From the online guidelines (back in 2010 before they disappeared)
The graphic block is derived from the University coat of arms, with icons representing the University’s founders and benefactors – sun for Wills, dolphin for Colston, horse for Fry. The ship and the castle are based on the medieval city seal of Bristol. The open book of learning completes the graphic block. The logotype is Bembo, a serene and versatile typeface cut in 1929 and with Renaissance origins
Strong colour and strong illustrative shapes. Like a comic panel, and with a similar dynamism. Each panel is occupied with an energetic depiction - a leaping fish, a prancing horse, a ship with fluttering sails and a radiating sun, looking almost like an explosion. The effect of the four panels creates a window effect which slightly undermines the book motif, but neither is too distracting.
Bembo described as serene - I wouldn’t have picked that word in the context of this logo. In this case the Bembo serves to provide gravitas and refinement with it’s delicate serifs. The uppercase Bristol, as large as it is, is just on the right side of shouting the location but I wonder if it might have tied the elements together a little better by aligning with the middle of the four quarters.
The direct and energetic image portion of the logo overpowers the wordmark detracting from an enjoyably graphic reference to a coat of arms.