The city of Birmingham is in the West Midlands, geographically close to the centre of England. It is the UK’s second city after London, with a population of just over 1 million people. The city also has the largest local authority in Europe, with 120 elected members.
Birmingham came to prominence at the start of the industrial revolution, when it became a pioneer in manufacturing and technology. As early as 1791 it was called “the first manufacturing town in the world.” In the 20th century it became a centre for motor manufacturing, but in the recession of the 1980s its economy collapsed, leading to record levels of unemployment.
Since then, the cityscape, which suffered extensive bomb damage in World War II, has been transformed through massive investment and bold cultural initiatives, highlighting its transformation as a major European city. Today its economy is dominated by the service sector. It is a major international commercial centre, and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. Its metropolitan economy is the second largest in Britain and its six universities make it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London, with a population of 65,000 students.
Birmingham is a diverse city with a substantial Asian population, and is a leading UK city for the arts and culture. Its major cultural institutions, such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, are internationally known, and the city has vibrant and influential art, music, literary and culinary scenes.