Universities play a key role as anchor institutions, but this is only part of a series of measures that seems to cement the notion that they are attached to a place. A university is really the people, not the buildings, and as if to emphasise this, there are several examples of higher education providers which have moved. This isn’t just places that have moved after merger (of which there are many) but providers who’ve upped and moved away entirely.
The phenomenon of universities moving cities is as old as universities themselves. Migrations were useful both for founding new universities, but also for keeping their home cities in order. Scholars left Bologna for Vicenza, but were enticed back after 5 years in 1209. A similar migration to Padua in 1222 was permanently successful. Scholars from the off-shoot University of Siena was reabsorbed into Bologna in 1252 but was re-established there in 1357.
There were later European moves. The Complutense University of Madrid was moved to Madrid from Alcalá de Henares in 1836. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich started in Ingolstadt in 1472, moved to Landshut in 1800 and then Munich in 1826. These moves were often prompted by war or other calamity, such as the Royal Academy of Turku moving after the great fire of 1827 to become the University of Helsinki.
In England, the 1209 migration to Cambridge was successful and there is some evidence of migrations to Reading and Salisbury, but these did not amount to much. Northampton and Stamford were actively quashed.
Moving after restrictions lifted
Entrance to Oxford and graduation at Cambridge had been subject to religious tests after the restoration. After their removal there was the prospect that students of different dominations could attend these universities and colleges which served them moved. Spring Hill College moved from Birmingham in 1886 and became Mansfield College. Harris Manchester College moved many times, from Warrington, Manchester and London before arriving in Oxford in 1893. Regents Park College moved to Oxford in 1927.
Westminster College, Cambridge is a theological college, but not part of the university, moved to Cambridge in 1899. As the prospect of women gaining a higher education grew, Girton College moved to near Cambridge in 1873 after four years at Hitchin.
Teacher training moves
The teacher training part of Homerton College moved to Cambridge in 1894 but remained independent until convergence with the university in 2000 and receipt of a charter in 2010.
Westminster College moved to Oxford from its constrained site on the Horseferry Road in London. It had suffered bomb damage during the war and moved to a spacious campus overlooking Oxford (although actually then in Berkshire).
The College of St Mark and St John made the biggest jump, moving from Battersea and Chelsea to Plymouth in 1973. At the time the move was planned, teacher training was expanding but by 1973 it was retrenching.
The decision to upgrade Colleges of Advanced Technology to Technological Universities allowed a final part of distribution of sites, fresh from the UGCs approval of new university sites. Bristol College of Science and Technology was finding it hard to secure a location and moved out to Claverton Down in Bath. Battersea College of Technology agreed to move to Guildford, becoming the University of Surrey. Chelsea College of Science & Technology had been planning a move to St Albans, but when this fell through it joined the University of London and then merged with King’s College.
The London College of Divinity had been founded in 1863 and was part of the University of London. After its Highbury site was damaged in the war, it sought a home, finally settling on a move to Nottingham in 1970.
The University of Humberside was sited next to the University of Hull. Taking advantage of redevelopment opportunities it opened a campus in Lincoln in 1996. It moved its main functions there in 2001 renamed as the University of Lincoln, finally leaving Hull in 2012. The ‘our history‘ page on the website does not mention Hull.
This isn’t a definitive list, just another interesting (I think) aspect of the opening, merging, closing of universities. Remember; they can move too.