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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

A brief history

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    Photo of Ros and Steve Edwards
    Alumna Dr Ros Edwards with her husband Steve Edwards

    Murray Edwards was founded over 60 ago years as the third Cambridge College to provide education for outstanding women.

    The College began as New Hall with just 16 students at a temporary home on Silver Street in 1954. The College was able to relocate to Castle Hill due to the Darwin family donating their home. The College buildings were opened in 1963 with 300 students.

    In 2008 Alumna Ros Edwards and her husband Steve Edwards, donated £30 million to the College - the largest personal donation in the University's 800 year history.

    The College, acknowledging the foundation endowment from the Edwards family, renamed itself to Murray Edwards College. The new name reflects the vision of its first President, Dame Rosemary Murray and the generosity of the Edwards family.


    New Hall is founded as the ‘third foundation’ for women students at Cambridge University to address the issue that Cambridge has the lowest proportion of women undergraduates of any university in the UK. 16 students are admitted to the College's first, temporary, home in Silver Street. The College starts to seek further endowments and gifts to enable it to become permanently established on its own site with its own buildings.


    The Darwin family gives the Orchard, their family home, to the College.  The architects, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon are chosen and funds are collected to build the College.


    Building begins on the Huntingdon Road site.


    The new building is opened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.


    The College intake rises to 215 undergraduates and 25 graduate students.


    The College's position is now sufficiently stable to seek a Charter from the Privy Council to allow a transition of governance from an Association, the Company of New Hall, to that of a college, 'The President and Fellows of New Hall in the University of Cambridge'.


    The College’s first President, Dame Rosemary Murray, is appointed as the first woman Vice-Chancellor at either Cambridge or Oxford Universities.


    Dame Rosemary Murray retires and is succeeded by Dr Valerie Pearl.


    Under Dr Pearl's presidency, major building works are undertaken with the help of the Kaetsu Educational Foundation, Tokyo, to complete the original architectural plan of the College and to add 112 student rooms, a lecture hall and conference facilities.  In addition living quarters for the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre, an independent body with no association with the University of Cambridge, are built on land leased from the College.


    Dr Pearl retires.


    Mrs Anne Lonsdale is appointed as the third President of New Hall.


    Mr Yasuto Kaetsu is admitted as the College’s first Foundation Fellow, followed by Canning and Eliza Fok, who helped to fund the graduate building named after them.


    Dr Ros Smith (NH 1981) and her husband Steve became Foundation Fellows after donating the largest gift in the College's history.  Its importance is reflected in the renaming of New Hall to ‘The President and Fellows of Murray Edwards College, founded as New Hall, in the University of Cambridge’, to be known from day to day as Murray Edwards College.  This coincides with the retirement of Mrs Lonsdale and the election of her successor, Dr Jennifer Barnes, as fourth President.


    Dame Barbara Stocking, who is one of the College's most distinguished alumnae, is elected as President.  Prior to this, she was the Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, leading the charity for almost twelve years before stepping down in February 2013.