Attempts had been made to establish a university in Norwich in 1919 and 1947, but due to a lack of government funding on both occasions the plans had to be postponed. The University of East Anglia was eventually given the green light in April 1960, and opened its doors in October 1963 to biological sciences and English studies students. Initially, teaching took place in the temporary "University Village". Sited on the opposite side of the Earlham Road to the present campus, this was a collection of prefabricated structures designed for 1200 students, laid out by the local architectural firm Feilden and Mawson. There were no residences. The vice-chancellor and administration were based in nearby Earlham Hall.
In 1961, the first vice-chancellor, Frank Thistlethwaite, had approached Denys Lasdun, an adherent of the "New Brutalist" trend in architecture, who was at that time building Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, to produce designs for the permanent campus. The site chosen was on the western edge of the city, on the south side of Earlham Road. The land, formerly part of the Earlham Hall estate was at that time occupied by a golf course. Lasdun unveiled a model and an outline plan at a press conference in April 1963, but it took another year to produce detailed plans, which diverged considerably from the model. The first buildings did not open until late 1966.
Lasdun put all the teaching and research functions into the "teaching wall", a single block 460 metres (1,510 feet) long following the contour of the site. Alongside this he built a walkway, giving access to the various entrances of the wall, with access roads beneath. Attached to the other, southern, side of the walkway he added the groups of terraced residences that became known as "Ziggurats". In 1968, Lasdun was replaced as architect by Bernard Feilden, who completed the teaching wall and library and created an arena-shaped square as a social space of a kind not envisioned in his predecessor's plans. They would later become Grade II* listed status, reflecting the importance of the architecture and the history of the campus.
In 1964 Arthur Miller's The Crucible became the first drama production to be staged at UEA with John Rhys Davies (later to appear in The Lord of the Rings trilogy), the drama society's first president. In the same decade, in 1965, Benjamin Britten was appointed music adviser for UEA. In 1967 he conducted the UEA Choir in a performance of his War Requiem. In 1968 there were two royal visits from Princess Margaret and the Queen who each came to tour the new university for the first time.
Entrance to the Sainsbury Centre from the UEA campus
In this decade Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson helped establish the first creative writing course in the UK. The School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing would later go on to produce successful authors including Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, John Boyne and Andrew Miller. In the same decade UEA:TV, under the name of Nexus, was formed and created student-made television. It operated for two hours a day over lunchtime. Concrete, the student newspaper was first officially launched in 1973, replacing Mandate which launched in 1965. Over the years students also enjoyed Phoenix, Can Opener, Mustard Magazine and Kett before Concrete re-launched in 1992.
In 1972 the Centre for Climatic Research opened, founded by climatologist Hubert Lamb. Also notable in the same year, architect Bernard Feilden helped the university win a Civic Trust Award for the design of the Square, the university's main social space. A year later work began on the university lake, or Broad, as it is more commonly referred to. It involved excavating 18 acres (7.3 hectares) of gravel, which was arranged as part of a 'no money' deal where a local aggregate company took the gravel for free leaving with a landscaped body of water fed by the River Yare.
In the 1970s the School of Computing Sciences first opened at UEA, and the university started offering education degrees from Keswick Hall, a manor house owned by the Gurney family and situated on the outskirts of Norwich. Initially this was only a postgraduate qualification, until the late 1970s when an undergraduate course was created. The gift of a collection of tribal art and 20th-century painting and sculpture, by artists such as Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, from Sir Robert Sainsbury and Lady Lisa Sainsbury resulted in the construction of the striking Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the western end of the main teaching wall, one of the first major works of architect Norman Foster. The UEA's School of Fine Art opened in the same year of 1978.
In 1984 the School of Law first moved to Earlham Hall. The building, dating back to 1580, was once home to many famous residents including Elizabeth Fry and the Gurney family.
In 1986 the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was opened within the Hubert Lamb Building. It had been named after Lamb who retired from the university in 1978. In 1988, as part of the University's 25th anniversary celebrations, Prince Charles visited the CRU building.
In 1989 the British Centre for Literary Translation was founded by WG Sebald, and The Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies was set up to encourage and facilitiate the study of the United States. Arthur Miller later in 2000 went on to spend his 85th birthday at UEA when he was made an honorary graduate. In the same year Kazuo Ishiguro won the Man Booker Prize and became one of three UEA graduates who would receive the award, along with Ian McEwan and Anne Enright.
In 1990 the student radio station Livewire1350AM launched, completing the university's student media collective of print, television, and radio. It was opened by Radio 1 DJ John Peel and is now said to be one of the longest running student radio stations in the country. In 1993 the Union of UEA Students took over the management of The Waterfront, a music venue and nightclub. It has hosted performers including Pulp, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Marina and the Diamonds and Amy Winehouse.
In 1994 the Queen returned to UEA to open the Queen's Building, which hosts a number of classes within the School of Health Sciences. A year later in 1995 the Elizabeth Fry building was opened, providing new facilities for almost 800 students.
In 2000 UEA's reputation within the field of environmental research led to the government choosing the university as the site for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The centre, named after the 19th-century UK scientist John Tyndall, brings together scientists, economists, engineers and social scientists from eight partner institutions.
In 2001 the Sportspark, a multi-sports facility built thanks to a £14.5 million grant from the Sport England Lottery Fund, was formally opened by Princess Anne and brought international sporting facilities to Norwich. The Sportspark houses an Olympic-sized pool, floodlit astro-pitches, and the tallest climbing wall in Norfolk.
In the same year UEA alumnus Sir Paul Nurse was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. He won the prize jointly with Timothy Hunt and Leland Hartwell "for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle".
In 2002 UEA's Medical School opened with 110 students enrolled. The school is a collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and world-class research centres now part of the Norwich Research Park. In 2003 the School of Pharmacy opened, along with the Zuckerman Institute for Connective Environmental Research (ZICER). The walkways, the Teaching Wall, and Ziggurats also gained Grade II listed status following a government consultation.
In 2004 the University of East Anglia was first represented on long-running TV quiz show University Challenge. The university's best performance on the show was in December 2012 when four high-profile alumni took place in a special series, coming second in a final against New College Oxford.
In 2005 the university, in partnership with the University of Essex and with the support of Suffolk County Council, the East of England Development Agency, Ipswich Borough Council, and the Learning and Skills Council, secured £15 million funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for the creation of a new campus in the Waterfront area of Ipswich, called University Campus Suffolk or UCS. The campus opened in September 2007. In May 2016 it became independent of the UEA and was renamed to the University of Suffolk.
In 2006 the university opened Victory House, named after Lord Nelson's ship. The event took place on the anniversary of Lord Nelson's birth by his descendant Lord Walpole.
In 2008 INTO University Partnerships opened a £35m six-storey building named INTO University of East Anglia with 415 en-suite study-bedrooms and classroom space for 600 students. The institution, which works closely with UEA, focuses on the provision of foundation courses for international students, including English language, especially English for academic purposes. Shortly after opening, similar partnerships were created between INTO and Exeter and Newcastle.
In November 2009, computer servers at the university's Climatic Research Unit were hacked and the stolen information made public. Over 1,000 emails, 2,000 documents, and source code were released. Because the Climate Research Unit is a major repository for data regarding man-made global warming, the release, which occurred directly prior to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, attracted international attention and led to calls for an inquiry. As a result, no fewer than eight investigations were launched in both the UK and US, but none found evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct, and the academics were subsequently fully exonerated.
In 2010 the Thomas Paine Study Centre was opened by playwright Trevor Griffiths. Named after the local luminary and visionary thinker, the building became home to the Norwich Business School. In 2012 the university won its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for its distinguished creative writing programme, having won one previously for its School of International Development. The award helped bolster the region's reputation as a literary hub, and helped Norwich to achieve its status as England's first UNESCO City of Literature in 2012.
In 2013 the university celebrated its 50th anniversary, ranking Number 1 in the Times Higher Education Magazine Student Experience league table. It was in this year UEA also launched its first free Massive open online course (MOOC) in partnership with Future Learn. Topics covered by UEA's Moocs over the years have included branding, screenwriting, environmental justice and food fraud.
In 2014 UEA opened its most environmentally-friendly building yet, Crome Court, which has won a number of awards for sustainability. Also in 2014 part of the campus was used for location filming as the Avengers new HQ during filming of the Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA doubles as the home of the Avengers in Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming Robert Downey Jr. was spotted on the grounds during filming in 2014 and a number of students were employed as .
In 2015 'Britain's Greenest Building', The Enterprise Centre, opened on campus, helping the university win further awards for its environmental credentials. Also in 2015 parts of campus played host to Radio 1's Big Weekend which was officially located at Earlham Park. International acts including Fall Out Boy, Muse, Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift performed. Swift used the grounds at Earlham Hall as her dressing room.
In late September 2016 two new accommodation blocks opened. Barton House and Hickling House were named after the parts of the Norfolk Broads and have increased the number of rooms available to new students. In this year the Vice-Chancellor David Richardson unveiled a '2030 vision' which includes a £300m investment in campus - refurbishing existing buildings as well as building new teaching and learning spaces.
In January 2017 Queen Elizabeth II visited UEA campus to attend the latest exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. This was the Queen's third visit (she also visited in 1968 and 1994), and was the eighth visit by the Royal Family to the institution.