A Part of Our History

The University of London is unlike many other universities. Founded for public benefit by Royal Charter in 1836, we have pioneered equal access to education since our inception.

Our history is one of firsts. We were the first new university to be established in England after Oxford and Cambridge. We were the first university to offer degrees by distance learning in 1858 and the first to introduce many new subjects into university education, including modern languages and laboratory science. In 1878, we were the first in the country to award degrees to women, the first to appoint a female professor in 1913, and the first university in the Commonwealth to appoint a female Vice-Chancellor in 1948.

In 1858, Convocation, the recognised body of graduates of the University, was formed to give graduates a voice in the working of the University. Over the next 150 years, the role of the Convocation evolved, and partly in response to the growing influence of alumni in the University and in their respective member institutions, formally came to an end in 2003. However, the spirit of the original body lives on through the Convocation Trust, which continues to support students from across the University of London.

The University moved to Senate House in 1936 after occupying a number of different locations across London. Designed by architect Charles Holden, and built in just four years, Senate House quickly became an iconic part of the London landscape. During the Second World War, the building was taken over by the Ministry of Information and used by the Royal Observer Corps as an observation post as part of the defence of London. A three year renovation project to refurbish Senate House began in 2006 enhanced our teaching and library facilities, and restored Holden’s Grade II listed modernist masterpiece to its former glory.

Today, the University of London is home to the School of Advanced Study, the leading national centre for arts and humanities research and public engagement, and Senate House Library, which is recognised as one of the world’s most prestigious research libraries and a valuable resource for students and researchers alike. Our Institute in Paris continues to connect the UK to the Francophone world through cultural and scholarly exchange and through the University of London International Academy, we support over 50,000 students in over 180 countries worldwide study for a range of qualifications on our International Programmes.

All of our alumni are part of this proud history of innovation, access to education, academic and public engagement.

Learn more about the history of the University of London

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Development Office
University of London
Senate House
Malet Street