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The first academic staff in 1883

The first academic staff in 1883, probably in the garden of the Old Infirmary, Newport Road, the University's original home.

The University first opened its doors on October 24, 1883. The new institution was formally established by Royal Charter in 1884, and named at the time University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire. Small premises on Newport Road housed 13 academic staff in 12 departments, 102 full-time degree students and 49 part-time students.

Today, Cardiff University is home to more than 28,000 students and 6,000 staff in highly advanced, well-equipped buildings, forming an elegant part of the city’s striking civic centre.

Throughout its history, the University has maintained a commitment to equality of opportunity to men and women of all backgrounds.  The highest value entrance scholarship offered to a student in the 1883 intake was made to a female student. Millicent McKenzie was possibly the first woman to be addressed as Professor in Britain, and became the first woman member of the Cardiff Senate in 1904.

The first subjects offered by the new University were: Greek; Latin; Mathematics and Astronomy; Logic and Philosophy; English Language, Literature and History; Physics; Chemistry; Biology; Welsh; French; German and Music. By the turn of the 20th century another 11 disciplines had been added. Vigorous growth and innovation has continued, with the University’s 27 Academic Schools now offering internationally-recognised research and teaching across the sciences, humanities, social sciences and healthcare.

Take a look at a timeline of our history.


In recent decades, two mergers have fuelled the University’s expansion. The first, with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology in 1988, combined strengths in several fields and trebled research income in little more than a decade. The merged institution adopted the public name of Cardiff University in 1998.

In 2004 merger followed with the University of Wales College of Medicine. A larger and more dynamic University has resulted, building on the long partnership between the two institutions and an associated investment of £60M. The merger was in fact a re-unification after the original University medical departments had formed the Welsh National School of Medicine in 1931.

Coat of Arms

More about Cardiff University and the University of Wales.

University Coat of Arms

A new grant of arms was obtained from the College of Heralds, following the full legal amalgamation of University College, Cardiff and UWIST.

The most striking features of the University's Coat of Arms is the ‘supporters’ (rarely granted to universities or colleges) – the angel and the dragon- which derive from the crests of the parent institutions.

The motto is the closing phrase of the prayer for the Church Militant which, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is "Truth, Unity and Concord" ["Gwirionedd, Undod a Chytgord."]

The University's name

The following year, a new Supplemental Charter was formally granted to the University by the Privy Council on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. Having spent several years establishing its own quality assurance processes, Cardiff officially became a University in its own right in 2005 and, as a consequence, independent of the University of Wales. As an autonomous institution, Cardiff University was able to use its own degree-awarding powers.

Professor Sir Martin Evans

Professor Sir Martin Evans receives his Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007 from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

The University today

Cardiff is now acknowledged as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities, held in high esteem both nationally and internationally.

In 2007, Professor Sir Martin Evans of the School of Biosciences, was named joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his role in the discovery of embryonic stem cells, which has opened new possibilities in the fight against countless diseases.

His achievement not only underlines the University’s world standing but also the far-reaching benefits of Cardiff’s research and teaching.

Read about more milestones in Welsh Medicine.