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The Top 10 University College Campuses

If motivation is everything what could be more inspiring for tomorrow’s generation of eager young minds than the glorious grounds of their college campus? Each has its own defining features: some have mastered the art of developing a picturesque garden, others have regal halls and grand libraries whilst there are those that harbour historical and cultural significance. We’ve looked at some of the world’s grandest college campuses and handpicked our favourite.

1. Royal Roads University, Canada

Of all the household name universities with their grandeur and proud, impeccable reputations, it was the relatively unknown Royal Roads University in Greater Victoria, British Columbia that really caught our attention. Although only converted into a university as recently as 1995, the main building, Hatley Castle, dates back to 1908 when it was constructed for James Dunsmuir, Lieutenant Governor and Premier of British Colombia before being sold to the federal government to be used by the military.

Royal Roads University, Canada

The converted castle sits within Hatley Park, a lush 260 acre Edwardian style National Historical Site which caught the eye of Clint Eastwood. He directed his Academy Award winning film The Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, on location which was also used as a super hero training school in the X-Men trilogy.

The grounds sit among majestic Douglas fir and western red cedar trees where students can enjoy hiking and biking trails. There are three elegant and tranquil gardens – Rose, Italian and Japanese. To further compliment the lavish setting, there are spectacular views of the Juan de Fuca straight against a backdrop of the Olympic mountain.

2. Royal Holloway, University of London, England

Upon first glance the Royal Holloway University in London looks more like its neighbouring royal residence, and former stomping ground of notorious King Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace, than a university. It may not be as famous as its older English siblings – more on those a little later – but purely in terms of appearance, we think Royal Holloway comes up trumps.

Royal Holloway University

Officially opened in 1886 by Queen Victoria, the university has a strong historical affiliation with the monarchy. There is a memorial to Queen Victoria in the centre of its north quadrangle, and as recently as 2011 HRH the Princess Royal visited in dual celebrations of the university’s 125th anniversary and the Silver Jubilee. Royal Holloway also has long-standing ties and exchange programmes with its North Atlantic friends including Yale University and the University of Toronto.

The campus is dominated by the Grade 1 listed Founders Building, a distinctive red-brick building modelled on the Chateau de Chambord in France’s Loire Valley and example of Gothic revival architecture.

3. The Peking University, the People’s Republic of China

The Peking University campus is located in the Haidian district near the Summer Palace. This area of Beijing is populated with various schools and colleges as well as some of the country’s most renowned palaces and gardens. The university is heralded for its traditional Chinese architecture exemplified by the West Gate which features large stone lion statues, an ornately carved wall, a doorway decorated with Chinese symbols, a traditional timber roof and a ceiling with painted murals.

Peking University, Beijing, China

The iconic Boya Pagoda tower overlooks the Weiming Lake which sits at the north of the university campus which is studded with tranquil gardens and walkways. The campus itself, known as “Yan Yuan” is situated on a former Qing Dynasty royal garden with stone bridges and cherry blossom trees. The library contains 4.5 million books and is the largest of its kind in Asia.

The university is famous for its contribution to modern Chinese literature, poetry and art. It has hosted many prominent Chinese thinkers and was influential in the birth of some of China’s most significant events namely, the New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Movement.

4. University of Oxford, England

The University of Oxford or just “Oxford” as it is more commonly referred to, attracts two million visitors each year, and with evidence of teaching dating as far back as 1096, it is the oldest of its kind in the English speaking world.

Oxford is a collegiate university with 38 colleges, 102 libraries, six permanent private halls and a series of galleries and museums. Each has been added with an effort to preserve the neoclassical and medieval architectural style of both the university and the city of Oxford.

University of Oxford

Of the many landmarks, Oxford includes: the Ashmolean, Britain’s oldest museum dating back to 1683 and displaying works by Picasso, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci; the Sheldonian Theatre, built by legendary British architect Sir Christopher Wren and modelled on Rome’s Marsellus theatre; Keble College, one of the prettiest buildings on the grounds; the iconic domed Radcliffe Camera and the sprawling Botanic Gardens, which officially house more biodiversity than a tropical rainforest.

The university has also been used extensively in film and television to demonstrate its rich British heritage. The Christ Church College was used as the setting for Hogwarts, the fictional school of magic where Harry Potter learned to cast his spells. Shadowlands starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in the title role of the famous English writer C.S. Lewis, author of the children’s fantasy book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was also filmed extensively at Oxford University. Perhaps most famous of all though is Tomorrow Never Dies, the action packed adventure with the world’s most beloved secret spy, James Bond.

5. University of Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca is known locally as La Dorada meaning “Golden City” due to the yellow glow of its baroque sandstone buildings that blend seamlessly between the buildings of the city and the university making both appear intertwined to the outsider. The university was given royal charter of foundation by King Alfonso in 1218 making it the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest in Europe behind the University of Bologna (which narrowly missed out on appearing in this list) and the University of Paris.

University of Salamanca

The focal point of the university’s architecture is its façade, a plasteresque masterpiece made from Villamayor stone and which overlooks the Fray Luis de Leon statue in the main courtyard. It is a syncretism representing virtue, in the form of Pope Benedict XIII The Protector, and sin represented by a trio of skulls. It is formed from three bodies of ornaments including shields, medallions, pillars and stone carvings such as the two headed eagle and the busts of Hercules and Venus.

6. University of Notre Dame, United States

Not to be confused with the famous cathedral in Paris, the University of Notre Dame du Lac meaning “Our Lady”, or simply “Notre Dame”, has an explicit commitment to the catholic faith that is inherent in its architecture.

It was founded by a group of French catholic missionary priests who were members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Its ties to the catholic faith are evident from the 57 chapels it has on campus along with a golden statue of St. Mary which is perched atop the main building’s distinctive gold cupola.

University of Notre Dame

A neo-gothic church with large stained glass windows and murals completed over 17 years by Vatican painter, Luigi Gregori, was raised to ‘basilica’ status in 1992 by Pope John Paul II and is now known as “Basilica of the Sacred Heart”. Religious iconography can also be found in the shape of “The Word of Life” a 41 meter mosaic on the side of the Hesburgh Library and the historic centre is known as the “God quad”.

Our favourite though is the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes, a replica that is one seventh in size of the French shrine where the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858. Constructed using boulders of more than two tonnes apiece from surrounding farms, its warm evening glow against pink cherry blossoms on the grounds’ parkland is truly a sight to behold.

7. Stanford University, United States

Leland Stanford Junior University was designed by Boston landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the Spanish colonial style of Mission revival. It features sandstone masonry and red tiled roofs along a palm-tree lined drive and against an azure Californian skyline, perched between Silicone Valley and San Francisco.

Stanford University

Among the many famous buildings at the campus are the hexagonal Hanna-Honeycomb House, Main Quad, Cantor Centre for Visual Arts, Stanford Mausoleum, Hoover Tower, Rodin Sculpture Garden, Arizona Cactus Garden, Papa New Guinea Sculpture Garden and The Dish.

The landmark that stands head and shoulders above them all is the Stanford Memorial Church. Romanesque in form, Byzantine in detail and considered a stunning example of late Victorian ecclesiastical art. It has echoes of pre-Raphaelitism and the design was inspired by St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The interior is a dimly lit cavern of glowing mosaic surfaces and vibrant stained glass windows whilst stone foliates adorn the exterior. It also features three bronze doors with stone carved angels and art nouveau chandeliers.

8. University of Cambridge, England

The University of Cambridge shares many traits and characteristics with Oxford: both are conjoined with the city within which they lie, both are collegiate universities, both have a rich and extensive history, both have a global identity and international reputation for excellence. They are so similar in fact that they are known collectively as “Oxbridge”. Yet, despite the likeness, Cambridge was actually founded in rebellion against Oxford when a disgruntled group of scholars decided to start a rival university following a dispute.

Cambridge was ranked as the world’s best university in 2010 and 2011 by the QS World University Rankings, its graduates have won 65 Nobel Prizes, which is more than any other university in the world and its alumni boasts 15 former British Prime Ministers including its first, Robert Walpole.

University of Cambridge

Among its 114 libraries, various museums, galleries and botanical gardens, there were three colleges that caught our eye. The first is King’s College which features a chapel regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. The chapel choir performs the Festival of Nine Lessons each Christmas Eve which is broadcast to millions of listeners worldwide. Second is the Queen’s College which has some of the university’s most recognisable buildings combining medieval and contemporary architecture in extensive gardens. The campus sits on either side of the River Cam which is joined by the Mathematical Bridge.

Lastly, and a personal favourite, is Trinity College. Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, this campus is the prettiest Cambridge has on offer featuring a medieval clock tower, Great Gate built by Thomas Nevile and a library by Britain’s most celebrated architect Sir Christopher Wren. Recent additions to Trinity College include the Blue Boar Court and Burrell’s Field which only add to its appeal.

9. Furman University, United States

Furman University features a campus filled with Georgian-style architecture and the most iconic university Bell Tower in the world. It has featured in the American Society of Landscape Artists as one of the most beautiful places in America and in the top five most beautiful campuses in Princeton Review.

Furman University

The university has 750 acres of woodland with 13 miles of paved trails, an 18-hole golf course and a large lake at its heart. On the northern side of the lake are four greenbelt housing cabins including Cliffs College and the Shi Centre. Built in 2008, the Shi Centre was Southern Living Magazine’s first “green” showcase home. It is a model of environmentally responsible design, sustainable building techniques and materials, energy saving systems, bamboo flooring, solar panel ceilings and an organic garden.

Our favourite though is the Asian Garden set within the woodland area and a further example of the universities environmental commitment. It has a generous pond and waterfall within its serene garden that features Japanese irises and pine, bog plants, camellias and cherry trees. The focal centrepiece of the Asian Garden is the ‘Place of Peace’, a Buddhist temple, formerly of the Tsuzuki family, moved from Japan and re-assembled by Japanese artisans.

10. Princeton University, United States

Princeton University is one of nine remaining colonial colleges founded prior to the American Revolution. It was designed by architect Robert Smith but following extensive damage by fires in 1802 and again in 1855 underwent architectural changes by Benjamin Latrobe and John Notman respectively. The Nassau Hall was the first building completed on campus in 1756 and remains its symbolic centre.

Princeton University

Princeton has six colleges in total, most notable are: Rockefeller College which is finished with a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style; Mathey College which is famous for the Blair Arch that featured prominently in the film A Beautiful Mind and Butler College which was described by Bloomberg Weekly as “a billionaire’s mansion in the form of a dorm”. The pick of the bunch though is Forbes College, with its red brick New Wing and ‘The Pink House’ which houses ten sophomore women each year.

The most celebrated building on campus is the not-for-profit McCarthy Theatre which won a Tony Award in 1994 for Outstanding Regional Theatre. It is also one of the most active cultural centres in the US with 200 theatre, dance and music performances per year.

Did you study at any of the institutions listed above? Have you visited any of them? Tell us about your experience, and let us know if we’ve missed any other beautiful campuses.

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