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The University of Southampton

HIST1181 Room for Improvement: Building the University of Southampton, 1862-Present

Module Overview

Since its origins in 1862 the University of Southampton has been under construction. In this module we will be using the university's architectural history to explore our own story: a chapter in the social history of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty first-century Britain. Each week will feature a session in the university archives and a site visit, allowing us to explore our built environment as well as the various masterplans adopted (but rarely executed) by the university throughout the past 150 years. What can the university's halls of residence, teaching rooms, Student Union and other buildings tell us about changing ideas of the university? How has the university's relationship with the surrounding community evolved? How far has a focus on teaching students practical, marketable skills been balanced against other aims: imparting a love of learning for its own sake, for example, or instilling a set of practices and ideals capable of changing society at large?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • British architectural history from 1862 to 1970.
  • The history of higher education in Britain from 1860 to 1970.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Reflect on contemporary attitudes towards higher education, and their evolution since the nineteenth century.
  • Consider how the built environment and communities reflexively shape each other.
  • Gather, assimilate, synthesise and interpret a wide range of primary and secondary material, including visual sources, landscape architecture/built environment, material culture, literature and the moving image.
  • Read architectural plans and identify features which indicate the design influences which inspired them.
  • Make a case for the preservation of a historic building.


We will begin by using the 1970 Senate sit-in, in which a group of undergraduates occupied the administrative heart of the university, to begin to reflect on how power relations between students and the university authorities were expressed through the use and abuse of space and the built environment. The rest of the module will consider the following themes, alternating between site visits and handling sessions in Hartley Library Special Collections: -Architectural Style -University Masterplans, from WW1 to the Present -Halls of Residence, 1860-1970 -Halls of Residence, 1970-Present -Living Out -Student Representation, 1860-1960 -The Student Union Building -The Campus Novel -Teaching Spaces -Sports and Culture -The Future of the University

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures Site Visits Archival handling sessions

Guided independent study101
Wider reading or practice20
Completion of assessment task7
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

William Whyte (2015). Redbrick: A Social and Architectural History of Britain's Civic Universities. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Application  (2000 words) 60%
Critical essay  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Application  (2000 words) 60%
Critical essay  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Application  (2000 words) 60%
Critical essay  (1000 words) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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