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University of London

Related subjects Education

University of London

Latin: Universitas Londiniensis
Established: 1836
Type: Public
Chancellor: HRH The Princess Royal
Vice-Chancellor: Sir Graeme Davies
Visitor: The Lord President of the Council ex officio
Students: 135,090 internal (2005-2006)
40,000 external
Location: London, United Kingdom
Colours:
                     
Website: http://www.lon.ac.uk/

The University of London is a university based primarily in London. It is the second-largest university in the United Kingdom (after the Open University), with 135,090 campus-based students and over 40,000 in the University of London External System. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University includes some of the most prestigious colleges and institutes of higher education in the world. Graduates of the University of London may use the post-nominal letters 'Lond.' (Londiniensis) after their degree abbreviations.

Overview

Senate House, the headquarters of the federal University of London
Senate House, the headquarters of the federal University of London

The University is a federal mega university made up of 31 affiliates (19 colleges and 12 institutes). The nine larger colleges are Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, King's College London, the London Business School, the London School of Economics, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and University College London (UCL). One of the best known colleges, Imperial College London, officially left the University of London during celebrations of its centenary on 9 July 2007.

For most practical purposes, ranging from admission of students to negotiating funding from the government, the 19 constituent colleges are treated as individual universities. Within the university federation they are known as Recognised Bodies, with the authority to examine students and have the university award them degrees. Some colleges have recently obtained the power to award their own degrees and the University has amended its statutes to allow them to do so and remain in the university.

The twelve institutes, or Listed Bodies, within the University of London offer courses leading to degrees that are both examined and awarded by the University of London. Additionally, twelve universities in England, several in Canada and many in other Commonwealth countries (notably in East Africa) began life as associate colleges of the university offering such degrees. By the 1970s almost all of these colleges had achieved independence from the University of London. An increasing number of overseas academic institutes offer courses to support students registered for the University of London External Programme's diplomas and degrees although no accredidation from London for these schools exists other than the final examinations administered by the University of London which all pupils take.

Location

The University of London owns a considerable estate of 160 buildings centred on the Bloomsbury district of central London near the Russell Square tube station. Some of the University's colleges have their main buildings on the estate. The Bloomsbury campus also contains eight Halls of Residence and Senate House, which houses the Senate House Library, the chancellor's official residence and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of University College London (UCL) and housed in its own splendid new building. By 2008, almost all of the School of Advanced Study will be in Senate House and neighbouring Stewart House.

The estate includes several properties outside Bloomsbury, including the University Marine Biological Station, Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae, a boathouse on the Chiswick embankment, a number of self-catering units further afield, which together house nearly 3,000 students, and the full premises of the University of London Institute in Paris.

Many of the University's college and institutes are outside Bloomsbury: those normally own their own estates.

History

The London University as drawn by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd and published in 1827/28. This building is now part of University College London, which today is one of the many constituent colleges and institutes of the University of London.
The London University as drawn by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd and published in 1827/28. This building is now part of University College London, which today is one of the many constituent colleges and institutes of the University of London.

Founded in 1836, the University at first comprised just two colleges: University College London, which previously had no official chartered status and did not apply religious tests to its students, and King's College London, which had been chartered since 1829 and which admitted only members of the Church of England. Both King's (founded 1829) and University College London (founded 1826) pre-date the University of London, which initially served solely as an examining body for the constituent colleges.

In 1858 the University expanded its role by offering the University of London External System to candidates outside of the colleges, the first of its kind in the country. A new headquarters at 6 Burlington Gardens, providing the university with exam halls and offices, was built to accommodate the new role. In 1878 the University set another first when it became the first university in the UK to admit women on equal terms with men. Four female students obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1880 and two obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in 1881, again the first in the country.

In 1898, in part as a response to criticisms of universities which merely served as centres for the administration of tests, and calls for research and education to be more central functions of universities, the first University of London Act was passed, reforming the University and giving it responsibility for monitoring course content and academic standards within its institutions. The monitoring was conducted through newly formed centralised faculties and Boards of Studies, and King's and UCL now became constituent parts of the University of London. A symbolic element to the new centralisation of the University was the fact that UCL property became property of the University of London.

An illustration of 6 Burlington Gardens, home to the university administration from 1870 to 1899.
An illustration of 6 Burlington Gardens, home to the university administration from 1870 to 1899.

This significant expansion of role meant the University again needed more space, and so 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated in 1899. Shortly after the 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Goldsmiths College joined in 1904, Imperial College was founded in 1907, Queen Mary College joined in 1915, the School of Oriental and African Studies was founded in 1916 and Birkbeck joined in 1920. This rapid expansion meant that the University's new premises would prove insufficient by the 1920s, requiring yet another move. A large parcel of land in Bloomsbury near the British Museum was acquired from the Duke of Bedford and Charles Holden was appointed architect with the instruction to create a building "not to suggest a passing fashion inappropriate to buildings which will house an institution of so permanent a character as a University." This unusual remit may have been inspired by the fact that William Beveridge, having just become director of LSE, upon asking a taxi driver to take him to the University of London was met with the response "Oh, you mean the place near the Royal School of Needlework". Holden responded by designing Senate House, the current headquarters of the university, and at the time of completion the second largest building in London.

During the Second World War the colleges of the university (with the exception of Birkbeck) and their students left London in favour of safer parts of the UK, while Senate House was used by the Ministry of Information, with its roof becoming an observation point for the Royal Observer Corps. Though the building was hit by bombs several times it emerged from the war largely unscathed; rumour at the time had it that the reason the building had fared so well was that Adolf Hitler had planned to use it as his headquarters in London.

The latter half of the last century was less eventful, mostly characterised by expansion and consolidation within the university, with the most significant risk within the university being some of the larger colleges (most notably UCL, King's, LSE and Imperial) periodically putting forward the possibility of their departure from the university, though this usually only happened when the colleges were negotiating for more powers. On 9 December 2005, however, Imperial College became the first college to make a formal decision to leave the university. Its council announced that it was beginning negotiations to withdraw from the university in time for its own centenary celebrations, and in order to be able to award its own degrees. On 5 October 2006, the University of London accepted Imperial's formal request to withdraw from the federation. Imperial became fully independent on 9 July 2007, as part of the celebrations of the college's centenary. The Times Higher Education Supplement announced in February 2007 that the London School of Economics, University College London and King's College London all plan to start awarding their own degrees, rather than degrees from the federal University of London as they have done previously, from the start of the new academic year (starting in Autumn 2007). Although this plan to award their own degrees does not amount to a decision to formally leave the University of London, the THES suggests that this 'rais[es] new doubts about the future of the federal University of London'. However, the University continues to grow and, in 2005, admitted the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Organisation

Most decisions affecting the constituent colleges and institutions of the University of London are made at the level of the colleges or institutions themselves. The University of London does retain its own decision-making structure, however, with a senate, responsible for matters of academic policy, and an estates committee, responsible for managing University of London property, underneath a council, which act as the primary executive body of the university. The council is made up of the chancellor (who does not attend meetings), the vice-chancellor, the heads of all the colleges and institutes of the University, 18 academics elected from the senate, five student representatives, various lay members (appointed by the council or the government) and various vice-chancellors of different departments.

Recognised bodies

The constituent members of the University are divided as follows:

  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Goldsmiths, University of London (GUL)
  • Heythrop College
  • Institute of Cancer Research
  • Institute of Education (IOE)
  • King's College London (King's)
  • London Business School (LBS)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
  • Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL)
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL)
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  • The School of Pharmacy, University of London
  • University College London (UCL)
  • St George's, University of London, formerly St George's Hospital Medical School

Listed bodies

  • the University of London Institute in Paris, formerly known as the British Institute in Paris
  • the School of Advanced Study comprising the following institutes:
    • the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
    • the Institute of Classical Studies
    • the Institute of Commonwealth Studies
    • the Institute of English Studies (including the Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies),
    • the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies
    • the Institute of Historical Research
    • the Institute of Musical Studies
    • the Institute of Philosophy
    • the Institute for the Study of the Americas
    • the Warburg Institute
  • the University Marine Biological Station, Millport

Former colleges

Some colleges of the University of London have been amalgamated into larger colleges or left the University of London. These include:

  • Bedford College - Inner Circle Regent's Park; now part of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (the registered Royal Charter title of Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Chelsea College of Science and Technology - Hortensia Road, Chelsea; now part of King's College
  • Imperial College London - left the University of London in July 2007
  • Queen Elizabeth College - Campden Hill Road, Kensington; now part of King's College
  • Westfield College - Kidderpore Avenue, Hampstead; now part of Queen Mary and Westfield College (the registered Royal Charter title of Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Wye College - Wye, Kent; Wye courses are now run by the University of Kent in partnership with Imperial College London, and graduating students receive a University of Kent degree and an Imperial Associateship of Wye College (see http://www.kent.ac.uk/studying/where/wye/)
  • Royal Postgraduate Medical School; now part of the Imperial College School of Medicine
  • St Thomas' Hospital Medical School; now part of King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • New College London, was closed in 1980. Despite the name the college never had any association with Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.
  • School of Slavonic and East European Studies - now part of University College London

University colleges in the external degree scheme

A number of major British universities originated as university colleges teaching the degrees of the University of London External System. After developing the ability to function fully, these colleges became independent institutions and eventually won their own Royal Charters.

  • University College Nottingham, awarded a Royal Charter in 1948 as the University of Nottingham.
  • University College Southampton, awarded a Royal Charter in 1952 as the University of Southampton.
  • University College Leicester, awarded a Royal Charter in 1957 as the University of Leicester.

Colleges in special relation

Between 1946 and 1970, the University entered into 'schemes of special relation' with university colleges in the Commonwealth of Nations. These schemes encouraged the development of independent universities by offering a relationship with the University of London. University colleges in these countries were granted a Royal Charter. An Academic Board of the university college negotiated with the University of London over the entrance requirements for the admission of students, syllabuses, examination procedures and other academic matters. During the period of the special relationship, graduates of the colleges were awarded University of London degrees.

Some of the colleges which were in special relation are listed below, along with the year in which their special relation was established.

  • 1946 - The University College of the West Indies, until 1961. (Now the University of the West Indies)
  • 1948 - University College, Ibadan, until 1967. (Now the University of Ibadan)
  • 1956 - University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now the University of Zimbabwe).
  • 1961 - Royal College Nairobi (now the University of Nairobi).
  • 1963 - University of East Africa

In 1970 the 'Schemes of Special Relation' were phased out.

Academic Dress

Student life

The University of London Union building
The University of London Union building

Some 135,090 students (approximately 5% of all UK students) attend one of the University of London's affiliated schools. Additionally, over 41,000 students follow the University of London External System.

The ULU building on Malet Street (adjacent to Senate House) is home to the University of London Union, which acts as the student union for all University of London students alongside the individual college and institution unions. As well as representing students, the union plays host to a number of shops and bars (including a nightclub and live music venue), owns London Student (the largest student newspaper in Europe) and offers its own gym and swimming pool for student use.

The University also runs eight intercollegiate halls of residence, accommodating students from most of the colleges and institutions of the University:

  • Canterbury Hall, Cartwright Gardens, WC1 (paired with Hughes Parry Hall for administration purposes)
  • College Hall, Malet Street, WC1 (closed for refurbishment 2005-7)
  • Commonwealth Hall, Cartwright Gardens, WC1
  • Connaught Hall, Tavistock Square, WC1
  • Hughes Parry Hall, Cartwright Gardens, WC1 (paired with Canterbury Hall for administration purposes)
  • International Hall, Brunswick Square, WC1
  • Lillian Penson Hall, Talbot Square, W2
  • Nutford House, Brown Street, W1

Sports, clubs, and traditions

Though most sports teams are organised at the college level, ULU does run a number of sports clubs of its own, some of which (for example the basketball team) compete in BUSA leagues. The union also organises its own leagues for college teams to participate in. These leagues and sports clubs are supported by Friends of University of London Sport which aims to promote them.

ULU also organises a number of societies, ranging from Ballroom and Latin American Dance to Shaolin Kung Fu, and from the University of London Big Band to the Breakdancing Society.

University of London people

A portrait of Gandhi, age 21, at The Vegetarian (1891).
A portrait of Gandhi, age 21, at The Vegetarian (1891).

A number of famous individuals have passed through the University of London, either as staff or students, including 3 monarchs, 33 presidents or prime ministers, 54 Nobel laureates, 6 Grammy winners, 2 Oscar winners and 2 Olympic gold medalists. Staff and students of the university, past and present, have contributed to a number of important scientific advances, including the discovery of vaccines by Edward Jenner and Henry Gray author of Gray's Anatomy. In addition, the discovery of the structure of DNA (Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin), the discovery of penicillin (Alexander Flemming and Ernest Chain), the development of X-Ray technology ( William Henry Bragg and Charles Glover Barkla), the formulation of the theory of electromagnetism (James Clerk Maxwell), the determination of the speed of light ( Louis Essen), the development of antiseptics ( Joseph Lister), the development of fibre optics ( Charles K. Kao) and the invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell).

Notable political figures who have passed through the University of London include Romano Prodi, Junichiro Koizumi, Aung San Su Kyi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mohsen Sazegara, John F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi. In the arts field the university has produced the novelists Malcolm Bradbury, G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke, many of the leading figures in the Young British Artists movement (including Ian Davenport, Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst) and musicians ranging from the conductor Sir Simon Rattle, the soprano Felicity Lott and both members of Gilbert and Sullivan to Mick Jagger, Elton John and members of the bands Coldplay, Suede, The Velvet Underground, Blur, Iron Maiden, Placebo, The Libertines and Queen. The University of London has also played host to film directors ( Christopher Nolan, Derek Jarman) television presenter and Martial Arts expert Chris Crudelli, philosophers (Karl Popper, Roger Scruton), explorers (David Livingstone), West End Theatre producers ( Dominic Madden), leading businessmen ( Michael Cowpland, George Soros), pornographers ( David Sullivan) and international terrorists ( Carlos the Jackal).

Chancellors

see Chancellor of the University of London

  • William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington 1836-1856
  • Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville 1856-1891
  • Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby 1891-1893
  • Farrer Herschell, 1st Baron Herschell 1893-1899
  • John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley 1899-1902
  • Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery 1902-1929
  • William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp 1929-1931
  • Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone 1932-1955
  • Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother 1955-1981
  • The Princess Anne ( The Princess Royal from 1987) 1981-present
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