A Brief History of Creativity at UEA

UEA has pioneered creative, interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research for over 60 years.

Since UEA was first established, our guiding principle has been to ‘do different’. We created the UK’s first Masters course in Creative Writing. Fifty years on, this legacy of leadership in creativity has come to define our research, our teaching and our way of thinking. Now it is central to our vision for the future and how we work with regional, national and international partners and sectors to offer imaginative responses, insights and solutions to the key issues of our time.

Scroll through the timeline for a (brief) history of creativity at UEA and discover some of our key milestones which led to the formation of the CreativeUEA programme in 2021. From the establishment of the Climatic Research Unit to the opening of the Sainsbury Centre, learn more about the University's innovative activities across all disciplines and Faculties over the last six decades.


The University of East Anglia opens

The first Vice-Chancellor Frank Thistlethwaite opens the University Village in 1963, with many of the existing buildings being built on a converted golf course. Biological Sciences and English Studies welcomes the first student cohort. 

UEA adopts 'Do Different' as a motto, reflecting the independent spirit of East Anglia as expressed through Norfolk dialect and preceding more than half a century of academic innovation and excellence. This motto is central to our vision for CreativeUEA and its contribution to society.

UEA campus walkways

Ziggurats completed

Ziggurats – the iconic student residences, ingeniously designed by Denys Lasdun to recall 'vineyards in France…or a rocky outcrop on a slope', are completed. Architecturally unique, the Grade II listed terraced student residences have won numerous awards. 

Lasdun’s architectural social design set the scene for a creative, interdisciplinary institution. The University’s raised decks and walkways linking faculties and schools continue to bring academic disciplines together, to 'encourage mixing and chance encounters'. In other words, to spark new creative ideas by creating connections.

Building site of the Ziggurats

The Creative Writing MA is founded

The first degree of its kind in the country, the Creative Writing programme is founded in 1971 by Sir Angus Wilson and Professor Malcolm Bradbury. Notable Alumni include Trezza Azzopardi, Tracy Chevalier, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. 

The programme continues to go from strength to strength. In 2020, Booker-shortlisted Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga (pictured) was appointed as the International Chair of Creative Writing, with a remit to find, nurture and promote new voices. The initiative is complemented by Global Voices scholarships, offering 50 fully paid places on UEA’s MA course over five years to promising writers from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Climatic Research Unit established

Climatology used to be part of Geography, not a subject in its own right. But this began to change in the 1970s. A landmark moment came when Hubert Lamb from the UK Meteorological Office established and became Director of our new Climatic Research Unit (CRU). Over the years, the CRU has led the way, pioneering world-class research across many aspects of climate science. The construction of the global temperature record. The attribution of observed warming to man’s influence. The development of simplified models to guide the development of climate policy. And major contributions to all the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Hubert Lamb Building

The establishment of Development Studies

A new School of Development Studies is established offering the first undergraduate degree in Development Studies in Britain. Now known as the School of International Development, it remains internationally renowned for the quality of its research and teaching. In 2009, the School was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in recognition of 40 years' sustained responses to environmental change and world poverty.

development studies historical archive cows plouging

The East Anglian Film Archive launches

The East Anglian Film Archive preserves and makes accessible screen heritage for the East of England, inspiring new and diverse audiences through technological innovation. Holdings include amateur film, advertising films, corporate films, travelogues, documentaries, educational films and animation. Content largely relates to the six counties within the east of England – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 2020, collaborating with the Archive and Norfolk Record Office, CreativeUEA’s Professor Steve Waters co-created a series of narrated short films that explore the region’s unique natural habitats, bringing together creative writing and heritage, film and natural history.

Students Union

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts opens

Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury donate their collection of art to the University of East Anglia in 1973 and the Sainsbury Centre opens its doors to visitors in 1978. Designed by world famous architect Norman Foster, best known for The Gherkin and Wembley Stadium, it was his first major public building and has become a cultural icon in its own right.

The Sainsbury Centre houses the UEA’s School of Art History and World Art Studies and the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Oceania, Africa and the Americas, with close links to the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. Over the decades, research activity has grown around the collections and the Centre has established a national reputation as a centre for learning, dedicated equally to engaging the University’s population and a wider public of all ages.

Henry Moore statue outside Sainsbury Centre

British Centre for Literary Translation founded

Founded by W.G. Sebald, UEA’s British Centre for Literary Translation has taken on the challenge of working beyond cultural and linguistic boundaries to champion translation as a distinctive activity and professional practice; it is the leading centre for the study and support of literary translation in the UK. 

UEA researchers have focused new attention on the translator’s ‘creative interference’ and the co-creative role translators play in bringing important texts to new audiences. In 2020, the novel 'The Discomfort of Evening' won the International Booker Prize, shared between its Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translator and UEA alumna Michele Hutchison.

language text books

Norwich Research Park launches

Norwich Research Park launches in 1992 and today it is home to a wealth of world class research. Its 3,000 scientists and clinicians work in some of the areas of greatest importance to society today: food and health. It is a unique mixture of a major university teaching hospital, a leading academic university and internationally important Research Institutes. This blend of practices creates an unbroken chain of knowledge-exchange, each part aiding the progression of another. Here, our people are producing innovative research on soil, plants, therapeutics and diagnostics, food, nutrition, health and healthy ageing, all underpinned by world leading genomics.

Norwich Research Park

Norwich Business School opens

Originally known as The School of Management, Norwich Business School is the largest School in the Faculty of Social Sciences, with over 1,000 undergraduate and 600 postgraduate students. One of the fastest growing business schools in the UK, with a team of more than 100 internationally recognised academics and business experts, it is home to the world’s only Master’s course in Brand Leadership.

Thomas Paine Centre exterior

The Tyndall Centre established

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has transformed how the world understands what to do about climate change. Founded in 2000 as a partnership of UK universities, it brings together climatologists, social scientists, energy analysts, engineers and economists to understand climate change solutions.

Science for policy highlights include Decarbonising the UK (2005), 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference (2009), Radical Reduction Emissions Conference (2011), annual Global Carbon Budgets led by Prof Corinne Le Quéré (pictured), and major work for the Stern Review, UK Climate Change Risk Assessments and IPCC.

Corrine Le Quéré

Lawrence Stenhouse building renamed

The Education and Systems Building, designed by Rick Mather Architects, is renamed the Lawrence Stenhouse building, to honour Stenhouse’s lasting impact on teachers and the theory and practice of secondary education. Stenhouse was a founder of the Centre for Applied Research in Education at UEA and was Director of the Humanities Curriculum Project which aimed to transform how pupils are taught the humanities by encouraging creative enquiry, and fluid, democratic pupil-teacher collaboration. This legacy continues to inform the creative pedagogies at UEA today.

mature students collaborative working

Enterprise Centre opens

A renowned home to 150 businesses, The Enterprise Centre has been a thriving and supportive hub for start-ups as well as small and medium sized enterprises since opening in June 2015. One of the greenest buildings in Europe, the Centre provides a high-quality workspace on a flexible basis with facilities available to the wider community. It is a place where creativity meets enterprise and where new and established businesses can generate cutting-edge ideas.

Enterprise Centre exterior in snow

British Archive for Contemporary Writing set up

The British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) was founded in 2015, following the gift of the Nobel laureate, Doris Lessing’s, incredible archive of personal correspondence, diaries and working papers. It is a wonderful collection of material from world renowned writers, including Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, WG Sebald, Lee Child and JD Salinger to name just a few. Students, researchers and members of the public can explore this rich resource which is used in research, teaching, exhibitions and public events.

The BACW uses a highly innovative loan model, The Storehouse, to borrow archive material from writers much earlier in their career. The aim is to develop and enrich the cultural value of literature and contemporary writing, and to enable a deeper understanding of the value and methods of the writing process through collecting writers’ archives and bringing them to a broad range of people.

student reading book in archives and special collections

ClimateUEA initiated

In September 2019 the research umbrella ClimateUEA is established, encompassing 18 Schools across four Faculties of UEA and connecting with partnering institutions. ClimateUEA tells our collective climate story during this critical time for our planet. Thinking Without Borders, it brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts from natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities to collaborate, innovate and discover.

ClimateUEA logo

CreativeUEA launched

CreativeUEA is a new research programme at the University of East Anglia which builds on a longstanding history of innovation across the creative arts. It explores new areas of interdisciplinary research, learning, action and outreach in order to generate transformative approaches to local and global challenges, drive cultural policy, generate economic growth and reach new audiences.  

CreativeUEA logo