1892 Thomas Harper Adams bequeathes estate
1901 Harper Adams College opened
1901-22 Hedworth Foulkes principal
1909 Specialist poultry husbandry department created
1915 Wartime farm work courses for women
1916 Women enrol on full-time courses
1920 National Poultry Council established
1922-44 Charles Crowther principal
1926 National Institute of Poultry Husbandry(NIPH) established
1946-62 Bill Price principal
1951 Jubilee Hostel opened
1960s Queen Mother Hall (QMH), Bradford and Ward Halls opened
1962-77 Reginald Kenney principal
1969 First HND students enrolled
1977-94 Tony Harris principal
1981 Degree courses introduced
1989 First PhD awarded
1996 Degree awarding powers granted
1996-2009 Prof. Wynne Jones principal
1998 University College title
2003 Bamford Library opened
2004 HRH The Princess Royal visits
2006 Research degree awarding powers granted
2009-Present Dr David Llewellyn principal
2009 HRH The Princess Royal offically opens the RFA
2010 Nick Herbert MP officially opens the Postgraduate and Professional Development Centre
2012 Awarded full university title

Thomas Harper Adams was a wealthy Shropshire gentleman farmer. On his death in 1892 he bequeathed his considerable estate 'for the purpose of teaching practical and theoretical agriculture'. The marriage of the developing science of agriculture to the practice of farming was seen by an increasing number of people as the only solution to the agricultural depression. The 1890s saw substantial financial support for agricultural education and several colleges and university departments specializing in agriculture made their appearance at this time. Harper Adams Agricultural College, however, was the first institution of its kind to be financed by private bequest. The Foundation was set up with the sum of £45,496.


The College opened to six students in April 1901. The College consisted of the state-of-the-art Main Building with the significant feature of its own farm on its doorstep, 178 acres (0.72 km2) of Harper Adams land, along with the family farmhouse, Ancellor House. In these early years the College, under the principalship of Hedworth Foulkes (1901-22), offered certificate courses very much of a practical nature. A College Diploma of a more scientific nature was also on offer, but the National Diploma in Agriculture had less appeal, being considered by many as too theoretical. Although the College sought to educate the sons of the smaller and tenant farmer groups, students tended to come from the wealthier farming and professional backgrounds. Only men were admitted.

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The Early 20th Century

Harper Adams remained open throughout the First World War, fulfilling important duties such as the training of disabled soldiers, primarily in poultry husbandry. A specialist department had been created in 1909 and the egg laying trials, which started in 1912, earned the College a wide following. In April 1915 the College was significantly the first institution to provide courses for women in wartime farm work. In 1916, for the first time women enrolled at Harper Adams on full-time courses and were to remain until after the Second World War when priority of places went to discharged men. The College was also instrumental in providing a wide range of wartime services, such as courses in tractor driving.

After the First World War the fortunes of the College struggled to revive amid the agricultural depression of the 1920s and 1930s, despite the work of Principal Charles Crowther (1922-1944). Student numbers dipped dangerously low, with just forty-eight students in 1925-26. The difficulties facing farming at this time did, however, strengthen support for the Advisory Services and the number of advisers at the College and the range of work that they undertook expanded dramatically. By the late 1930s the College was bursting at the seams, with every available space utilized.

Another area of growth was poultry husbandry. The College had been instrumental in encouraging national developments, with the establishment of the National Poultry Council in 1920. This in turn resulted in the creation of the National Institute of Poultry Husbandry, the leading section concerned with education, being opened at the College in 1926. From the 1920s the NIPH had a high profile in areas of research and teaching.

Despite initial fears of enforced closure and temporary use by the Women's Land Army, the College remained open for both agricultural and poultry courses throughout the Second World War. By 1943-44 the College had run into problems of over demand (farming and being a student were both reserved occupations at this time). Strict rules as regards deferment led to a general raising of entry requirements and a subsequent demand for higher qualifications. Larger numbers of students enrolled on diploma and degree courses. At the close of the war the appearance of the Loveday Report led to a clear stratification being given to agricultural education. Henceforth the more practical one-year certificate was dropped and courses concentrated on diploma work, both College and National.

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After the Second World War

The post war years were the period of Principal Bill Price (1946-1962). They saw a steady expansion in student numbers. In 1956-57 numbers reached 222. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a thorough modernization programme took place. The most notable event was the opening of Jubilee Hostel in 1951.

Further changes at the College took place in the 1960s, under the principalship of Reginald Kenney (1962-77). A massive influx of money in the late 1950s led to the opening of the Queen Mother Hall and Bradford and Ward Halls in the early 1960s, expanding the site for the first time across the Caynton Road. Within years, New Boughey Hall, a modern teaching block with library, and a student union building followed. In 1964 responsibility for funding the College passed from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Department of Education and Science, bringing with it tighter financial control. The College was being drawn into a more rigidly structured national plan. Government concern to expand opportunities in Higher Education and to raise the standard of national qualifications in agricultural education led to the introduction of the Higher National Diploma with its sandwich period. The first students enrolled for the HND in 1969. Enrolments for the NDA ceased two years later. Significantly, women were among entrants for the HND. At the same time the College moved into post-diploma teaching with the introduction of courses such as the Post-Diploma in Agricultural Marketing and Business Administration. Consequently, in 1969-70 student numbers rose for the first time to over 300.

Poultry student numbers in the mid-1960s represented a third of total student numbers. Henceforth in-house training by poultry firms, fewer requirements for employment as poultry units took to factory lines resulted in a dramatic decline in recruitment. Poultry teaching was transferred to the Animal Department in 1991.

More reorganisation took place under Principal Tony Harris (1977-94). The Government sought expansion in Higher Education, but at the same time imposed considerable financial restraint. Government initiatives sought to make education institutes more cost-effective and to promote the generation of income, creating the atmosphere of a corporate body in place of the financial dependency of the grants system. In order to spread overheads there was the recognition that the College had to get larger, but this was against a background of falling numbers of eighteen-year olds. There was enormous pressure on smaller colleges to amalgamate, but Harper Adams remained independent. By 1991-92 student numbers had passed the thousand mark.

Much of Harper Adams' success was due to careful diversification in course provision. The College, for example, recognized the move towards the multi-purpose countryside and introduced subjects such as rural enterprise and land management. Nevertheless, agriculture remained at the core. Similarly, the College widened the qualifications on offer, notably with the introduction of degree teaching in 1981. Harper Adams was one of the earliest providers of a BSc sandwich degree course. Taught degree awarding powers were granted to Harper Adams University College by the Privy Council in 1996. Efforts were also made to widen access to higher education by means of continuing education and part-time studies. Increasingly, there was short course provision. Research was also a real growth area and increasingly, it was undertaken by postgraduate students. The first award of a Ph.D. to a student at Harper Adams was in 1989. Prior to 2006, research degree students studying through Harper Adams University College were conferred with a research degree of the Open University, under its approved processes and regulations. The Privy Council awarded Harper Adams University College its own research degree awarding powers in 2006.

Wynne Jones as Principal (1996 to 2009) had the task of steering the College into the twenty-first century. Harper Adams as a consequence evolved along with the industry that it serves. There is a wide portfolio of courses including a raft of masters programmes. Since 1998 Harper Adams has been officially recognised as University College. The Privy Council granted Harper Adams Research Degree Awarding Powers (RDAP) in 2006.

During his time as Principal at Harper Adams, significant investments were made in its learning and teaching resources. The Bamford Library Building opened in the 2003/04 academic year. The building, funded with the assistance of several major donations, reconfirmed Harper Adams' commitment to providing the best possible learning environment for its students and the rural industries and communities it serves.

In June 2004, HRH The Princess Royal visited the University College to open newly refurbished teaching accommodation in the Foulkes-Crowther Building. Harper Adams also invested in new sports facilities for students and in new academic facilities to take forward its research and reach-out programmes. Also in June 2004, the University College was awarded significant funding totalling over £2.1m from the Higher Education Innovation Fund to develop its work with rural businesses. The award included a substantial element for the creation of one of only 22 centres of knowledge exchange activity, focussing on rural business support.

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The Modern Day University

 The Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn

The University College achieved first place for its teaching quality in The Sunday Times University Guide in 2007 and 2008 with 100 per cent excellence. It was named University College of the Year six years running (2008-2013) and now caters for more than 2,500 undergraduate students. Dr David Llewellyn took over as Principal in September 2009 and has spearheaded Harper's successful progression. So far during Dr Llewellyn's Principalship a number of major initiatives have been completed or begun.

The £2.3millon state-of the art dairy unit was officially opened in September 2009 and retiring Principal Professor Wynne Jones OBE welcomed Dr Llewellyn to his new post. The dairy unit uses state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to improve cow welfare and herd health, as well as boost efficiency and productivity from the recently expanded herd. The 40-point internal rotary parlour is one of just a few in operation in the UK, which is designed to provide students and visitors with the best view of the dairy operation. Gates can be used to separate cows before and after milking for optimum management particularly when, for example, conducting trials.

The £3million award-winning West Midlands Regional Food Academy (RFA) was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal in December 2009. It supports the food industry, firstly by provide technical and business support to food and drink businesses and secondly, by working with schools, and further and higher education institutions, to raise awareness and understanding of food and the food industry, and the careers that the industry offers.

In March 2010, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Nick Herbert MP, opened a new Postgraduate and Professional Development Centre at Harper Adams University College. The new centre has a range of facilities designed to support taught postgraduate students and those undertaking other professional development courses.

In 2010 the Faccenda (Student Centre) building and a new student hall of residence were opened. The Faccenda building provides a 'onestop shop' for students, including a student hub, Student Union facilities and social rooms, with a number of teaching and meeting rooms.

In October 2012 HRH The Princess Royal visited Harper Adams to open the new student halls of residence, which was named after the Princess.

In December 2012 Harper Adams was award full university title. Dr Llewellyn now takes the title Vice-Chancellor in line with the academic and administrative heads of most other UK universities.

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Green Harper

Harper Adams University is committed to sustainable technologies and has completed a number of projects around the campus over the past few years. As part of its environmental strategy, Harper Adams aims to:

  • Use novel renewable energy technologies in campus developments to reduce the impact of climate change.
  • Promote these initiatives amongst its students and across the land-based sector, demonstrating business and environmental benefits.
  • Help influence policy making in the adoption of novel renewable technologies in the rural sector.

Harper Adams is just one of three higher education institutions in England to have won a share of £10 million set aside for 'transformational' projects under the Revolving Green Fund - which was set up by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Salix Finance.

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Undergraduate courses are offered in the fields of agriculture, animal health and veterinary nursing, agricultural engineering and off-road vehicle design, estate and countryside management, tourism, agri-food marketing and business management, fresh produce management, food studies and food retail management. The University also offers a range of masters courses (MSc and MBA) and research opportunities at PhD and post-doctoral levels.

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Harper Adams University is all one site which includes a commercial farm of approximately 500 hectares. The Farm includes both arable and livestock enterprises. With a variety of natural features, the farm not only demonstrates sound commercial practice but also provides an excellent resource for teaching. There are also science laboratories, a state-of-the art library, a postgraduate and research centre and the Regional Food Academy. The campus has 14 Halls of Residence, all within just a short distance of each other, offering a range of accommodation.

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