That they may have life: Leicester’s living memorial

Postcard showing the 5th Northern General Hospital headquarters, now the Fielding Johnson Building.It is no coincidence that the public fund for the endowment of a University College for Leicestershire – later to become the University of Leicester – was opened on Armistice Day in 1918. The University College was envisaged as a ‘living memorial’ to those local men who had lost their lives in the First World War. Leicester was to have, as the local paper put it, “more than a mere artistic war memorial”. The University motto 'Ut vitam habeant' ('so that they may have life') stands as a permanent reminder on every publication and degree certificate issued since.

For more than 90 years, the University of Leicester has provided a world-class education for students from Leicester, the UK and (increasingly) overseas. Hand-in-hand with this teaching has been nearly a century of pioneering research. From WG Hoskins' seminal analysis of English history through place and people, to John Swales' definitive medical tome on the causes and treatment of high blood pressure; from the first British degree in mass communications to the invention of genetic fingerprinting; from figurative sociology to super-massive black holes: the University of Leicester has contributed to an extraordinary range of fields and discoveries.

We are, we believe, the only British university that is a living memorial to the Great War – and that connection makes our work even more poignant as the nation commemorates the events of 1914-1918.

One hundred years on, communities are coming together to remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War – just as the people of Leicester and Leicestershire came together after November 1918 to raise funds for a local University College which would simultaneously commemorate those who gave their lives and provide new hope and opportunities for the next generation.

Throughout 2014-2018 the University of Leicester will deliver a calendar of centenary-related events and activities, together with online resources that will cover the lives, stories and impact of the First World War not only on Leicester but across the nation and across the globe.

Join us and discover more about the UK’s only living memorial to the fallen of the Great War.

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"We cannot hope, however, to grasp fully the opportunities before us unless we secure to the young men and young women of the town, the invaluable benefits of a sound education. It is a matter of congratulation that Leicester proposes to establish a university which is to serve as a centre for advanced studies for the Eastern Midlands. … I welcome a scheme which, while bringing a liberal education within the reach of all, will establish that contact between research and industry, which is of vital importance to our future prosperity."

King George V, on his visit to Leicester, 10 June 1919