University of Wales, Lampeter (Welsh: Prifysgol Cymru, Llanbedr Pont Steffan) was a university in Lampeter, Wales. It was the oldest Academic degree awarding institution in Wales and contested as the third oldest in England and Wales after Oxford and Cambridge until, in 2010, it merged with Trinity University College to create the new University of Wales, Trinity Saint David
The university started in 1822 as St David’s College (Coleg Dewi Sant), becoming St David’s University College (Coleg Prifysgol Dewi Sant) in 1971, when it became part of the federal University of Wales. With fewer than 2,000 students on campus, it was often claimed to be one of the smallest public universities in Europe.
When Thomas Burgess was appointed Bishop of St David’s in 1803, he saw a need for a college in which Welsh ordinands could receive a higher education. The existing colleges at Oxford and Cambridge were out of the geographical and financial means of most would-be students.
Burgess had no Welsh connections; he was born in England in 1756 and, after Winchester and Oxford, he had short stays in Salisbury and Durham before being appointed to his first bishopric in Wales in 1803. Burgess intended to build his new college to train priests in Llanddewi Brefi which, at the time, was similar in size to Lampeter but ten kilometres from it and with an honoured place in the Christian history of Wales. When Burgess was staying with his friend the Bishop of Gloucester in 1820, however, he met John Scandrett Harford, a wealthy landowner from Gloucestershire, who donated the three acre (12,000 m²) site called Castle Field in Lampeter, so called for the Norman castle once contained in the field. This is the site on which the present University stands.
Engraving of Bishop Burgess
St David’s College was thus founded just outside Lampeter in 1822. Burgess left St. David’s in 1825 to become Bishop of Salisbury but work on the college continued, largely supervised by Harford. The £16,000 required to erect the college had been raised from public donations, a government grant and highly publicised gifts, including one from King George IV. The main college building was completed in 1827 and the college officially opened on St. David’s Day of that year, welcoming its first 26 students. As such, after the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge and those in Scotland, it was the oldest university institution in Britain, receiving its first charter in 1828. In 1852, the college gained the right to award the degree of Bachelor of Divinity (BD) and, in 1865, the degree of Bachelor of Arts (BA), long before the other colleges in Wales gained their own degree awarding powers.
Although it continued as a centre of clergy training until 1978, there was always a proportion of students who did not intend to be ordained. The 1896 charter specifically stated that the college could accept anyone, regardless of whether they intended to take Holy Orders and, since 1925, it had been possible to study for a BA at the college without studying any theology at all. Throughout the college’s history, non-ordinands had been in a minority. In the 1950s however, the number of ordinands declined sharply and the College faced possible closure unless it could secure government funding. Principal J.R. Lloyd Thomas did not spare himself in the fight for survival and, in 1960, after much negotiation, University College, Cardiff, agreed to sponsor Saint David’s. Thus the government finally began to assist SDC financially.
In 1971, the college became a member of the federal University of Wales and suspended its own degree-awarding powers. It became St David’s University College (SDUC). By this time, the college had begun shifting its specialisms and, whilst theology continued to be a strong point, students could choose from a much wider range of liberal arts subjects. In 1996, the Privy Council — in response to a petition from the University — agreed to change its title again to the University of Wales, Lampeter in line with moves elsewhere in the University and the recognition of its growth and changing status. In September 2007, the University of Wales become confederal rather than federal in nature, effectively giving Lampeter independent university status. Unlike other former Wales colleges however, the institution’s name remained unchanged.
The university specialises in Theology, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Classics, Anthropology, Archaeology, English and History. The university is also growing in disciplines from the liberal arts and social sciences such as Film and Media Studies, Information Society Studies, Business Management, Chinese Studies and Voluntary Sector Studies. However, in the past two decades several other departments which taught subjects in their own right have closed, notably French, German and Geography.
The university has research and consultancy departments, including the Centre for Beliefs and Values, Centre for Enterprise, European and Extension Services, Archaeological Services and the Centre for the Study of Religion in Celtic Societies.
In the early 1990s, there also existed an influential Human Geography department at the college. This was closed in 2001 but the diaspora of the Lampeter Geography School continue to have an influence on their field.
In 2008, the Quality Assurance Agency concluded that, although the quality of Lampeter’s degrees were satisfactory, they had ‘limited confidence’ in the institution’s quality assurance procedures and systems. Further to this assessment, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales commissioned a further report which found “very real problems of leadership and management” at the university. As a direct result, on 14 December 2008, the university announced that it was in merger talks with Trinity College, Carmarthen with the intention of forming a new university in Wales. In July 2010, it was announced that the Queen had approved an order granting a supplemental charter to Lampeter which would create the new University of Wales, Trinity Saint David and which would accept its first students in September 2010.
Olympus OM-10, 50mm 1.8