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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

70 Years of New Hall & Murray Edwards College

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Start Time: 17 May 2024 - 18:00
End Time: 31 Dec 2024 - 18:00
Murray Edwards College
Huntingdon Road
United Kingdom

70 Years of New Hall & Murray Edwards College


70 years ago, our College opened as the third foundation for women at the University of Cambridge on a shoestring with just 16 students.

That first cohort of undergraduates barely had room to squash round a table for dinner, and our first President – the redoubtable Rosemary Murray - not only taught the students but patrolled the building with her screwdriver, carrying out repairs and putting up towel rails.

Nevertheless, the new foundation flourished, and 10 years on moved into iconic purpose-built modernist buildings, designed as a concrete manifesto for women’s education. New Hall gained a reputation as an open, progressive and free thinking place to be, building its own traditions and continuing to value women’s learning.

In 1972, the foundation received its Charter and was finally a full college of the University of Cambridge. Three years later Rosemary Murray became the first woman Vice Chancellor of Cambridge, and, as the college expanded through the 1970s, New Hall fellows campaigned for women’s rights within the university and higher education.

Further expansion followed in the 1980s, and, in another key development, the College hosted the American conceptual artist, Mary Kelly. One of her works, Extase, bought by the College and inspired a wider appeal to women artists to donate works. Their extraordinary act of collective giving formed the basis of what is now The Women’s Art Collection – the largest collection of art by women in Europe.

By the 1990s, the College was struggling financially amid government funding changes. With bankruptcy a real prospect, its future was secured thanks to a generous endowment of £30 million by alumna Ros Smith and her then-husband Steve Edwards: then the largest single gift to a higher education institution. The College was now properly endowed, and was renamed Murray Edwards in recognition of its pathbreaking founding president and the generosity of its donors.

Today, the College is thriving, and we celebrate our 7 decades with a new free exhibition drawing on material from our archives to tell our story. Open 10am to 6pm daily.