University of London

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Once termed the ‘people’s university’ by ground-breaking author Charles Dickens, the University of London is one of the largest, most diverse education providers of its kind in the UK, offering opportunities to achieve first-class qualifications anywhere in the world.

It has more than 120,000 students in London, and a further 50,000 studying across 190 countries for a University of London degree. Staff work with a network of teaching institutions dotted across dozens of nations, that support distance learning via additional tuition, library resources, access to computers and social and recreational activities.

Established as a secular alternative to Oxford and Cambridge, the only two other UK universities at the time, it was the first to explicitly exclude religious qualification as an entry requirement. And it was in 1858 that Dickens’ magazine, All the Year Round, paid its tribute to the institution.

The university currently consists of 18 constituent colleges, nine research institutes and a number of central bodies. The collegiate university houses the second-oldest medical school in London, and was the first to admit women as Degree candidates in the United Kingdom, as well as being the first to appoint a female Vice Chancellor in the UK.

It was established by Royal Charter in 1836 as a degree-awarding examination board for students holding certificates from University College London and King's College London before moving to a ‘federal’ structure in 1900.

Most constituent colleges rank in the top 50 universities in the country. The 10 largest colleges of the university are University College London, King's College London, Queen Mary, City, Birkbeck, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and St George’s. The specialist colleges of the university include the London Business School, the Royal Veterinary College and Heythrop College, specialising in Philosophy and Theology. Imperial College London was formerly a member, before leaving the university in 2007.

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The University of London’s reputation precedes it, and a large number of famous individuals have passed through the institution, either as staff or students, including at least 12 monarchs or royalty, 52 presidents or prime ministers, 84 Nobel Laureates, six Grammy winners, two Oscar winners, one Ekushey Padak winner and three Olympic gold medallists. The collegiate research university has also produced Father of the Nation for several countries.

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.

It also hosted some vital moments in human history, including the discovery of the structure of DNA (Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin); the invention of modern electronic computers (Tommy Flowers); the discovery of penicillin (Alexander Fleming 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).