We are one of the largest, most diverse universities in the UK with over 120,000 students in London, and a further 50,000 studying across 190 countries for a University of London degree. Established as a secular alternative to Oxford and Cambridge, the only two other English universities at the time, we became the first to explicitly exclude religious qualification as an entry requirement. In 1858, Charles Dickens’ magazine, All the Year Round, coined the term “The People’s University”, which would “extend her hand even to the young shoemaker who studies in his garret”. We were also the first University to give external students the opportunity to continue to earn a living while studying, and to study privately and take exams without coming to London. Since then we have expanded and modernised, becoming a pioneering institution that was the first to make higher education available to women and those unable to pursue traditional forms of study.In 1858 we became the birthplace of long distance learning, allowing students to study for degrees outside of London, spreading higher education across the globe. We also introduced many new subjects into university education, including modern languages and laboratory science. We were the first to give external students the opportunity to continue to earn a living while studying, and to study privately and take exams without coming to London. Since these beginnings, we have continued to accrue new member institutions, vastly expanding our membership and academic catalogue. Each year, our ‘Foundation Day’ celebrates the anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone and since 1903 honorary degrees have been bestowed to, among others, Prince of Wales and Winston Churchill. The University had great impact for those who were serving during the First and Second World Wars in the Armed Forces or had been prisoners of war. Many continued studying and passed exams, ultimately paving the way for a life after the wars. To the present day our degree programmes can be accessed by prisoners in some countries, allowing for new opportunities or a fresh perspective of the world.The reforms initiated by the 1898 act came into force with the approval of the new federal statutes in 1900. Many of the colleges in London became schools of the university, including UCL, King's College, Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics. Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841, became an official divinity school of the university in 1901 (the new statutes having given London the right to award degrees in theology) and Richmond (Theological) College followed as a divinity school of the university in 1902; 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 College, which was founded in 1823, joined in 1920. The previous provision for colleges outside London was not abandoned on federation, instead London offered two routes to degrees: "internal" degrees offered by schools of the university and "external" degrees offered at other colleges (now the University of London flexible and distance learning programmes). UCL and King's College, whose campaign for a teaching university in London had resulted in the university's reconstitution as a federal institution, went even further than becoming schools of the university and were actually merged into it. UCL's merger, under the 1905 University College London (Transfer) Act, happened in 1907. The charter of 1836 was surrendered and all of UCL's property became the University of London's. King's College followed in 1910 under the 1908 King's College London (Transfer) Act. This was a slightly more complicated case, as the theological department of the college (founded in 1846) did not merge into the university but maintained a separate legal existence under King's College's 1829 charter.The expansion of the university's role meant that the Burlington Garden premises were insufficient, and in March 1900 it moved to the Imperial Institute in South Kensington. However, its continued rapid expansion meant that it had outgrown its new premises 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.In 2002, Imperial College and UCL mooted the possibility of a merger, raising the question of the future of the University of London and the smaller colleges within it. Subsequently, considerable opposition from academic staff of both UCL and Imperial led to a rejection of the merger. Despite this failure, the trend of decentralising power continued. A significant development in this process was the closing down of the Convocation of all the university's alumni in October 2003; this recognised that individual college alumni associations were now increasingly the centre of focus for alumni. However, the university continued to grow even as it moved to a looser federation, and, in 2005, admitted the Central School of Speech and Drama. On 9 December 2005, Imperial College became the second constituent body (after Regent's Park 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 it. 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 planned to start awarding their own degrees, rather than degrees from the federal University of London as they had done previously, from the start of the academic year starting in Autumn 2007. Although this plan to award their own degrees did not amount to a decision to leave the University of London, the THES suggested that this "rais[ed] new doubts about the future of the federal University of London".In 2016 reforms were proposed that would see the colleges become member institutions and be allowed to legally become universities in their own right. A bill to amend the university's statutes was introduced into the House of Lords in late 2016. The bill was held up by procedural matters in the House of Commons, with MP Christopher Chope objecting to it receiving a second reading without debate and no time having been scheduled for such debate. Twelve of the colleges, including UCL and King's, said that they would seek university status once the bill was passed. The bill was debated and passed its second reading on 16 October 2018. It received royal assent on 20 December 2018. The twelve colleges (namely, all except The Courtauld, ICR, LBS, RAM and RCSSD) subsequently applied for university status, although stating they did not intend to change their names, with notice being given in the London Gazette on 4 February 2019.Our commitment to equality and inclusion remains a key institutional value enshrined in our Statutes. We recognise that embracing equality and inclusion is critical to the success of the University and that we can only achieve our vision of being a world-class, forward looking, and ambitious university by recruiting, supporting, and developing both students and staff from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. The Equality and Inclusion Strategy 2021-2025 sets out the objectives, key deliverables, and the framework that we will use to cascade leadership and accountability on equality and inclusion and monitor our progress. This strategy will enable us to build on and support the delivery of University of London’s mission, values and strategic objectives that are set out in the University Strategy: Transforming education - Creating futures 2020-2025.
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