Thames Valley University traces its roots back to 1860, when the Lady Byron School was founded at what is now TVU's Ealing campus. The school later became Ealing College of Higher Education.
The Slough campus was founded in 1907 as an elementary school. By the 1940s, it had become a technical institute, and in the 1970s it became Thames Valley College of Higher Education.
In 1990, Ealing College of Higher Education, Thames Valley College of Higher Education, Queen Charlotte's College of Health Care Studies and the London College of Music were merged to become the Polytechnic of West London. Two years later, the polytechnic became a university under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, and adopted the name Thames Valley University.
In 2004, the university merged with Reading College and School of Arts & Design (which was originally founded in 1947 as Reading Technical College). Reading College's premises became TVU's Reading campus.
The merger made TVU a very large university by UK standards. Since then, a major rebranding exercise has taken place. As a university, TVU is aims to be unconventional. It appeals largely to a West London and Thames Valley student body, with many students commuting from home. It offers a variety of professional training courses unavailable elsewhere. Some 45% of students come from non-white ethnic groups, and 60% study part-time (Guardian 2006).
TVU currently comprises four Faculties: the Faculty of the Arts (FOTA), formerly the London College of Music and Media, and now incorporating the London College of Music, relaunched in March 2007; the Faculty of Professional Studies; the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences; and the Faculty of Technology. There is also a 14-19 Academy, based at Reading and structured as a department of the University, offering predominantly GCSE and A level courses. Finally, the Graduate School (based in Ealing) co-ordinates and provides support to research activities and research degree courses.
The university's students are represented by Thames Valley University Students' Union
Official figures published in the Times Higher Education magazine in July 2008 reveal that TVU has the best graduate employment record against its benchmark in the country, with almost 95% employed within six months of graduating.
HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) compared data taken from its survey that looks at the destinations of graduates six months after leaving higher education against employment performance indicators for all universities across the UK.
94.8% of graduates from TVU were employed or in full-time education within six months of leaving their course, which exceeds the university’s benchmark figure of 89.8% by 5% - the widest margin of any of the general universities in the league tables (excluding specialist institutions) - making TVU the best in the country in this respect for graduate recruitment.
The University has weathered several storms in its short life. In the mid-1990s its high-profile Vice-Chancellor, Mike Fitzgerald, ushered through a new networked "New Learning Environment" for undergraduate students, involving a shift to online delivery and assessment. The NLE did not last in that form, and in 1998 Fitzgerald resigned following a negative Quality Assurance Agency report (QAA 1998) that cited serious management failures in the delivery of this model (Webster 2000).
By 2003 the QAA report on the University had returned a much more positive verdict, repeated in 2005. The NLE has now become a VLE (virtual learning environment) with a "blended e-learning" approach to teaching. In 2006 admissions were down and the University has consistently struggled to meet financial targets. Lower admissions in 2006 were evident across the HE sector following the introduction of tuition fees.
A 2007 article in The Guardian newspaper said that Thames Valley University was, at that time, on a list of universities whose finances were being monitored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, as their financial stability was under threat unless they acted. The Funding Council did not publish this list.
As of September 2006, TVU offers its students at the Ealing and Slough campuses halls of residence accommodation on a student and keyworker accommodation site named Paragon, which won the 'Major Housing Project of the Year' category at the 2007 Building awards. The site is in Brentford, about a mile away from the Ealing campus.
Paragon is home to the tallest building to be completed using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in the UK, which serves as a 130,000 sq ft academic facility for the university's human sciences facility.
The student accommodation at Paragon has been criticised by its residents for being too expensive, costing the highest of all London universities' halls of residence along with SOAS in the 2007-2008 year. TVU defended the costs, asserting that the halls are of an especially high standard.
New findings reported from Thames Valley University describe advances in alternative and complementary medicine.
Jan 16, 2009; "The aim of this 2-study research project was to measure the physiologic effect of the M technique (see Appendix for description)...