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Based primarily in Londonmarker, Englandmarker, United Kingdommarker, the University of London is a federal mega university made up of 31 affiliates: 19 separate university institutions, and 12 research institutes. As such, the University of London is the largest university in the UKmarker by number of full-time students, with 135,090 campus-based students and over 45,000 in the University of London External System.

The university was first established by a Royal Charter in 1836, which brought together in federation London University (now University College Londonmarker) and King's College (now King's College Londonmarker), to establish today's federally-structured University of London.

Graduates of the University of London may use the post-nominal letters 'Lond.' (Londiniensis) after their degree abbreviations.


The nine largest institutions of the federal university, usually termed the colleges, are Birkbeckmarker, Goldsmiths, King's College Londonmarker, the London Business Schoolmarker, the London School of Economics and Political Sciencemarker, Queen Marymarker, Royal Holloway, the School of Oriental and African Studiesmarker, and University College Londonmarker (UCL). It should be noted that Imperial College Londonmarker left the University of London during celebrations of its own 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. Legally speaking 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 yet remain in the university federation. For instance, beginning in the 2007/08 academic year, King's College Londonmarker, the London School of Economicsmarker and the University College Londonmarker began awarding their own degree certificates while retaining their constituent-college status within the University of London.

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 Englandmarker, several in Canadamarker 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 System'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.


The University of London owns a considerable central London estate of 180 buildings in Bloomsburymarker, near Russell Square tube stationmarker.

Some of the University's colleges have their main buildings on the estate. The Bloomsbury Campus also contains eight Halls of Residence and Senate Housemarker, which houses the Senate House Library, the chancellor's official residence and previously housed the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of University College Londonmarker (UCL) and housed in its own new building. Almost all of the School of Advanced Study is housed in Senate House and neighbouring Stewart House.

The University also owns many of the squares which formed part of the Bedford Estate, including Gordon Squaremarker, Tavistock Squaremarker, Torrington Squaremarker and Woburn Squaremarker.

The estate includes several properties outside Bloomsbury also, with many of the University's colleges and institutes occupying their own estates across London. Clare Marketmarker and part of Aldwychmarker where the London School of Economics and Political Sciencemarker is based, as well as the West Wing of Somerset Housemarker, the location for the Courtauld Institute of Artmarker and King's College Londonmarker, St Bart's Hospital, the University of London Boat Club in Chiswickmarker and the Egham campus of Royal Holloway with its historic Founder's Buildingmarker are also examples of properties which form part of the University's estate.

In addition, there are several properties outside London, including the University Marine Biological Station, Millport on the Isle of Cumbraemarker, a number of residential and catering units further afield and the premises of the University of London Institute in Paris which offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in French and Historical Studies.


Founded in 1836, the University at first comprised just two colleges: University College Londonmarker, which previously had no official chartered status and did not apply religious tests to its students, and King's College Londonmarker, 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 Gardensmarker, 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.

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 Hollowaymarker and the London School of Economicsmarker all joined in 1900, Regent's Park Collegemarker, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the university in 1901, Goldsmiths College joined in 1904, Imperial Collegemarker was founded in 1907, Queen Mary Collegemarker joined in 1915, the School of Oriental and African Studiesmarker was founded in 1916 and Birkbeckmarker 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 Bloomsburymarker near the British Museummarker 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. There was however a marked transference of academic and financial power in this period from the central authorities in Senate Housemarker to the individual colleges. There was also a tendency for smaller colleges to be amalgamated into larger "super-colleges". A significant development in this process was the closing down of the Convocation of all University of London alumni in October 2003; this recognised that individual college alumni associations were now increasingly the centre of focus for alumni.

In 2002, Imperial Collegemarker and UCL mooted the possibility of a merger. This raised a question mark over the future of the University of London and the autonomy of smaller colleges within it. Subsequently considerable opposition from academic staff of both UCL and Imperial led to a rejection of the merger.

On 9 December 2005, 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 Economicsmarker, University College Londonmarker and King's College Londonmarker 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.

Coat of Arms

The University of London first received a grant of arms in April of 1838. The arms depict a cross of St George upon which there is a tudor rose surrounded by detailing and surmounted by a crown. Above all of this there is a blue field with an open book upon it.

In terms of heraldry the arms would be described as:

Argent, the Cross of St George, thereon the Union Rose irradiated and ensigned with the Imperial Crown proper, a Chief Azure, thereon an open Book also proper, Clasps gold


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.

Colleges of the University of London

The constituent colleges of the University of London are divided as follows:

Central Academic Bodies of the University of London

Former colleges

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

University colleges in the external degree programme

A number of major 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 able to award their own degrees.

A number of other colleges had degees validated and awarded by the University of London.

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.

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

Academic dress

Student life

Some 135,090 students (approximately 5% of all UK students) attend one of the University of London's affiliated schools. Additionally, over 45,000 students follow the University of London External System.

The ULU building on Malet Streetmarker (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.

Intercollegiate halls

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

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 BUCS 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.

In addition to these ULU caters for sports not covered by the individual colleges through clubs such as the University of London Union Lifesaving Club, which helps students gain awards and learn new skills in lifesaving as well as sending teams to compete throughout the country in the BULSCA league.

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. Affiliated to the University is the University of London Society of Change Ringers, a society for bellringers at all London universities.

The University runs the famous University of London Boat Clubmarker, which is considered along with the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club to be one of the three best university rowing clubs in the country.

The University also has a representative football team, which dates back to 1913 and is a collection of the best players from the various colleges. The team plays games against sides such as Cambridge's and Oxford's 'Blues' sides as well as the R.A.F, Navy and Army. Currently the team has use of both Motspur Park Athletics Stadium (Fulham F.C.'s training ground, and a former University of London property) and the Honourable Artillery Company's grounds for training and home match purposes. Former players and managers of the team include Bobby Robson and Jimmy Hill.

University of London Orienteering Club is an umbrella club for all University of London orienteering groups. Members participate in orienteering events across the UK, and occasionally further afield. In 1997 the club sent a team to participate in the US championships in Colorado.

University of London people

A large number of famous individuals have passed through the University of London, either as staff or students, including at least 4 monarchs, 52 presidents or prime ministers, 59 Nobel laureates, 6 Grammy winners, 2 Oscar winners and 3 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). Additional vital progress was made by University of London people in the following fields: 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 Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, Romano Prodi, Junichiro Koizumi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Taro Aso, Mohsen Sazegara, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi.

In the arts field the university has produced the novelists Malcolm Bradbury, G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, Arthur C. Clarke, J.G. Ballard and the poet John Keats. Many artists have been associated with the university, including Jonathan Myles-Lea, and several of the leading figures in the Young British Artists movement (including Ian Davenport, Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst). Outstanding musicians across a wide range include 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), philosophers (Karl Popper, Roger Scruton), explorers (David Livingstone), international academics (Sam Karunaratne), and leading businessmen (Michael Cowpland, George Soros).

Among the more controversial alumni and professors can be included the pornographer David Sullivan, the international terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and the Soviet double agent Anthony Blunt.


See also


  1. University of London: Colleges/Institutes
  2. An example usage with Dr. Patsy Stoneman
  3. Error
  4. Research students
  5. UCL Degree Awarding Powers
  6. University of London: Brief history
  7. Japanese Students at Cambridge University in the Meiji Era, 1868-1912: Pioneers for the Modernization of Japan, Noboru Koyama. Lulu Press, September 2004.
  8. City of Sound
  9. Emporis Buildings
  10. The Twentieth Century Society
  11. The Guardian. 18 November 2002 Opposition ends Imperial and UCL merger dream
  16. The University of London, 1836-1986 By N. B. Harte
  17. Carlow College Report HETAC
  18. University of London - The Illustrated London News, May 11, 1850
  19. A History of Birmingham, Chris Upton, 1993, ISBN 0-85033-870-0
  22. London Student
  23. University of London - Intercollegiate Halls

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