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University College London

University College London, commonly known as UCL, is one of the colleges that make up the University of London. It is a member of the Russell Group of Universities and the third oldest higher education institution in England.

The main portions of the college are located in Bloomsbury, central London, on Gower Street. The nearest stations on the London Underground are Warren Street, Euston (alongside Euston train station), Goodge Street, and Euston Square.

Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) is often credited with founding the college, but this is in fact not true. However, his remains are still kept within the college in accordance with his wishes: a large glass-fronted box displays his clothed skeleton, topped with a wax model of his head. A college rumour states that the box containing his remains is wheeled into senior college meetings.


UCL was founded in 1826, with the name "University of London" as a result of the policies of Oxford and Cambridge to have strict religious requirements. However it was not until 1836, when the University of London was established that the college was legally recognised and gained 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 its initial foundation in 1826 leads some to claim that it is the third oldest university in England (after Oxford and Cambridge) - UCL is not, however, a university in its own right, but can claim to be the third oldest higher education institution. Others claim that, as the charter of King's College London (granted in 1829) predates that of UCL by 5 years, UCL should not even be regarded as the oldest college in the University of London.

The college was the first UK higher education institute 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, English, French, geography, German, Hebrew, 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.

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".

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

In October 2002, a plan to merge UCL with Imperial College, London was announced by the universities. One month later, the proposed merger was cancelled after protests by UCL staff that the merger was a de facto takeover of UCL by Imperial College.

Famous Alumni