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The institution's original buildings were the first in the country to be purpose-built for the professional training of teachers. The first cohort of 10 male student teachers had been taught in temporary premises in Nicholas Street from February 1840, until increasing student numbers led to a move to further temporary accommodation in Bridge Street later that year. The need for a permanent site led the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral to donate land adjacent to Parkgate Road and the new facilities were opened in 1842 for the 50 student teachers and their school pupils. Exton Park has subsequently been developed to accommodate the needs of students and the University still provides higher education in this location and at other sites in the city and beyond.

Education qualifications remain significant and are now a fraction of the 350 course combinations on offer. In the 20th Century, the institution steadily expanded its student numbers and the variety and nature of its courses, which range from Accounting and Finance to Zoology. 

The University of Chester now has over 1,800 staff and some 14,000 students, drawn from the United Kingdom, Europe and further afield, particularly from the United States, India, China, Nigeria, Turkey, Uganda, Pakistan, Ghana, Bangladesh, Qatar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

As well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, a new range of foundation degrees and apprenticeship degrees combines conventional university study with learning at work.

MPhil and PhD qualifications are an established and growing area of activity, with the University gaining the powers to award its own research degrees in 2007. The emphasis is very much on research that has practical benefits both economically and culturally, and the University provides consultancy support across a variety of areas of expertise.

Recent projects have included helping to develop England’s first ‘carbon neutral’ village, discovering a vitamin compound which reduces the risk of heart disease and dementia, translating the Bible into British Sign Language, and research into understanding the psychological impact of cancer to improve wellbeing and quality of life for patients and their families. Development of well-respected courses in Health and Social Care, Business and Management, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Engineering, Medicine and Life Sciences, and Education and Children’s Services has further extended the University’s work and connections with industry, commerce and the professions.

Many millions of pounds are continually invested in the accommodation and resources to enhance the student experience and there is a strong focus on making students feel supported and at home.

Recent developments include the addition of two large accommodation blocks (Grosvenor and Sumner Houses) and a significant expansion of the learning resource centre at Exton Park. The Handbridge former Western Command Army HQ, in which Winston Churchill held wartime meetings with international politicians, is now the Queen’s Park and opened for the academic year 2015/16 as a base for the Faculty of Business and Management, educating the leaders of tomorrow.