hall

    New halls of residence opened, named in honour of former governor Dr Paul Kent and built on the site of former military barracks in Headington.

  • 1999

    Brookes restaurant first opens

    A new training restaurant opens for students of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

    Brookes judged top new university for the fourth year running by The Times.

    The men's VIII rowing team crowned British University Sports Association champions for the eighth successive year.

  • 2000

    Westminster Institute of Education

    Oxford Brookes University merges with Westminster College to create the new Westminster Institute of Education.

  • 2000

    The University hosts Venturefest, Oxford's education, innovation and business showcase.

    The Centre for Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism was officially launched one of 24 Government funded centres promoting high quality teaching

    Three Brookes rowers win Olympic gold medals, Rowley Douglas, Ben Hunt-Davis and Fred Scarlett, who were also awarded MBEs.

    Royal Literary Fund appoint one of its Fellows, Poet Mario Petrucci, to take up residence at Brookes as part of the Fellowship Scheme for Writers in Higher and Further Education.

  • 2001

    A new Chancellor, and a Queen’s Anniversary Prize

    Chancellor Jon SnowOxford Brookes appoints Jon Snow, the award-winning journalist and Channel 4 News presenter, as its new Chancellor. Brookes also wins 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.

  • 2001

    Improved rankings

    Brookes joins elite top 50 universities in The Times Good University Guide for the first time, and is top new university for the sixth year running.

    New state-of-the-art Media Centre opened housing the reprographics unit, communications and graphics teams.

  • 2002

    Top new university for 7th year in a row in The Times league tables.

    The School of Architecture celebrates its 75th anniversary.

  • 2003

    New student accommodation

    The first phase of a new hall of residence in Marston Road opens, named Clive Booth Hall after our former Vice-Chancellor. This is followed by Cheney Student Village, a 750-room hall of residence.

    Brookes purchases the former Milham Ford School in Marston to relocate the School of Health and Social Care on one site.

  • 2004


    The University's first research institute, the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development is launched, to be followed by a number of other institutes.

  • 2004

    New halls and Boat House

    Cheney Student Village, a new 750-room hall of residence, opened.

    Opening of the Cholsey Boat House for the highly-rated Oxford Brookes rowing team.

  • 2005

    School of Health and Social Care

    The School of Health and Social Care's new building in Marston Road is opened by HRH the Princess Royal, providing a dedicated centre for professional health and social care education.

    Oxford Brookes Business School opens a Postgraduate Centre.

  • 2006

    A new research building

    Jon Snow opens the Buckley Building, a dedicated space for the University's thriving research community.

    The School of Technology moves to the Wheatley Campus. A new three storey, steel frame and concrete building, houses new lecture theatres and classrooms together with workshops and laboratories for the Departments of Mechanical and Electronic Engineering and the new Motorsport Engineering Centre.

  • 2006

    Campus redevelopment planned

    Extensive public consultations are held on plans for major redevelopments of both Wheatley and Headington campuses.

  • 2007

    New facilities at Wheatley Campus

    The University opens 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 are officially opened by David Richards CBE, Chairman of Prodrive and new owner of Aston Martin, and Chancellor Jon Snow respectively.

  • 2007

    Environmental and conservation awards

    Oxford Brookes is awarded fifth place in a new environmental league table of universities and receives a first class rating for its environmental credentials, as well as a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its world-class MSc in Primate Conservation.

  • 2007

    Change of Vice-Chancellor

    Professor Graham Upton retires as Vice-Chancellor in August. His successor, Professor Janet Beer, is inaugurated in September.

  • 2008

    Shami Chakrabarti appointed Chancellor

    In July Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and respected human rights campaigner, replaces Jon Snow as Chancellor of the University.

  • 2009

    Further awards

    Oxford Brookes is named the UK’s best post-1992 university for the ninth year running in The Sunday Times’ University Guide and also becomes the first university to win a Gold EcoCampus award in recognition of its approach to sustainability.

  • 2010

    10 years as best new university

    Oxford Brookes is named the UK’s best post-1992 university for the tenth year running in The Sunday Times’ University Guide.

  • 2014

    150th Annniversary celebrations

    Oxford Brookes begins a year of events to celebrate our roots in 1865.

  • 2015

    New Vice-Chancellor

    In January, Vice-Chancellor Professor Janet Beer is succeeded by Professor Alistair Fitt.

  • 2015

    New Chancellor

    In March, Dr Katherine Grainger CBE, British rower and Olympic 2012 gold medalist, replaces Shami Chakrabarti as Chancellor of the University.

  • 22 May 2015

    Oxford Brookes’ Anniversary

    Held at the Taylor Institution, where the Oxford School of Art was first based, Oxford Brookes’ official birthday celebrations centred on a special performance by Flintlock Theatre. Written by Anna Glynn, Educating Oxford told the story of Oxford Brookes beginning with its origins, the development of the institution and the people who were the driving force behind the institution flourishing into the internationally renowned University it is today.

  • 2016

    World's top 200 international universities

    Oxford Brookes is named in the world's top 200 international universities by Times Higher Education.

  • 2016

    Swindon Campus

    The University opens the new Swindon Campus increasing its higher education provision in the town.

  • 2017

    Rowing success

    Oxford Brookes became the number one rowing university in the UK after winning a record haul of medals at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta 2017. They won 41 Gold, 51 Silver and 31 Bronze medals.

  • 2017

    Top university under 50

    Oxford Brookes was the only UK university in the QS ranking of top 50 institutions under 50 years old QS World University Rankings Top 50 Under 50 2018.

  • 2017

    New state of the art lab facilities

    The University celebrated the opening of new laboratory facilities for Biological and Medical Sciences in the refurbished Sinclair building.

Towards the future