History of De Montfort University

Proud of a distinctive history

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is a dynamic institution with a long and vibrant history of improving people’s lives through education.Originally founded as the Leicester School of Art in 1870, the university has evolved through many incarnations including the Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology and Leicester Polytechnic.

Leicester Polytechnic officially became De Montfort University on 26 June 1992. The name was chosen to reflect the university’s long association with Leicester by commemorating the celebrated Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, a crucial figure in medieval history who established the first parliament in 1265.

Our reputation for quality and distinctiveness in teaching and research is a direct result of our heritage. Many modern DMU courses have their roots in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when the School of Art and Leicester Technical School began training apprentices for local industries, such as boot and shoe manufacture, furniture making and design, hosiery, and textiles manufacture, engineering, printing, and bookbinding.

Art, pharmacy, corsetry, footwear, physical sciences, and architecture were taught at the schools and are still in evidence at DMU today, either as courses in their own right or as integral components of more contemporary courses.A commitment to ensuring teaching kept pace with the changing needs of businesses meant that computing courses were introduced in the 1960s, and DMU’s computing degrees are still highly valued by industry.The university has grown and evolved over the years, but it is still dedicated to providing inspirational teaching to students and is proud to have a significant impact on the world around it. 


DMU timeline: 1869 - 1935

  • 1869

    A meeting is held to ask Leicester citizens to support the foundation of a school of art.

  • 1870

    Leicester School of Art is founded, with classes hosted in a disused warehouse in Pocklington’s Walk.

  • 1881

    Furniture designer and architect Ernest Gimson, who was a key figure in the arts and crafts movement, enrols on a course in Architecture.

  • 1882

    Leicester Technical School starts classes in the Ellis Wing of Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, with the Reverend James Went as headmaster.

  • 1897

    The School of Art and Technical School are merged to create the Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School, based in what is now the Hawthorn Building.

  • 1909

    The Leicester School of Pharmacy is founded.

  • 1929

    The Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School becomes Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology.

  • 1935

    Arches of the medieval Church of the Annunciation are discovered under Hawthorn Building.

  • 1939

    The colleges support the home front during World War II by, for example, painting murals in air raid shelters and manufacturing hospital equipment.

  • 1946

    The institution buys three houses which serve as the first student accommodation.

  • 1947

    The School of Corsetry is founded, which is now Contour Fashion.

  • 1958

    Computer Science is taught for the first time.

  • 1966

    The Fletcher Building is opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

  • 1967

    Pink Floyd play at the Students’ Union.

  • 1969

    The City of Leicester Polytechnic is formed when the Colleges of Art and Technology merge.

  • 1976

    The City of Leicester Polytechnic merges with the City of Leicester College of Education.

  • 1992

    The polytechnic is awarded university status and adopts the name De Montfort University. DMU's Milton Keynes campus opens.

  • 1993

    The award-winning Queen’s Building is opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

  • 1994

    DMU Lincoln and DMU Bedford campuses are founded on merger with Lincolnshire College of Art and Design, Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture and Bedford College of Higher Education.

  • 1995

    DMU merges with Charles Frears School of Nursing and Midwifery.

  • 2001

    Lincoln campus is transferred to the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside to enable the creation of the University of Lincoln.

  • 2003

    The Campus Centre opens. DMU withdraws from the Milton Keynes campus.

  • 2006

    Bedford campus merges with the University of Luton to become the University of Bedfordshire.

  • 2010

    Hugh Aston Building is opened.

  • 2011

    The award-winning public engagement volunteering project DMU Square Mile is launched. The programme initially delivered life-changing skills and opportunities to the local community in a square mile area near campus, but was later extended to cover the entire city of Leicester as part of the DMU Local initiative.

  • 2012

    Queen Elizabeth II visits DMU at the start of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Tour.

  • 2017

    DMU receives Gold, the highest ranking possible, in the Teaching Excellence Framework, the first-ever assessment by the UK government of teaching quality in higher education.

  • 2018

    DMU is chosen as a Global Hub to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16, which promotes peace, justice and strong institutions. The university is also named the first-ever University of the Year for Social Inclusion by The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019.

  • 2019

    Making a positive difference in the community sees DMU ranked among the top 50 universities in the world for sustainability by the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

  • 2020

    DMU launches a year of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary since it was first founded in 1870.

  • 2021

    De Montfort University launches first international campus in Dubai