• 1900

    The University of Birmingham was established by its first Chancellor Joseph Chamberlain. The University received a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria and was created as the UK’s first civic or 'redbrick' university.

  • 1901

    Birmingham Business School was established, the first of its kind in the UK.

  • 1905

    Sir Edward Elgar (MA Combined Arts, 1907) was appointed Peyton Professor of Music.

  • 1908

    One of the first diplomas in social studies in the UK was established at the University.

  • 1909

    The first phase of building work on the campus was completed under the auspices of the esteemed architect Sir Aston Webb; including the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, which today is affectionately known as ‘Old Joe’. The University was officially opened by King Edward VII.

    We need your help! We would like to know what age ‘Joe’ was when he became ‘Old Joe’ – let us know by sending us your name, your year of graduation and what you called our beloved clock tower.

  • 1914

    The Great Hall in the Aston Webb Building was used as a hospital throughout World War I, with 520 beds, and treated 125,000 injured servicemen.

  • 1922

    Alumnus Francis Aston (BSc Applied/Pure Science, 1910; DSc Applied/Pure Science, 1914) won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

  • 1932

    ​The Guild of Students was built – the first ever purpose-built base for student representation.

  • 1937

    Sir Norman Haworth (MSc Applied/Pure Science, 1926), then the University’s Director of the Department of Chemistry, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. And Lord Robert Cecil, the then Chancellor of the University, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • 1939

    ​The Barber Institute of Fine Art was opened following a bequest from Lady Barber.

  • 1946

    ​The University became the first in the UK to offer a sports-based degree.

  • 1951

    Air Vice-Marshal Peter Collins, CB, AFC (BA History, 1951)

    I joined the University’s Air Squadron in my first year and was called up into the Royal Air Force (RAF) on National Service after graduation. After several years as a fast jet fighter pilot I was part of a small team which introduced the supersonic English Electric Lightning aircraft into RAF Fighter Command in 1960. In 2008, as President of No 11 Squadron Association, I flew in the Eurofighter Typhoon and pulled 6g (g-force) at the age of 78. I am, of course, long retired.

  • 1951

    ​The Shakespeare Institute was founded in Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Discover more about the work of the Shakespeare Institute.

  • 1952

    Dr John A. Vickers (BA Theology, 1952; BD Theology, 1964)

    After 14 years in teaching and another 14 years in teacher training the opportunity to take early retirement was too good to refuse and enabled me to devote my leisure to research, writing, editing and indexing. In 1970 I was appointed indexer to the Oxford edition of the Works of John Wesley and in 1976 my index to the first volume in the series was awarded the Wheatley Medal. In 2010 I was presented with a Festschrift in recognition of my contribution to British Methodist studies.

  • 1957

    Robert Bolt (BA Geography, 1957)

    I have worked for BEA and British Airways; for part of that time I was Manager Operations and Maintenance Planning. My career highlights include providing a B747 air bridge for HM Forces between RAF Brize Norton and Mount Pleasant in the Falklands at very short notice, rescheduling to accommodate loss of a B747 in Kuwait at the start of the first Gulf War and on a lighter side providing two aircraft for filming a short bit of A Fish Called Wanda starring John Cleese and Michael Palin.

  • 1960

    Janet Beat (MA Music, 1960)

    In 2015 my Sonata no. 3 for violin and piano was published by Furore Verlag, Kassel and I signed a contract with Trunk Records for the release of an album. My six movements, Atelier, for Wind Quintet will be released on CD and its premiere will take place in Nuremberg in 2016.

  • 1960

    Sir Peter Medawar (Hon DSc, 1961), at the time the University’s Professor of Zoology, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

  • 1961

    Dr Waleed Jazrawi (BSc Petroleum Production Engineering, 1961; PhD Chemical Engineering, 1965)

    I returned to campus in the summer of 2015 for a golden anniversary celebration with my fellow alumni from the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. I was honoured to be asked to give a short speech reflecting on my time at the University and how it equipped me for life post-graduation, and was delighted to meet again with many of my Birmingham colleagues.

  • 1962

    ​Alumnus Maurice Wilkins (PhD Physics, 1940; Hon DSc, 1992) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

  • 1965

    ​Malcolm X, the American human rights activist, addressed the University’s Debating Society.

  • 1968

    Dr Maurice Yacowar (PhD English, 1968)

    On my return to Canada, my academic career shifted from Elizabethan fiction to film and popular culture studies. I published more than 20 books, including comic novels, a poetry chapbook, and critical studies of Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Paul Morrissey, The Sopranos TV show, and the British artist and novelist John Bratby. I've been in blissful retirement since 2006 and do instant film analysis on my blog.

  • 1969

    Father David Sutton (BA Theology, 1969)

    After completing my degree I studied for the Anglican priesthood at St Stephen's House in Oxford. While there I was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Oxford. In 2007 I was invited to become the Chaplaincy/Spiritual Care Co-ordinator for my Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Trust and now lead a team of chaplains, Christian and Muslim, serving diverse sites in the three metropolitan districts of Bolton, Salford and Trafford. In 2015 I was awarded a MA in Social and Health Care Chaplaincy with Merit from Leeds Beckett University.

  • 1971

    Dr John Haine (BSc Electronic and Electrical Engineering, 1971)

    I have spent my career in radio finding the basic engineering skills developed in my course relevant throughout. I recently retired from full time employment and since spring 2015 I have been a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol and I am also chair of the recently formed Internet of Things (IoT ) Security Forum, which was set up to promote best practice to make the IoT safe to connect to.

  • 1975

    ​Tim Curry (BA Drama and Theatre Studies, 1968) appeared as Dr Frank-N-Furter in iconic cult-film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  • 1978

    ​The University train station opened; it remains the only train station located on a UK university campus.

  • 1980

    Frankie Yick (MSc Industrial Management, 1980)

    Since graduation, I have enjoyed a varied career in manufacturing, transport logistics and most recently politics. I am currently working to maintain the status of Hong Kong’s public transport system as one of the world-leading networks.

  • 1985

    Professor Richard Handy (BSc Biological Science, 1985)

    I am a member of the European Nanosafety Cluster, and am part of a scientific community that is studying the safety, risks and benefits of nanomaterials and their application (nanotechnology). My recent novel, The Reich Device, gives a cautionary tale of an alternative history where Nazi Germany evolved three avenues of new technology: the atom bomb, rockets, and nanotechnology – and decided to go with nano with some dire consequences.

  • 1990

    ​Alumnus Sir John Vane (BSc Chemistry, 1947; Hon DSc, 1984) won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

  • 1991

    Dr Gail Ashton (MA Chaucer Studies, 1991; PhD Medieval Literature, 1996)

    Currently hiding out in East Cheshire I still miss my home city Birmingham and its university where I was a Teaching Fellow before moving to lecture in English Literature at Manchester. Since 2006 I have been writing, editing and teaching creative writing full time. I'm delighted to have two books out this year, one on medieval afterlives and another creative non- fiction book. You can find out more via my blog.

  • 1991

    Andrew Rumbold (BA Medieval and Modern History, 1991)

    After graduating from the University, I decided to spend six months in northern Spain, but stayed for four and a half years. I’m now back in England, teaching English and Spanish at a school in Surrey and working on my second novel. My first novel The Last Fiesta, which is set in northern Spain, was shortlisted for the Long Barn Books First Novel Award.

  • 1994

    Alistair Clarke (BA Geography, 1994)

    I set up eConnect cars - a private hire vehicle service in London using only electric cars. Having spent time in large corporates, I decided to take a risk and set up a new business that could really make a difference. I am married to fellow Birmingham graduate Sarah Clarke (BA Economics with French, 1995).

  • 1997

    ​Baroness Valerie Amos (MA Cultural Studies, 1977; Hon LLD, 2008) was made a life peer in the House of Lords.

  • 2000

    ​The University celebrated its centenary, with Her Majesty The Queen visiting campus.

  • 2000

    ​Paul Manning (BSc Geology, 1996) won a bronze medal in the cycling team pursuit at the Sydney Olympics. He would go on to win a silver medal at the 2004 Games in Athens and retired as a gold medallist following the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

  • 2001

    ​Alumnus Sir Paul Nurse (BSc Biology, 1970; Hon DSc, 1998) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

  • 2005

    Lucy Beveridge (MA Shakespeare, Stratford and the Cultural History of Renaissance England, 2005)

    I am working on a series of textile and wallpaper designs; inspired by period styles of the 13th to 19th centuries. Pictured is an example Chinoiserie.

    © Lucy Beveridge

  • 2005

    Sen Du (BCom Commerce, 2005; MSc Economics, 2006; MSc Investments, 2007; PhD Geography and Environmental Science, 2014)

    I represented the University at the British Council Education UK Awards as a finalist in the Professional Achievement Category. I am President of MSP/DRILEX, a leading Shanghai-based oil and gas equipment manufacturer with more than a thousand employees.

  • 2007

    ​Alumnus Professor Peter Bullock (BA Geography, 1958) won the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • 2010

    Ebenezer Amankwah (MSc Marketing Communications, 2010)

    In 2015 my first book launched at the British Council in Ghana, AHEAD OF THE GAME: Afare Donkor and Ghana's Financial Renaissance.

  • 2010

    ​A televised Prime Ministerial Debate was held in the Great Hall.

  • 2010

    Winterbourne House and Garden opened to the public as a Grade II listed visitor attraction.



  • 2012

    ​Hannah England (BSc Biochemistry, 2009), James Fair (BSc Geology and Geography, 2003), Naomi Folkard (BA Music, 2005), Louise Hazel (BA French Studies, 2008), and Lindsey Maguire (BSc Mathematics and Psychology, 2002) all competed for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics.

    Read more about one of Team GB's competitors for this year's Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and alumna Ciara Horne.

  • 2012

    ​The Bramall Music Building opened, finally completing Joseph Chamberlain’s original architectural vision for the Aston Webb semi-circle.

  • 2013

    Sarah Butler (BSc Geography, 2013)

    After graduation I went on to further study and I am now working at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO) in Rome. I loved my time at Birmingham; the skills and knowledge I gained has helped me achieve my current position and contribute to international conferences and publications here at the UN FAO.

  • 2013

    ​The University was named University of the Year 2013-14 in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide.

  • 2014

    Philippa Hornsby (MEng Mechanical Engineering, 2014)

    I undertook a second masters in Product Design at Manchester School of Art, to refine my art-led design work. I was chosen by international design magazine Wallpaper to feature in their Graduate Design Directory 2016. Though the nature of my work changed from my MEng to my MA, I attribute my functional design style to my undergraduate in engineering, and would not be able to produce the work I do now without the knowledge I gained at the University of Birmingham.

  • 2014

    Megan Lawton (BA Drama and English, 2014)

    Since graduation I have completed an MA in Broadcast Journalism and now work freelance for BBC RAW. BBC RAW is an online platform that gives racially and socially diverse filmmakers the chance to show their work. The channel recently launched my film which explores sexual harassment on public transport and the need for women only carriages.

  • 2015

    ​The Circles of Influence campaign closed, having raised £193.4 million, thanks to generous alumni and friends.

  • 2015

    The University of Birmingham School, the first secondary university training school in the country, opened in Selly Oak.

  • 2015

    ​Her Majesty The Queen unveiled a commemorative plaque at an official ceremony at the new Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry at Pebble Mill, Edgbaston.

  • 2016

    ​An international team of scientists, including academics from the University, announced the detection of gravitational waves, a landmark finding that confirmed one of Einstein’s most significant predictions in his theory of relativity.

What’s your story? We would love to hear what you have been up to since graduating and will share it in our next edition of Old Joe.

Send us your story via this form.

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