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London South Bank University (LSBU) is one of the oldest universities in central Londonmarker, opening as the Borough Polytechnic Institute in 1892. With over 23,000 students and 1,700 staff, it is based in the London Borough of Southwarkmarker, near the South Bankmarker of the Thames from which it takes its name.

Their Chancellor is newscaster Trevor McDonald and their Vice-Chancellor is Martin Earwicker.

The university has 4 faculties covering Health and Social Care (; Business (; Arts and Human Sciences ( and Engineering, Science and the Built Environment ( Many courses hold national accreditation and can lead to entry into a wide selection of professions.

Founded from public, charitable donations in 1892 as Southwark's "Borough Polytechnic Institute", it absorbed several other local colleges in the 1970s and 1990s, and achieved university status in 1992.

The university continues to serve its original purpose of educating in a very practical way. It takes the future employability of its students very seriously and works with employers and industry experts to ensure course content is highly relevant. In the RAE ([1] ( 2008 results it was recognised for having world-class research activity in both its engineering and sports related fields.

The institution's most celebrated teacher was the British painter David Bomberg, who taught painting and drawing at the Borough Polytechnic between 1945 and 1954. The university's hall of residence, David Bomberg House, carries his name. Major paintings by Bomberg were acquired by the Tate Gallery only after his death.


London South Bank University
London South Bank University Keyworth Centre

LSBU's history stretches back over 100 years. Even though it has undergone several name changes, becoming the Polytechnic of the South Bank in 1970, South Bank Polytechnic in 1987, South Bank University in 1992 and London South Bank University in 2003 and merged with a number of other educational institutions, its focus is still to provide excellence in professional education and training underpinned by relevant research.

It was born, as were a number of other Polytechnics, from the perceived need to fill a skills gap at the end of the nineteenth century. In June 1888 the South London Polytechnics Committee, which sat on the London School Board (whose members included the Lord Mayor of London, Lord Salisbury, Lord Rosebery and Sir Lyon Playfair) met at Mansion House to motion that they approved "of a Scheme for the establishment in South London of Polytechnic Institutes". Two years later in 1890 the former buildings of Joseph Lancaster's British & Foreign Schools Society were bought for £20,000 to form a new polytechnic. In May that year, the South London Polytechnics Institutes Act was passed, so that by June 1891 the governing structure and general aims were created for the future Borough Polytechnic. These aims were "the promotion of the industrial skills, general knowledge, health, and well-being of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes" and also for "instruction suitable for persons intending to emigrate". By January 1892 £78,000 had been raised for the new Battersea and Borough Polytechnics and W.M.Richardson had been chosen to be clerk to the Governing Body. Mr C T Millis was appointed as Headmaster and Miss Helen Smith appointed Lady Superintendent. Edric Bayley was appointed the first Chair of Governors.

On 30 September 1892 the Polytechnic opened as the Borough Polytechnic Institute, with a remit to educate the local community in a range of practical skills. The Polytechnic was given a seal based on the Bridge House emblem of the City of Londonmarker and a motto taken from Ecclesiastes - "Do it with they Might". A Gala event was held to mark the occasion, opened by Lord Rosebery which was widely reported in the press. One of the speeches made included the hope that "the Polytechnic would do its share towards perfecting many a valuable gem found in the slums of London". Such a comment came from the terrible social conditions found in Southwark at the time which were described as containing "Dirt, Damp, Dissipation and Destitution".

The Polytechnic had classes in art, science, language, literature and general knowledge as well as holding public lectures, musical entertainments, exhibitions, sporting facilities, clubs, a museum and a library. A weekly printed journal supplied news of events and societies sprang up in debating, literature, economics, photography, chess, draughts, antiquarianism and natural history. Popular courses included tanning, typography, metalwork, electrical engineering, baking and boot & shoe manufacture. George Bernard Shaw, J A Hobson and Henry M Stanley all lectured at the Polytechnic in the 1890s.

On 10 October 1894 the National School of Bakery and Confectionary (later the National Bakery School) was opened with 78 pupils. in 1897 the Polytechnic was let to sightseers who wished to see the Diamond Jubilee parade for Queen Victoria. In 1898, 15 houses on Kell Street were purchased, along with 5 workshops and laboratories, Victoria Gymnasium, and 9 lecture theatres. Also in this year, the Polytechnic issued its first diplomas and in 1902 was once again let to sightseers who wished to see the Coronation parade of King Edward VII. In 1904 the first prospectus published and the Kell Street extension buildings and Stanley Gymnasium for women was opened. Through a generous donation from Edric Bayley, the Edric Hall was built in 1908, along with the Lancaster Street extension buildings which gave the Polytechnic its triangular campus site.

In 1911 the Governors commissioned a number of large paintings by members of the Bloomsbury Group to decorate a student room with the theme of "London on Holiday". These comprised:

  • "Bathing" and "Football", Duncan Grant
  • "The Zoo", Roger Fry
  • "The Fair", Frederick Etchell
  • "Toy Sailing Boats - The Round Pond", Bernard Adeney
  • "Punch & Judy", Macdonald Gill
  • "Paddling", Albert Rothenstein

In 1931 they were given to the Tatemarker where they still remain.

During the First World War the Polytechnic helped manufacture munitions and medical supplies for the War Effort and ran special courses for the army. After the War the National Certificate system was taken up, engineering courses were offered to women and printing classes were dropped and run at Morley College. JW Bispham was elected the new Principal in 1922 when CT Millis retired and a major rebuilding scheme was undertaken including a new facade for the Borough Roadmarker building. Class number increased to 8,682 students by 1927 and on 20 February 1930 the Duke of York opened the Polytechnic's new buildings. In 1933 Dr DH Ingall took over as Principal and the sports ground at Turney Road Dulwichmarker was obtained for the Polytechnic with a sports pavilion, later requisitioned by the Army in World War II for use by a barrage balloon and searchlight unit. In 1933 farriery was dropped as it was too difficult to bring horses into the building.

During the Second World War the Borough Polytechnic Institute suffered badly from the Blitz. Southwarkmarker was bombed 7 times and its population halved by the end of the War. From 1940 to 1941 the Polytechnic was bombed 5 times and large amounts of its building stock were destroyed. The Institute provided 100 meals a day to the homeless of Southwarkmarker during this period and boys and girls from the Polytechnic's Trade and Technical Schools were evacuated to Exeter.

From 1945 to 1954 David Bomberg taught art at the Polytechnic forming the Borough Group artists. In 1956 the Polytechnic was designated a Regional College of Technology and Dr J E Garside was installed as the new Principal until 1965, when Mr Vivian Pereira-Mendoza took over. Further extensions to the buildings were made during the 1960s with the opening of the National College Wing in 1962 and the extension buildings and Tower Block in 1969, which were opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1970 the Brixton School of Building (founded in 1904 and known as the London County Council School of Building until 1943), the City of Westminster College (founded in 1918 as St. George's Institute and renamed in 1959) and the National College of Heating, Ventilating, Refrigeration and Fan Engineering (founded in 1947) all merged into the Polytechnic to become the Polytechnic of the South Bankmarker. It adopted a new coat of arms designed to include 2 Thames barges set above a pentagon surrounded by 5 other pentagons. The next year Margaret Thatcher attended an inauguration and presentation ceremony at the newly titled polytechnic. In 1975 the extensive London Road building was opened. In 1976 parts of an Annex of Rachel MacMillan College of Education merged with the Polytechnic along with the Battersea College of Education and Battersea Training College of Domestic Science.

In 1978 Dr John Beishon stood down as the Polytechnic's Director, to be replaced by Mrs Pauline Perry, later Baroness Perry of Southwark. In 1985 Southbank Technopark was opened and in 1987 the Polytechnic changed its name again to become South Bank Polytechnicmarker. In the same year the British Youth Opera (BYO) was founded and made a home at the Polytechnic's Southwark campus. In 1990 the Polytechnic was accredited for Research Degrees and in 1991 the Central Catering College at Waterloo and the South West London College were merged with it.

In 1992 the Polytechnic was given university status and changed its name to South Bank Universitymarker holding its graduation ceremonies at Southwark Cathedralmarker. That year also saw the new university celebrate its centenary and was given the marketing slogan, "the University without Ivory Towers". Dr Nobuhiro Iijima was given the first honorary degree by the University and an exhibition entitled "Bomberg and his Students" was opened at the Gillian Jason Gallery.

In 1993 Prof Gerald Bernbaum was appointed Vice-Chancellor. Redwood College of Health Studies and Great Ormond Streetmarker School of Nursing merged with the University in 1995. In 2001 Prof Deian Hopkin became Vice-Chancellor. On 1 September 2003 the University underwent its most recent name change to become London South Bank University (LSBU) and opened the Keyworth Centre, a modern teaching facilty.

Today, LSBU is a unique university with strong ties with its local community. It upholds its aim of providing fair and equal access to a university education to all those who have the potential to succeed or benefit from it. In 2010 it again holds its position of being ranked 6th in the UK for graduate starting salaries. LSBU has the most KTP activity of any London university and is currently ranked third in the UK for the number of Knowledge Transfer Programmes it runs. In total, it's currently managing funds for its projects in excess of £6.2 million. The university is engaged in a 15-year development programme to enhance its campuses and to provide world class facilities for its students and staff. The University is almost at the end of a programme to invest nearly £50m in landmark projects at its Southwark campus.

With over 23,500 students LSBU is 1 of the largest universities in London with students drawn from across the globe, throughout the UK and the local community. The university's main campus is situated a short walk from many of London's major landmarks and tourist attractions.

Partnerships are of great importance to the University. LSBU works in partnership with many institutions in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. It currently works closely with a number of Chinese Higher Education Institutions, including Beijing Institute of Technologymarker, Hunan University, Beijing University of Posts & Telecommunications, Northwestern Polytechnical University, National Academy of Education Administration etc. The collaborative educational programmes both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels have been running successfully over ten years with the Chinese partners.

LSBU is the first and only university sponsored by The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) to establish a Confucius Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine in London. It’s four-year bachelor-integrated master’s course on Traditional Chinese Medicine – Acupuncture had its first cohort of students in October 2008.


A third of the university's UKmarker students are from the London Borough of Southwarkmarker, a third from the rest of Greater Londonmarker and the remaining third from the rest of the UK. The university serves over 3,000 EU and other international students, from more than 120 different countries. 56% of the student population are from ethnic minorities and a large proportion of the students are classified as mature (over 21 when they start their course).


The main campus is in the centre of London, located in the Borough of Southwarkmarker, about five minutes' walk from London's South Bankmarker. To the north of the campus is Borough Roadmarker, where the main entrance is situated, to the west is London Roadmarker and to the east is Southwark Bridge Roadmarker. At the northeast corner is St George's Circusmarker.

There are two smaller campuses in East Londonmarker: at Whipps Cross Hospital in the London Borough of Waltham Forestmarker (LSBU at Whipps Cross), and at Haveringmarker (LSBU at Havering), diagonally opposite the Harold Wood train station.

Degree days

The University uses the local St George's Cathedralmarker for its graduation ceremonies, with receptions afterwards in the grounds of the Imperial War Museummarker. Ede and Ravenscroft acts as the exclusive supplier for the ceremonial dresses and photographer. Southwark Cathedralmarker is used for honorary degree day ceremonies, often with a reception at the Glaziers Hall next to London Bridgemarker.

Notable alumni


External links

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