The beginning of the 1980s came with significant challenges for the University. 

The decade saw the start of cuts across higher education. Staff were exhorted to make economies including turning down their thermostats, recycling, and making telephone calls as short as possible. There was also a fire in the Department of Chemistry. 

Key people

  • Professor Berrick Saul, Vice-Chancellor (1979 to 1993)
  • Lord Swann, Chancellor (1979 to 1990)

Students' Union Presidents

  • Mike Barnes (1979/80)
  • Simon Bryceson (1980/81)
  • Richard Lerner (1981/82)
  • Gethin Jones (1982/83)
  • Tim Edmondson (1983/84)
  • Jonathan Slater (1984/85)
  • Russell George (1985/86)
  • Felicity Huxely-Williams (1986/87)
  • Ben Rich (1987/88)
  • Andy Wood (1988/89)
  • Amanda Kleeman (1989/90)

Left to right: Professor Berrick Saul and Lord Swann

1980s in pictures

Reaching out

With the introduction of the mixed grant and loan scheme towards the end of the decade, 'marketing' the University became more important. One innovation was the introduction of Open Days – both for student recruitment and for the local community to see how the University worked.

Despite the harsh economic times, a number of academic departments were introduced and others developed rapidly, reflecting societal and technological change. New buildings began to appear including Computer Science in the centre of campus, and a courtyard of buildings near Music, now home to Philosophy.

Creative campus

The 1980s was the decade when some of the University's memorable sculptures were acquired.

Many a "Yorkie" has fond memories of the Buddha, a gift from Elizabeth Cooper from the collection of her father, the late JB Morrell, which sits serenely now outside the Berrick Saul Building. The Dryad, by local sculptor Austin Wright, reclines alongside the yew tree topiary.

In 1982, the University's Javanese gamelan "Sekar Petak" was purchased and has been enjoyed by music students and audiences ever since.

Gamelan Sekar Petak, meaning "white flower" after Yorkshire's white rose, in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.

Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats

In 1985, Central Hall hosted the popular rock band Boomtown Rats, fronted by Bob Geldof. During the performance, Geldof invited those who couldn't see to come closer and dance. Nearly 300 people surged to the front and danced on the orchestra pit cover, causing over £1,000 worth of damage. 

History in the making

Staff from various quarters helped set up the now famous Jorvik Viking Museum with a dig beneath what is now the Coppergate shopping centre. As well as research contributions from the Environmental Archaeology Unit, sounds for the Museum were recorded in the new Electronic Music Studio.‌

The University celebrated its silver Jubilee in 1988/89 with a programme of events including two concerts by Dame Janet Baker, a large reunion weekend, natural history walks, sports and a firework display.