A university for a changing world
When Brunel was awarded its Royal Charter in 1966 we were given a distinct purpose and an incredible opportunity. The campus was to be the home of technological education, championing innovation and advancement, and giving the UK the knowledge base it needed to compete on the international stage.
We conceived a brand of education, and later research, which was overwhelmingly geared towards the needs of industry and, echoing the spirit and vision of our namesake Isambard Kingdom Brunel, we did so with flair and rigour. Our ambition was to equip students for the world of work and to address society’s challenges on a global scale.
The challenges have changed, but our aims are as innovative and ambitious as they always were – to develop research and educational programmes informed by, and tailor-made for, those who benefit; and to give students the academic education and personal skills needed to become a success in the real world.
In 2016, Brunel celebrated 50 years as a university. However, our history can be traced back much further to 1798 through our predecessor colleges of Borough Road College, Maria Grey College, Shoreditch College and the West London Institute of Higher Education and as well as through Acton Technical College then Brunel College. Our rise since 1966 has been impressive and our reputation grows year on year. Now a university of 12,746 students – 3,309 students engaged in postgraduate and research study – our special approach is to combine academic rigour with the practical, entrepreneurial and imaginative approach pioneered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The decision to be named after Isambard Kingdom Brunel was taken after much discussion. Rather than name the new College after a location, Dr Topping, the first Vice Chancellor of Brunel University (and former Principal of Brunel College) pleaded that the name should be a well-known person preferably an engineer or scientist associated in some way with Middlesex or Acton. Agreement was reached in March 1957 that person would be Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) is one of the great British engineers of the 19th century. Isambard was born into an industrious family in 1806, with his mother Sophia Kingdom working for the Royal Navy and father Marc Brunel being a prominent French engineer. Isambard took on formal training as an engineer and went on to build twenty-five railways lines, over a hundred bridges, including five suspension bridges, eight pier and dock systems, three ships and a pre-fabricated army field hospital.To add to this he was a keen social engineer, building housing estates, churches and hospitals.