The main campus of the college is situated near the Albert Hall in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area dense with institutions of learning: The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal College of Music and the Royal College of Art are all nearby (see Albertopolis). There are two other major campuses - at Silwood Park (near Ascot, Berkshire) and at Wye (near Ashford in Kent). There are various other small medical campuses dotted around Greater London.
Imperial College was founded in 1907, upon the merger of the City and Guilds College, the Royal School of Mines and the Royal College of Science, although these entities continued as Constituent Colleges. It was granted a Royal Charter in July 1907.
In later years St. Mary's Hospital Medical school (1988), the National Heart and Lung institute (1995), Charing Cross and Westminster schools (1997) merged into the Imperial College School of Medicine, the fourth Constituent College. In 1997, the size of the Medical School was increased with the merger of Royal Postgraduate Medical School, and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In 2000, merger with the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology expanded it even further.
Also in 2000, Imperial College merged with Wye College, which at that time had a much lesser reputation then Imperial. A number of voices have opinioned that the merger may have been due to Imperial's wish to obtain the significant amount of land owned by Wye College rather then for academic reasons; similarly there have been suggestions that Wye College accepted the merger because it was in financial diffculties. Neither of these rumours can be confirmed.
In 2002, the constituent colleges were finally abolished in favour of a new faculty structure.
In October 2002, Imperial College and University College London (UCL) announced their intention to merge, however after protests by UCL staff, the merger was called off in November 2002.
Periodically rumours surface about a possible merger with the London School of Economics. Whilst the two institutions have often conducted joint ventures, there has been no significant progress toward a merger.
In the last few years, Imperial has boasted the largest research income of any UK university. It is consistently ranked in the top four in the country for academic prowess, often above Oxford University.
The college is also a member of the Russell Group of Universities.