Red brick (or "redbrick") is a term used to refer to the six civic British universities founded in the major industrial cities of England in the Victorian era which achieved university status before World War II. Modern usage of the term also sometimes refers to the members of the Russell Group of universities founded between 1850 and 1960, although the terms are by no means mutually inclusive.
The six civic universities were:
These universities were distinguished by being non-collegiate institutions that admitted men without reference to religion or background and concentrated on imparting to their students "real-world" skills, often linked to engineering. In this sense, they owed their heritage to University College London and to the Humboldt University of Berlin, both of which emphasised practical knowledge over the academic sort. This focus on the practical also distinguished the red brick universities from the ancient English universities of Oxford and Cambridge and from the newer (although still pre-Victorian) University of Durham, collegiate institutions which concentrated on divinity, the liberal arts and imposed religious tests (e.g. assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles) on staff and students. Scotland's ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh), usually grouped with Dundee (which was originally part of St Andrews - see below), were founded on a different basis.
On this basis the University of Liverpool, which was itself originally part of the aforementioned Victoria University (together with Owens College in Manchester), can be argued to be architecturally the "original" red brick university.
The term has found more nebulous usage in recent years. Many institutions do, however, share similar characteristics to the original six civic universities. The University of Reading, founded in the late 19th century as an extension college of Oxford, received its charter in 1926 and is therefore often classed as red brick. So too is Queen's University Belfast, which became a civic university in 1908, having previously been established in 1845 as a university college of the Queen's University of Ireland (which was later renamed as Royal University of Ireland). 'Red brick' is also used to describe many of the original constituent institutions of the University of Wales; Aberystwyth, Bangor, Swansea and Cardiff.
Various other institutions with origins dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, which later achieved university status prior to 1963, are loosely described as red brick. These may negate the architectural and pre-World War definition but are no less 'civic'. This broader designation includes institutions such as:
Certain consituent colleges of the University of London, such as Royal Holloway, share the hallmarks of traditional redbrick institutions, being literally Victorian 'red brick' in architecure and having achieved official university status before the second world war.
The University of Dundee, formerly University College Dundee, was founded in the late 19th century and then spent many years as a constituent college of the University of St Andrews until it received its own charter. It shares features of both red brick and ancient Scottish institutions.
Keble College, Oxford is notable for being both an architecturally Redbrick built college within the University of Oxford and a red brick-style institution which places a similarly strong emphasis on engineering and sciences. It is also chronologically of the red brick era, having been founded in 1870.
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