Anglia Ruskin University has its origins in the Cambridge School of Art opened in 1858 by John Ruskin, which became the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (CCAT) from 1960. This merged with the Essex Institute of Higher Education in 1989 to form the Anglia Higher Education College. The merged college became a polytechnic in 1991, going by the name Anglia Polytechnic, which was then awarded university status in 1992.
Initially Anglia Polytechnic University (APU), it retained the word 'polytechnic' in its title because "the term 'polytechnic' still had value to students and their potential employers, symbolising as it did, the sort of education that [they] were known for – equipping students with effective practical skills for the world of work" although in 2000 there was some self-doubt about including the term 'polytechnic' - it was the last university in the country to have done so. Wanting to keep the 'APU' abbreviation, a suggestion put forward by the governors was 'Anglia Prior University' (after a former Chancellor), but the Governors decided to keep 'polytechnic' in the title.
The University eventually reconsidered a name change, because "Nowadays, few remember the old polytechnics and technical colleges, and there [was] no longer any added value to students or faculty in retaining the word 'polytechnic' in [the] title. Indeed, it [was] sometimes seen as a hindrance, especially in non-vocational subject areas." From over two hundred suggestions and consultations with staff, students and local residents, communities and businesses, the University chose Anglia Ruskin University (thus incorporating into the title the surname of John Ruskin, who founded Cambridge School of Art in 1858, which eventually became the university), with the new name taking effect following the approval of the Privy Council on 29 September 2005.
Past lecturers include Odile Crick, wife of Francis Crick; she created the simple iconic image of DNA as two intertwined ribbons linked by 10 rungs per turn of the double helix that appeared in the article in Nature announcing the discovery of its structure. Author Tom Sharpe was a lecturer in History at CCAT between 1963 and 1972 and Anne Campbell, the Labour MP for Cambridge from 1992 to 2005, was formerly a lecturer in Statistics at CCAT .
There are five Faculties of study at Anglia Ruskin University:
Faculties are sub-divided into departments or divisions.
HSHS, the former Homerton School of Health Studies, was acquired by the University from the Trustees of Homerton College in 2005, after working closely in partnership for a number of years. The two organisations have now integrated to form the Faculty of Health and Social Care.
Anglia Ruskin University is the 13th largest university in the United Kingdom, and the largest provider of face-to-face part-time training in the country.
Recent evaluation discrepancies were noted. The Guardian University Guide 2008 ranked Anglia Ruskin 72nd of 119 institutions in UK, a gain of 32 places compared to last year ranking. However, The Sunday Times University Guide ranked Anglia Ruskin 123 over 123 institutions and The Times Good University Guide ranking was 104 over 123 institutions. The Sunday Times University Guide rely heavily on the undergraduate student evaluation performed annually (NSS). Anglia Ruskin fared "comparatively badly" mainly due to poor ratings for teaching organisation and management. The Sunday Times University ranking is basically based on the NSS survey, which Cambridge University Student Union is boycotting. .
Anglia Ruskin's Cambridge Campus is home to one of only 5 Optometry schools in England (with there being only 8 in the whole of the UK) having its own Optometry Clinic offering free eye tests and a full range of optometric services to members of the public throughout the academic year.
On 3 July 2008 Anglia Ruskin University was rated 4th in the "Green League" of British universities, compiled by People and Planet. The league is based on nine environmental criteria, both policy and performance related. It incorporates data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, including the percentage of waste recycled and CO2 emissions for each individual institution.
Stephen Fry, on receiving an honorary degree from Anglia Ruskin, compared the University favourably with Cambridge University where he had received his own undergraduate degree, saying ""Here at Anglia Ruskin University they have the advantage of not having all that pressure and not being surrounded by idiots who think they are in Brideshead Revisited but still have all the same architecture and facilities".
A recent investigation performed at the end of 2007 from the QAA reveal that as a result of its investigations, the audit team's view of Anglia Ruskin University is that confidence can reasonably be placed in the soundness of the institution's present and likely future management of the academic standards of the awards. Moreover, confidence can reasonably be placed in the soundness of the institution's present and likely future management of the quality of the learning opportunities available to students.
Anglia Ruskin's official International College is Cambridge Ruskin International College (CRIC) which is the Associate College of Anglia Ruskin University and is based on the Cambridge Campus offering Foundation, 1st Year Degree and Pre-Masters programmes leading into many of the university's degrees.
Anglia Ruskin also has regional partnerships with Braintree College, Cambridge Regional College, Cambridge Theological Federation, Chelmsford College, The College of West Anglia, Epping Forest College, Harlow College, Huntingdonshire College, Norwich School of Art & Design, Peterborough Regional College, SEEVIC College, Suffolk Postgraduate and Research Centre and Thurrock & Basildon College.
Anglia Ruskin is also partnered with Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia in a student exchange program. This allows credits earned at one university to count towards the other's degree programs. A similar agreement is in place with Valparaiso University in the United States and University of New Brunswick in Canada.
Anglia Ruskin University is a founder member of the Cambridge Network.
Alumni include Pink Floyd members Syd Barrett and David Gilmour. Other alumni include Patricia Scotland, Britain's first black female QC, Ronald Searle (creator of St Trinian's), Harry Potter illustrator Thomas Taylor, Nicholas Crane, Australian architect Harry Seidler (Cambridge Polytechnic) and Michael Ashcroft, Baron Ashcroft.