University College London

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University College London
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University College London logo

Motto Cuncti adsint meritaeque expectent praemia palmae
"Let all come who by merit most deserve reward"
Established 1826
Provost Prof Malcolm Grant
Location London, United Kingdom
Students 18,000 total
Faculty 3,800
Member of University of London, Russell Group

University College London, commonly known as UCL, is one of the colleges that make up the University of London. There are almost 25,000 staff and students at UCL, making the college larger than most universities in the United Kingdom. It is also one of the oldest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of Universities. Within the Russell Group it is part of the 'G5' sub-group of 'super-elite' universities, along with Oxford, Cambridge,LSE and Imperial. UCL consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in the UK league tables. It has an annual turnover of over £450m, and accounts for more than 40% of the Russell Group's research funding.

The main part of the college is located in Bloomsbury, central London, on Gower Street. The nearest stations on the London Underground are Euston, Euston Square, and Warren Street.



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University College's main building in the late 1820s.

UCL was founded in 1826 under the name "University of London" as an alternative to the strictly religious universities of Oxford and Cambridge. However it was not until 1836, when the University of London was established, that the college was legally recognised and granted the power to award degrees of the University of London. Its legal status as a university-level institution thus postdates that of Durham (founded 1832); however because it was actually founded in 1826 it is often claimed to be the third oldest university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. It has also been said that, since the charter of King's College London (granted in 1829) predates that of UCL by five years, UCL should not even be regarded as the oldest college in the University of London.

The college was the first UK higher education institution to accept students of any race or religious or political belief. It was possibly the first to accept women on equal terms with men (the University of Bristol also makes this claim - as both were admitted students to University of London degrees at the time, it is quite possible that this was a simultaneous action), the first in England to establish a student union (although men and women had separate unions until 1945), and the first to have professorships in chemical engineering, chemistry, Egyptology, electrical engineering, English, French, geography, German, Italian, papyrology, phonetics, psychology, and zoology.

In 1907 the University of London was reconstituted and many of the colleges, including UCL, lost their separate legal existence. This continued until 1977 when a new charter restored UCL's independence. In 1985 the main Gower Street building was finally finished - 158 years after the foundations were laid.

In 1973, UCL became the first international link to the ARPANET, the precursor of today's internet.

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The Front Quad

In August 1998 the medical school at UCL merged with The Royal Free Hospital Medical School to create the new Royal Free and University College Medical School.

Even today UCL retains its strict secular position, and unlike most other UK universities has no Christian chaplaincy or Muslim prayer rooms. Due to this policy UCL has also been known as "the godless institution of Gower Street".

UCL Union repeats this policy, and is also constitutionally forbidden from being tied to a political party. Candidates for positions cannot campaign on party tickets, to which many might attribute the repeated descriptions of UCL as relatively 'apolitical', especially in contrast to nearby institutions like LSE. But we might equally pin this on social/cultural tendencies within the student body and university administration.

The UCL Library is famous in its own right, its collection including a first edition of Newton's Principia.

In October 2002, a plan to merge UCL with Imperial College London was announced by the universities. The merger was widely seen as a de facto takeover of UCL by Imperial College and was opposed by both staff and UCL Union, the students' union; but what particularly angered many staff and students was the perceived lack of consultation before the proposal was made. One month later after a vigorous campaign the merger was called off.

On 1 August 2003, Professor Malcolm Grant ( took the role of President and Provost (the principal of UCL), taking over from Sir Derek Roberts, who had been called out of retirement as a caretaker provost for the college.

Shortly after his inauguration, UCL began the 'Campaign for UCL' initiative, in 2004. It aimed to raise 300m from alumni and friends. This kind of explicit campaigning is traditionally unusual for UK universities, and is similar to US university funding.

Jeremy Bentham

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The Jeremy Bentham auto-icon

The philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) is considered to be the spiritual father of UCL, as he played a major role in the development of the college. Whilst he is often credited with founding the college, Jeremy Bentham played no part in the establishment of the institution.

Jeremy Bentham was a strong advocate for making higher education more widely available, and is often linked with the University's early adoption of a policy of making all courses available to anyone (who could pay the fees) regardless of sex, religion or political beliefs.

A further reason for Jeremy Bentham's fame within UCL is due to the fact that his body is on display to the public. Jeremy Bentham specified in his will that he wanted his body to be preserved as a lasting memorial, and this instruction was duly carried out. This 'Auto-Icon' has become famous. Unfortunately, when it came to preserving his head, the process went disastrously wrong and left the head badly disfigured. A wax head was made to replace it, but for many years the real head sat between his legs. However, this head was frequently stolen and subjected to many student pranks, with students from rival King's College London often the culprits. The head is said to have at one time been found in a luggage locker at Aberdeen station, and to have been used as a football by students in the Quad. These events led to the head being removed from display and placed instead in the College vaults, where it remains to this day.

Other rumours surrounding the Auto-Icon are that the box containing his remains is wheeled into senior college meetings, and that he is then listed in minutes as 'present but not voting'. He is also said to have a vote on the council, but only when the vote is split, and that he always votes in favour of the motion.

When the Upper Refectory was refurbished in 2003, the room became renamed the Jeremy Bentham Room (sometimes abbreviated JBR) in tribute to the man.

Famous alumni

See also List of UCL alumni

UCL has famous alumni ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to the members of Coldplay. An historical bent towards the arts has tended to mean a higher output of authors, including Robert Browning and Raymond Briggs, than scientists and engineers, although it still has its fair share, such as Francis Crick and John Ambrose Fleming. Politicians figure highly in the lists, notably both the first prime minister of Japan, Hirobumi Ito and the current prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

UCL buildings

UCL operates in many separate buildings. Whilst most of the buildings are concentrated in the Bloomsbury area of Central London (near Euston station), others can be found as far away as Old Street. Some of the buildings have been acquired through mergers with other colleges, and others have been newly built. The newest include the Engineering Wing on Malet Place and the Andrew Huxley Building within the Gower Street Site. UCL's two newest buildings are the London Center for Nanotechnology on Gordon Street, aimed for completion in 2006 and a new building for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (currently at Senate House) which will be finished in October 2005 on Taviton Street.

Notable buildings:

  • The Main Building also known as the Octagon (building) including the Quad, Cloisters and the Wilkins building
  • The Cruciform Building - a red-brick building notable for being built in a cross shape (Medicine)
  • Foster Court (Languages)
  • The UCL Bloomsbury Theatre
  • UCL Hospital (recently re-built)
  • Rockefeller (Science)
  • 1-19 Torrington Place
  • DMS Watson
  • Medawar (named after Peter Medawar)
  • Drayton House
  • UCLU Gordon Street
  • Frances Gardner House and Langton Close (Gray's Inn Road)
  • Ifor Evans Student Residence
  • Campbell House East and West (Taviton Street)
  • Rayne Buildings
  • Chadwick House
  • DMS Watson Library
  • Engineering Building (Malet Place)
  • Wates House (Endsleigh Gardens)
  • Christopher Ingold Building (Gordon Street)
  • Bentham House (Endsleigh Street)
  • Bedford Way Buildings

Museums and collections

UCL is responsible for several museums and collections in a wide range of fields across the arts and sciences:

  • Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: one of the leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world. Open to the public on a regular basis.
  • Grant Museum of Zoology And Comparative Anatomy: a diverse Natural History collection covering the whole of the animal kingdom. Includes rare dodo and quagga skeletons. A teaching and research collection, it is named after Robert Grant, UCL's first professor of comparative anatomy and zoology from 1828. Open at limited fixed times and by appointment.
  • Geology Collections: founded around 1855. Primarily a teaching resource and may be visited by appointment.
  • Art Collections: these date from 1847 when a collection of sculpture models and drawings of the Neo-classical artist John Flaxman was presented to UCL. There are over 10,000 pieces dating from the 15th century onwards including drawings by Turner etchings by Rembrandt and works by many leading 20th century British artists. The works on paper are displayed in The Strang Print Room, which has limited regular opening times. The other works may be viewed by appointment.
  • Institute of Archaeology Collections: Items include prehistoric ceramics and stone artefacts from many parts of the world, the Petrie collection of Palestinian artefacts, and Classical Greek and Roman ceramics. Visits by appointment only.
  • Ethnography Collections: This collection exemplifying Material Culture, holds an enormous variety of objects, textiles and artefacts from all over the world. Visits by appointment only.
  • Galton Collection: The scientific instruments, papers and personal memorabilia of Sir Francis Galton. Housed in the department of biology. Visits by appointment only.
  • Science Collections: Diverse collections primarily accumulated in the course of UCL's own work, including the operating table on which the first anaesthetic was administered. Items may be a viewed by appointment.

UCL is developing a new facility called The Panopticon which will allow public access to its collections to be greatly improved. UCL Library's Special Collections, which encompass a large and diverse collection of rare books, incunabula and medieval manuscripts, including Jewish Collections of over 15,000 items, will also move into the new building. The Panopticon will feature permanent galleries for the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, galleries devoted to the Art and Library Special Collections, a gallery for temporary exhibitions from the other collections, lecture theatres and study rooms. Planning permission was granted in 2004 and it is scheduled to open in 2009.

Famous People

Filming at UCL

Due to its position within London and the attractiveness of the front quad, UCL has been frequently used as a location for film and television recording.

External links

Recognized bodies of the University of London

Birkbeck | Goldsmiths | Heythrop | Imperial | Institute of Cancer Research | Institute of Education | King's | London Business School | LSE | London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Queen Mary | Royal Academy of Music | Royal Holloway | Royal Veterinary College | St George's | SOAS | School of Pharmacy | UCL

Listed bodies

British Institute in Paris | Courtauld Institute of Art | School of Advanced Study | University Marine Biological Station, Millport

de:University College London

es:University College de Londres it:University College di Londra zh:伦敦大学学院


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