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The Spire: Inside the University of West Ospringe

By Andy Capon

The University of West Ospringe celebrated its 55th birthday this week with the opening of a new library. Faversham MP and UOWO alumni Helen Whately snipped the ribbon for the opening ceremony. Set in the east wing of UOWO, the Wally Hulks Athenaeum houses more than 10,000 books and 80 online computers.

Vice-chancellor Dr Bryan Payne told the Faversham Eye: “It is a state-of-the-art library that will accommodate all students’ requirements. We have 24-hour online access and even VHS cassette players for any students coming from Painters Forstal.”

The university was originally opened in 1965 by Oare-based actor and alumni Bernard Lee, and saw an influx of 80 students. Known locally as ‘Bier House’, the tiny flint stone and timber building was once a chapel mortuary attached to nearby St Peter, Paul and Mary’s church, and had its own spring, which dried up in 1957. It lay empty for many years until being purchased from the church by entrepreneur Derek Reeves for just £300 before being converted into a university. It now boasts 3,000 students.

In 1967 the university developed the first sleep-apnoea device that could be used in space. NASA funded the project by sending a postal order worth £3,500 (roughly £27k today) to Ospringe Post Office, and the device was developed and ready for the Apollo 11 moon landings. Thanks to the university, Armstrong’s chronic snoring was cured, allowing Aldrin and Collins to sleep during the mission. Upon returning from space, Armstrong pledged to visit the university to thank the scientists responsible. But never did.

It boasts a 300-capacity dance hall, and famous bands that have appeared there include the Grateful Dead and Grand Funk Railroad. In 1976, the Jam played their first gig, to an audience of just 21.

The hurricane of 1987 left the university without power and nearby Ospringe Fish Bar stayed open until 3am to provide emergency supplies of fish and chips. The owner, Casper Wyoming, was awarded an honorary doctorate a week later.

The exterior was used for a scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but was edited out and never reached the cinemas.

Quite apart from the new library, we are launching four unique courses tailored to students in and around Faversham.”

Charity Shop Haggling – certificate programme. New course beginning September:

Following the great success of Shoplifting (Beginners) during the 2018-19 academic year, the University of West Ospringe is delighted to offer a follow-on course.

This two-year programme teaches the charity shop user how to employ bare-faced nerve to knock 50p or so off of a Shakin’ Stevens LP. The course also covers the psychology of targeting the over-60s with haggling skills and how to avoid crippling guilt afterwards.

An online tutorial from Bob Geldof teaches students how to assuage the same guilt when you sell your item on eBay at a massive profit.

Graffiti – access course. Beginning September:

This course takes place in the Jack Salmon Art Studio and is aimed at raising the standard of graffiti around Faversham, especially in the subway. It is estimated that the last clean-up of Faversham subway cost the local taxpayer £13k – half of which was paid to Helen Whately for helping remove the graffiti. “The aim is to raise the standard of daubing around Faversham as the gentrification of our town continues. Whereas a large cock and balls is still a crowd pleaser, a version sprayed a la Kandinsky or, say, Klimt is more aesthetically pleasing. A ‘rephrasing’ course will also be available in which students are encouraged to replace street colloquialism with renaissance quotation (F**K Da Police / Disregard Law Enforcement).

Booking a Spot at Faversham Recycling Centre – evening course:

This intensive six-month course is aimed at simplifying the process of booking a spot at Faversham Recycling Centre. “The course is aimed at giving folk a basic understanding of how to book a slot, and to deal with Swale Borough Council’s online document, which has been compared to the data used to fly man to the moon,” said Professor Eugene Flake.

The course also includes:

  • How to remain calm when being trapped in a lengthy queue between two carspacked with stinking rubbish in 22-degree heat

  • Actually understanding what the operative says when you finally park up

  • Coping with being yelled at for putting clothing in the household waste crusher

  • Identifying hedgerow wildlife while you wait.

Understanding Prog Rock – associate degree. Four-year course, 2020-24:

Of all musical genres, prog rock has been the most consistently baffling, and this associate degree course will dissect why so many middle-aged men are still listening to 17-minute, noodling arias from the likes of Yes, Rush and King Crimson. Studied from a critical viewpoint, UPG is about the least authentic music it is possible to imagine, with its symphonic pomp and pretensions. This course will give students a greater understanding of why bands like Jethro Tull often had adolescent or just plain nonsensical lyrics that drove western music critics to distraction, while remaining popular in Eastern Bloc countries. There will be a zoom tutorial from Rick Wakeman, during which he will explain how to stay awake during your own concert, after famously falling asleep in 1976 during one of his.

Local alumni include: Stan Murch (Criminology/Forensic Psychology), Pedant Publican (Everything), Mavis Harcourt (Horticulture and Extreme Science) and Cllr Harriet Pipkin (Camel Husbandry/Heavy Metal Tapestry).

It is worth noting that Helen Whately MP studied at Ospringe between 1986-89 and graduated with a degree in Non-cement Architecture and English Decomposition.

After the opening ceremony of the Wally Hulks Athenaeum, 51-year-old Whately said: “If only I’d spent more time in the library back then, I wouldn’t be the embarrassing car crash I am now. Lol!”


The Spire – Luddenham Calling is available from Castella price £15. Or order online at


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