List of universities in the United Kingdom by date of foundation

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This is a list of Universities in the United Kingdom by the date of their foundation as universities.

In many cases the supposed date of foundation as a university is open to debate, particularly for the ancient universities. For the modern (post 1800) universities, the date of achieving university status (by royal charter, act of parliament, order in council, or decision of Companies House) is given. Former universities with extant successor institutions in the UK are given in italics.

Ancient universities[edit]

Until the nineteenth century there were only two successful long-term university establishments in England and five in Scotland (including two in Aberdeen, see below). This excludes the original University of Northampton, which gained university status in 1261 before being abolished in 1265.

Name Country Date of foundation Motto Notes
University of Oxford England Before 1167[1] Dominus illuminatio mea (The Lord is my light) University by ancient usage. Earliest royal charter 1248
University of Cambridge England 1209–1226[2] Hinc lucem et pocula sacra (From here, light and sacred draughts) University by ancient usage. Earliest royal charter (1231) of any UK university
University of St Andrews Scotland 1410 – 1413[3] ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ (Ever to Excel) Foundation as a university by papal bull in 1413, after teaching began in 1410 and the institute was incorporated by a charter of Bishop Henry Wardlaw in 1411. The university uses 1413 as its date of foundation.[4] Royal Charter in 1532.[5][6]
University of Glasgow Scotland 1451[7] Via, Veritas, Vita (The way, the truth, the life) Founded by papal bull issued 7 January 1451.[8] Note this is 1450 Old Style, which is the year given in some sources. Royal Charter 1453.[9]
University of Aberdeen Scotland 1495–1505[10][11] Initium sapientiae timor domini (The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord) Founded by papal bull in 1495 and a charter from Bishop William Elphinstone in 1505 as King's College, Aberdeen, with the status of a university.[11] A royal charter was also issued in 1495.[12] The university uses 1495 as its date of foundation. Merged with Marischal College (founded 1593) by act of parliament to form the University of Aberdeen in 1860, explicitly maintaining the precedence of King's College.[10][11][13]
University of Edinburgh Scotland 1583[14] Edinburgh Town Council granted a royal charter by James VI in April 1582 as the first college established by secular authorities in Scotland.[15] Instruction began in October 1583.[16] Attempts in the 17th century to gain a royal charter for the university itself (as opposed to the town council) failed due to the overthrow of James II and VII.[17] Incorporated and made independent by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858.[18]
Marischal College Scotland 1593 to 1860 Founded by George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, later confirmed by act of parliament. Merged into the University of Aberdeen in 1860.

Nineteenth-century universities[edit]

No new universities were successfully founded in England or Scotland after 1600 until the nineteenth century, although the eighteenth century saw the establishment of a number of dissenting academies, medical schools such as St George's (1733) and the London Hospital Medical College (1785), and the Royal Veterinary College (1791).

Name University status Motto Notes
Durham University 1832[19] Fundamenta eius super montibus sanctis (Her foundations are upon the holy hills) Royal charter 1837. Derives university status from act of parliament rather than charter[20]
University of London 1836[21] First British university to be founded via a charter of incorporation, with King's College and University College as founding colleges.

See below

Queen's University of Ireland 1850 to 1882 Founded as the university of the three "Queen's Colleges" of Belfast, Cork, and Galway, all established 1845. These colleges survive today as Queen's University Belfast, University College Cork and NUI Galway.
Royal University of Ireland 1880 to 1909 Established on the model of the University of London; the successor to the Queen's University of Ireland, comprising the three Queen's Colleges, as well as Magee College, University College, Dublin, Catholic University Medical School, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and Blackrock College. Dissolved in 1909, replaced by the National University of Ireland and Queen's University Belfast.
Victoria University 1880 to 1903[22] Olim armis nunc studiis (Formerly by weapons, now by studies) Federal university with its seat in Manchester, comprising colleges in Manchester (1880–1903), Liverpool (1884–1903) and Leeds (1887–1903). Merged with Owen's College, Manchester to form the Victoria University of Manchester in 1903. Current successor institute is the University of Manchester
University of Wales 1893[23] Goreu Awen Gwirionedd (The Best Inspiration is Truth) See below

The University of Wales and the Victoria University were founded as federal universities incorporating earlier colleges and the University of London was founded as an examination board (becoming a federal university in 1900). The federal universities are discussed further below.

The Andersonian Institute, a precursor of the University of Strathclyde, was established in 1796 and used the title Anderson's University between 1828 and 1887, but the University of Strathclyde did not receive a royal charter granting university status until 1964.[24] Similarly, University College London used the title London University without being granted university status from 1826 to 1836.[25] Both St Patrick's College, Maynooth (from 1896) and the Catholic University of Ireland (1854–1911) were universities by Papal Bull but were never recognised as such by the British state.[26] [27]

Civic universities[edit]

These universities were distinguished by being non-collegiate (and thus, at the time, non-residential) institutions founded as university colleges that admitted men without reference to religion and concentrated on imparting to their students "real-world" skills, often linked to engineering. All were established as universities by royal charter, with an accompanying act of parliament to transfer the property and assets of the university college to the newly incorporated university. As this article lists universities by date of foundation, this section lists only the universities that gained their status in the period 1900–1959. There are some institutions generally regarded as civic universities and sharing many elements of common history with these universities that gained university status later than this (e.g. Newcastle in 1963 or Cardiff in 2005); these are listed under the appropriate time period.

First wave of civic universities[edit]

The large civic "red brick" universities all gained official university status before the First World War. The term was first coined by a professor at the University of Liverpool to describe these universities, inspired by the university's Victoria Building which is built from a distinctive red pressed brick.[28] All of the red brick institutions in Great Britain have origins dating back to older medical or engineering colleges which prepared students for University of London external examination; many were also members of the federal Victoria University for a period.

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Birmingham 1900[29] Per ardua ad alta The first civic university to be awarded full university status and the first unitary (not collegiate or federal) university in England. Formed following the merge of Mason Science College (founded 1875) and Queen's College, Birmingham (founded 1828).
Victoria University of Manchester 1903[22] Cognitio, sapientia, humanitas From merger of Owen's College (constituent college of the Victoria University from 1880) and the Victoria University. Merged with UMIST in 2004 to form the University of Manchester.
University of Liverpool 1903[30] Haec otia studia fovent Formerly a constituent college of the Victoria University from 1884.
University of Leeds 1904[31] Et augebitur scientia Formerly a constituent college of the Victoria University from 1887.
University of Sheffield 1905[32] Rerum cognoscere causas
Queen's University Belfast 1908[33] Pro tanto quid retribuamus Founded in 1845–50 as Queen's College, Belfast; part of the Queen's University of Ireland 1850–1880 and the Royal University of Ireland 1880–1908.
University of Bristol 1909[34] Vim promovet insitam Founded in 1876 as University College, Bristol and (from 1893) incorporating the Bristol Medical School, founded in 1833

Second wave of civic universities[edit]

The second wave of civic universities differed from the later "plate glass universities" in that they all evolved from local university colleges founded before the Second World War and all prepared students for external University of London examinations before being granted full university status. They are distinguished from the "red brick" universities only by their date of foundation as universities, and are often classed together.

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Reading 1926[35] Developed from University College Reading, founded by Christ Church, Oxford as an extension college in 1892. Students could take Oxford degrees after completing their courses at Reading with only one year of residence.
University of Nottingham 1948[36] Sapientia urbs conditur Developed from University College Nottingham, founded in 1881.
University of Southampton 1952[37] Strenuis ardua cedunt Developed from the Hartley Institute (Hartley University College from 1902).
University of Hull 1954[38] Lampada ferens Developed from University College Hull, which prepared students for University of London external examinations founded in 1927.
University of Exeter 1955[39] Lucem sequimur Developed from University College of the South West of England, founded in 1922, an external college of the University of London; traces its origins back to Exeter School of Art, founded in 1855.
University of Leicester 1957[40] Ut vitam habeant Developed from Leicestershire and Rutland University College, founded in 1921 (University College, Leicester from 1927)

1960s universities[edit]

The 1960s saw the number of UK universities more than double from 22 to 45. Universities founded during the 1960s divide into two main groups: the plateglass universities, so called because of their dominant architectural style, and the former colleges of advanced technology that were converted to universities following the Robbins Report.[41]

The plate glass universities are differentiated from the civic universities by not having been university colleges submitting students for external examination, but instead being created ab initio as universities with their own degree-awarding powers (under the supervision of academic oversight councils). The decision to create the plateglass universities was taken prior to the Robbins Report, and the report mentions them as being in the process of being established (Chapter IV).[42] The approach of creating institutions with degree-awarding powers was pioneered by the University of Keele, which was established in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire with its own degree award powers, under the oversight of Oxford, Manchester and Birmingham.[43]

The status of college of advanced technology (CAT) was created in the 1950s, although many of the institutes so designated dated back much further. The CATs were distinct from university colleges (although like them they prepared stringent for London degrees) and, along with their Scottish counterparts, were recommended to be converted into universities by the Robbins Report (Chapter X).[42] They all entered the university sector in the 1960s, although some became colleges of federal universities rather than universities in their own right.

In addition to these, some civic universities (Dundee, Newcastle and, arguably, Keele) gained university status in this period. Dundee and Newcastle were, like the redbrick universities, recognised as university colleges from the start of the grant-in-aid programme in 1889,[44] making them the last of the English first-wave civic universities to become universities in their own right. Keele was founded as a university college, although (as mentioned above) with its own degree awarding powers, and was considered to be a second-wave civic university by Robbins.[42] The Open University is also unusual, being the UK's only public distance learning university.

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Sussex 1961[45] Be still and know
University of Keele 1962[46] Thanke God for All Developed from University College of North Staffordshire, founded in 1949 with degree awarding powers.[43] Keele is not a plate glass university, not having been created as a university ab initio, and was considered a "younger civic university" by Robbins. It is listed here as it gained university status in the 1960s.
University of East Anglia 1963[47] Do Different
University of York 1963[48] In limine sapientiae York is a collegiate university and is made up of nine colleges
Newcastle University 1963[49] Mens agitat molem Traces its origins back to medical school founded in 1834 and associated with Durham University from the mid 19th century. Part of the federal University of Durham from 1908 to 1963. Became an independent university in 1963 by act of parliament and does not have a royal charter. Its city-centre location, architecture, and history as a nineteenth century university college make Newcastle more similar to the redbricks than the plateglass universities, and it is often referred to as redbrick or a civic university.[50][51][52]
Lancaster University 1964[53] Patet omnibus veritas Lancaster is a collegiate university and is made up of nine colleges
University of Strathclyde 1964[24][54] The place of useful learning Traces its origins back to the Andersonian Institute founded in 1796; used the title Anderson's University between 1828 and 1887 but did not receive a royal charter as a university until 1964. As the Royal College of Science and Technology (1956–1964) it educated students for degrees awarded by the University of Glasgow.
University of Kent 1965[55] Cui servire regnare est Kent is a collegiate university and is made up of six colleges
University of Essex 1965[56] Thought the harder, heart the keener
University of Warwick 1965[57] Mens agitat molem
Loughborough University 1966[58] Veritate, scientia, labore Traces its origins back to 1909 as the Loughborough Technical Institute
Aston University 1966[59] Forward Traces its origins back to 1895 as the Birmingham Municipal Technical School
Brunel University London 1966[60] Traces its origins to Acton Technical College, which was founded in 1928, as well as Borough Road College and Maria Grey College
University of Surrey 1966[61] Traces its origins back to Battersea Polytechnic Institute which was founded in 1891
University of Bath 1966[62] Generatim discite cultus Traces its origins to the Bristol Trade School of 1856
University of Bradford 1966[63] Make Knowledge Work Traces its origins back to the Bradford Mechanics Institute, founded in 1832
City University London 1966 – 2016[64] To serve mankind Founded in 1894 as the Northampton Institute. Joined the University of London in 2016, ceasing to be a university in its own right and becoming City, University of London (see listing of University of London colleges above).[65]
Heriot-Watt University 1966[66] Originally established in 1821 as the School of Arts of Edinburgh but was not given a royal charter or university status
University of Salford 1967[67] Altiora petamus Origins can be traced to 1896 with the opening of the Royal Technical Institute, Salford
University of Dundee 1967[68] Magnificat anima mea dominum Traces its origins back to University College, Dundee founded in 1881; part of St Andrews from 1897 to 1967
University of Stirling 1967[69]
New University of Ulster 1968 to 1984 Merged with Ulster Polytechnic to form University of Ulster in 1984
The Open University 1969[70] Live and Learn

The New University of Ulster (NUU), which incorporated Magee College originating in 1865, was founded in 1968, but subsequently merged with the Ulster Polytechnic to form the University of Ulster (see below).

1980s universities[edit]

After the explosion in University numbers of the 1960s, no new universities were established until the 1980s. Both of the 1980s universities are unusual: the University of Buckingham was Britain's first private university since the creation of the University Grants Committee after the First World War extended state funding to Oxford, Cambridge and Durham, while Ulster University was formed from the merger of a plate glass university with a polytechnic.

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Buckingham 1983[71] Flying on our own Wings Founded as the University College at Buckingham in 1973. First private university in the UK, and the only one established by royal charter
University of Ulster 1984[72] Formed by the merger of the New University of Ulster (founded 1968) and Ulster Polytechnic; in 2014 it re-branded as Ulster University.

New universities[edit]

Post-1992 universities[edit]

The passage of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 allowed all polytechnics and Scottish central institutions to become universities and award their own degrees rather than degrees governed by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). Thirty-eight (including institutions later merged) took up the offer immediately, nearly doubling the number universities again from 46 to 84 (and 89 by 1994). While commonly referred to as "post-1992 universities" (or new universities), many of these institutions claim heritage back to the nineteenth century.

Cranfield and UMIST (now merged into Manchester) both achieved university status in this period via royal charter rather than under the provisions of the 1992 act and are not generally regarded as "new universities". They are listed here with the 1992 universities to reflect the date when they gained their status.

Due to the way in which these universities were created only days apart, all of the universities created in 1992 are listed alphabetically.

Name University status Motto Notes
Anglia Ruskin University 1992 A Creative Constellation Founded as Cambridge School of Art 1858; polytechnic 1991. Renamed Anglia Ruskin University in 2005.[73]
Birmingham City University 16 June 1992[74] Age quod agis (Do what you are doing; attend to your business) Founded as City of Birmingham Polytechnic 1971; until 2007 was called University of Central England
Bournemouth University 27 November 1992 Discere mutari est
University of Brighton 1992 Founded as Brighton Polytechnic 1968
University of Central Lancashire 1992 Ex solo ad solem Formerly Preston Polytechnic 1973
Coventry University 1992 Founded as Lanchester Polytechnic 1970
De Montfort University 1992 Founded as Leicester Polytechnic 1969, but traces its origins back to the Leicester School of Art, founded in 1870
University of Derby 1992 Experientia docet formerly Derbyshire College of Higher Education
University of East London 1992 Founded as North East London Polytechnic 1970
University of Glamorgan 1992 to April 2013 Success Through Endeavour merged with University of Wales, Newport to form the University of South Wales
University of Greenwich 1992 To learn, to do, to achieve
University of Hertfordshire 1992[75] Seek Knowledge Throughout Life Founded as Hatfield Technical College in 1952, later becoming Hatfield College of Technology (1960) and Hatfield Polytechnic (1969)[76]
University of Huddersfield 1992 Not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. Traces its roots back to The Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society established in 1841. It became Huddersfield Technical College in 1896 and Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1970.[77]
Kingston University 1992 Kingston Technical Institute founded in 1899, becoming Kingston Polytechnic in 1970.[78]
Leeds Beckett University 1992 Opening minds, opening doors Changed its name from Leeds Metropolitan University in September 2014; formerly Leeds Polytechnic, founded in 1970, and traces its history back to the Leeds Mechanics Institute, founded in 1824.[79]
University of Lincoln 1992 Excellence through study Formerly Humberside Polytechnic (located in Kingston upon Hull); moved to Lincoln in 2001
London Guildhall University 1992 to 1 August 2002[80] merged with University of North London to form London Metropolitan University[80]
Liverpool John Moores University 1992 Audentes fortuna juvat Formerly Liverpool Polytechnic from 1970. Founded as Liverpool Mechanics' School of Arts in 1825.[81]
London South Bank University 1992 With Thy Might Founded as the Borough Polytechnic Institute in 1892
Manchester Metropolitan University 1992[82] Many Arts, Many Skills Founded as Manchester Polytechnic in 1970
Middlesex University 1992 Middlesex Polytechnic formed in 1973.[83]
Napier University June 1992 Nisi sapientia frustra Founded as Napier Technical College 1964
University of North London 1992 to 1 August 2002[80] merged with London Guildhall University to form London Metropolitan University[80]
Northumbria University 1992 Formed as Newcastle Polytechnic in 1969.
Nottingham Trent University 1992 Shaping futures Founded as the Nottingham Government School of Design in 1843. The institution became Trent Polytechnic in 1970.
Oxford Brookes University 1992[84] Excellence in diversity Founded as the Oxford School of Art in 1865; became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970.[85]
University of the West of Scotland 1992 Doctrina Prosperitas Known as the University of Paisley until it merged with Bell College Hamilton in 2007, forming the University of the West of Scotland as it is known today.
Plymouth University 1992 Indagate fingite invenite Founded as a school of navigation in 1862, it became a polytechnic in 1970.[86]
University of Portsmouth 7 July 1992[87] Lucem Sequamur Became Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1969.[88]
The Robert Gordon University 1992 Omni Nunc Arte Magistra Developed out of Robert Gordon's Hospital (founded 1750). Formed into Robert Gordon's Technical College in 1910 and is renamed Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology in 1965.
Sheffield Hallam University 1992 Learn and Serve Sheffield School of Design (later, Sheffield School of Art) founded in 1843. Became Sheffield City Training College in 1905 and Sheffield Polytechnic in 1969.[89]
Staffordshire University 1992 Create the difference Founded in 1906 by Alfred Bolton and opened in 1914 as the Central School of Science and Technology. Formed into North Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1971.[90]
University of Sunderland 4 June 1992[91][92] Scientiam Dulce Hauriens Founded 1901 as Sunderland Technical College. Affiliated to the Newcastle Division of Durham University from 1930.[93] Sunderland Polytechnic from 1969[91]
Teesside University 1992[94] Facta non-verba Founded as Constantine Technical College in 1930; became Teesside Polytechnic in 1969.[95]
University of Westminster 1992[96] Educating for professional life The first polytechnic university – founded in 1838 as the Royal Polytechnic Institution at Regent Street, London
University of the West of England 1992 Light Liberty Learning Traces its origins back to the Merchant Venturers Navigation School founded in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers.
University of Wolverhampton 1992 Innovation and Opportunity It was established as the School of Art, established in 1851, which came together as the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College in 1931.
Glasgow Caledonian University 1 April 1993 For the common weal
Cranfield University 1993 Post nubes lux Founded in 1946 as the College of Aeronautics. The Cranfield Institute of Technology was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1969, giving the institution its own degree-awarding powers. The current Cranfield University dates from 1993 and was established by royal charter rather than under the 1992 act
University of West London 1993[97] Founded as the Lady Byron School in 1860, it became the Polytechnic of West London in 1991 and Thames Valley University in 1993. It was granted permission by the Privy Council to change its name to University of West London in 2010 and the new name and logo were officially launched in April 2011.[97]
Abertay University 1994[98] Founded in 1888 as Dundee Technical Institute[98]
UMIST 1994 to 1 October 2004[99] Scientia et labore Traces its origins to 1824. Students gained Victoria University of Manchester degrees from 1905. Royal Charter as a university college in 1956. Independent university by Royal Charter in 1994. Merged with Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester in 2004.

Second wave of new universities[edit]

After the conversion of the polytechnics and central institutions under the 1992 Act there was a pause before a second wave of institutions gained university status in the 21st century. These were university colleges and other higher education institutions that had gained degree awarding powers since 1992 rather than being granted them on the break up of the CNAA.

From 1999, higher education policy has been a devolved power, although the actual award of university and degree awarding powers remains with the UK Privy Council. In 2004, the requirement that institutes gain research degree awarding powers before they could gain university status was dropped in England and Wales (but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland),[100] although they were still required to have 4000 full-time equivalent students, with 3000 on degree courses. Eight university colleges without research degree awarding powers became universities in 2005.[101][102][103][104] In 2012, the student numbers criterion for institutions in England was relaxed to 1000 full-time equivalent students (with 750 on degree courses) and a number of university colleges became universities.[105] New guidance for England issued in September 2015 replaces the requirement for 750 students to be studying degree courses with a requirement that 55% of students are studying on degree courses.[106]

This was also the era of the break-up of the federal University of Wales and the accreditation of its constituent colleges as individual universities, the secession of Imperial College from the University of London, and of mergers between a number of institutes that already had university status but which were dissolved to form a new university. In the case of many of these, the university so formed owes its status to a Royal Charter rather than the provisions of the 1992 act, making it legally distinct from the "new universities". As with the earlier overlap between plate glass and civic universities, these new "old universities" are listed here as institutions that became universities in the 21st century.

Up to July 2018, 51 further new universities have been created (including those created by mergers of existing universities) since 2000, bringing the total number to 132, of which 106 (including the Open University, which operates in all four countries of the UK, and 5 private universities) are in England,[107] 9 in Wales,[108] 2 in Northern Ireland,[109] and 15 in Scotland.[110]

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Gloucestershire 2001 In animo et veritate
London Metropolitan University 1 August 2002[80] Formed by the merger of two 1992 Universities, London Guildhall University (tracing its origins back to evening classes given in 1848) and the University of North London (founded as the Northern Polytechnic Institute in 1896).[80]
University of Bolton April 2004
University of the Arts London 2004 The collegiate body was first introduced as the London Institute in 1986, and acquired university status in 2004 as the University of the Arts London. The six colleges of art, design, fashion and media have origins dating back to the mid 19th Century.
Roehampton University 1 August 2004[111] Collegiate university consisting of four colleges. Earliest constituent college (Whitelands College) founded in 1841. Part of the Federal University of Surrey from 1 January 2000 to 1 August 2004.[111]
University of Manchester 22 October 2004[112] Cognitio, sapientia, humanitas Formed in 2004 by the dissolution of the Victoria University of Manchester (which was commonly known as the University of Manchester) and UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) and the immediate formation of a single institution (inaugurated on 1 October). As a university by royal charter, the new institution is legally distinct from the post-1992 institutions that became universities under the auspices of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.
Cardiff University December 2004[113] Gwirionedd undod a chytgord Established 1883 as the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire and was a founder member of the University of Wales in 1893. Merged with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology in 1988 and with the University of Wales College of Medicine in 2004. Left the University of Wales in 2005 on becoming an independent university. Like Manchester, Cardiff is a university by royal charter.
Canterbury Christ Church University 2005[101] Veritas liberabit vos
University of Chester 2005[101] Qui docet in doctrina Founded as Chester Diocesan Training College in 1839; degrees awarded by University of Liverpool 1910; university college 2003
University of Winchester June 2005[101] Wisdom ond lar (from old English) Modern English translation: Wisdom and Knowledge Founded in 1840 as Winchester Diocesan Training School. In 1847 it became Winchester Training College and was renamed King Alfred's College in 1928; degree awarding powers in 2003 and became University College Winchester in 2004. In 2008 Winchester University was awarded research degree awarding powers.
Liverpool Hope University July 2005[101] In Faith, Hope and Love Originally three teacher training institutions, Christ's College, Notre Dame and St Catherine's which merged in the late 1970s to become Liverpool Institute of Higher Education and then later, Liverpool Hope University College
Solent University July 2005[101] Ready for the future[114] The university's origins can be traced back to a private School of Art founded in 1856, which eventually became the Southampton College of Art. Mergers with the Southampton College of Technology, and later the College of Nautical Studies at Warsash, led to the establishment of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education in 1984. Southampton Institute then became a university on 12 July 2005 as Southampton Solent University, renamed simply to Solent University in 2017.[115]
Bath Spa University August 2005[116] Founded as Bath College of Higher Education 1975; university college 1992
University of Worcester 5 September 2005[117] Ad Inspirandum Aspiramus Founded as a teacher training college in 1946, absorbing the Herefordshire and Worcester College of Midwife training. Gained full university status in 2005 and became the University of Worcester
University of Northampton 2005[101] Transforming lives, inspiring change
University of Chichester 12 October 2005[118] Docendo discimus Founded as West Sussex Institute of Higher Education 1977; university college 1999; traces history to diocesan teacher training college established 1839
University of Bedfordshire August 2006 With roots dating back to 1882 as Teacher Training College, in 1992 gained university status as University of Luton. In 2006 named as University of Bedfordshire by merging the University of Luton and the Bedford campus of De Montfort University.
Edge Hill University 18 May 2006 In scientia opportunitas
York St John University 10 July 2006 Founded in 1841 as York Diocesan College.
Queen Margaret University January 2007
Imperial College London July 2007[119] Scientia imperii decus et tutamen Founded 1907 and formerly part of the University of London. Continues to use the name "Imperial College" despite having university status. University by Royal Charter
University of Cumbria 1 August 2007 Merger of St Martin's College, Cumbria Institute of the Arts and part of University of Central Lancashire
Buckinghamshire New University October 2007[120] Arte et industria formerly Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education until 1995, then Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College.[120]
Aberystwyth University 1 September 2007[121] Nid byd, byd heb wybodaeth Founded as University College Wales 1872; founder member of University of Wales 1893. University by royal charter
Bangor University 1 September 2007 Gorau dawn deall Founded as University College of North Wales 1884; founder member of University of Wales 1893. University by royal charter
Swansea University 1 September 2007 Gweddw crefft heb ei dawn Broke away from the University of Wales, which it joined as a constituent college in 1920, to begin awarding own degrees. University by royal charter.
Swansea Metropolitan University January 2008 to 2013[122] Founded as West Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education 1976. Merged with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in 2013.[122]
Wrexham Glyndŵr University 3 July 2008[123][124] Founded as Wrexham School of Science and Art 1887[123]
University for the Creative Arts May 2008 Founded 2005 as the University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 2010[122] Merger between University of Wales, Lampeter (founded 1822) and Trinity University College, incorporated under Lampeter's 1828 charter. University by Royal Charter.[122]
Cardiff Metropolitan University 2011[125] The most valuable possession is knowledge Part of federal University of Wales as the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) until 2011[125]
University of the Highlands and Islands 2011 The "UHI Millennium institute", a collegiate partnership of 13 colleges and research institutions scattered throughout the highlands and islands, Moray, and Perthshire and providing in excess of 50 additional learning centres in the same areas gained full university status as The University of the Highlands and Islands (Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean) in 2011; it had been a Higher Education Institute since 2001, and acquired the power to grant its own degrees from 2008, prior to which its degrees were authenticated by Open University Validation Service, the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Aberdeen
University of Law 22 November 2012[126] Founded 1962 as The College of Law, royal charter 1975. Education business sold off as a for-profit private limited company (becoming the University of Law) in 2012, with the chartered charity continuing as the Legal Education Foundation.[127] Part of Global University Systems.
University College Birmingham 2012[128] Did not change name on acquiring university status[129]
Bishop Grosseteste University 2012[128] Traces its origins back to the Diocese of Lincoln's Diocesan Training School for Mistresses, founded in 1862. Degree awarding powers from 2006.
Arts University Bournemouth 2012[128] Formerly Arts Institute Bournemouth (AIB) and Arts University College at Bournemouth (AUCB). Founded 1883[130]
Falmouth University 2012[128] Creative - Connected - Courageous Founded in 1902 as Falmouth School of Art
Harper Adams University 2012[128] Founded in 1901
University of St Mark & St John
Leeds Trinity University 2012[128] Formed as Trinity & All Saints College in 1980 by merger of Trinity College and All Saints College
Royal Agricultural University 2012[128] Avorum Cultus Pecorumque Founded 1845 as the Royal Agricultural College
Norwich University of the Arts 2012[128] Formerly Norwich University College of the Arts, founded in 2007, which traces its origins back to the Norwich School of Design, founded in 1845
Newman University, Birmingham 2012[128] Former Newman University College granted university status
Regent's University London March 2013 Private university. Formerly Regent's College (founded 1984)
University of South Wales April 2013 Formed from merger of the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport
BPP University August 2013 Your Ambition Realised Founded as BPP Law School 1992. Private for-profit university. Part of Apollo Group.
St Mary's University, Twickenham 23 January 2014 Monstra te esse matrem
Arden University 5 August 2015 Private for-profit blended learning university, title awarded via Companies House rather than the Privy Council. Formerly called RDI. Sold by Capella Education Company to Global University Systems in August 2016.[131][132]
University of Suffolk 1 August 2016 Previously University Campus Suffolk, established 2007 as a joint venture between the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia.[133]
Leeds Arts University August 2017[134] Previously Leeds College of Art and Design. Taught degree awarding powers 2016.
Ravensbourne University London 23 May 2018[135] Taught degree awarding powers August 2017.
Hartpury University 17 September 2018[136] Taught degree awarding powers July 2017.

Recognised bodies without university status[edit]

Some recognised bodies (bodies with degree awarding powers) have not been formally granted university status. Educational institutions with their own degree awarding powers but which are not formally recognised as universities are listed here by date of receiving their degree awarding powers. This table does not include colleges of the University of London (all of which are recognised bodies with the authority to grant University of London degrees, and many of which also have their own degree awarding powers), which are listed below.

Institute Degree awarding powers Notes
Royal College of Music 1882 By royal charter, originally degrees in music only[137]
Royal College of Art 1967 By royal charter;[138] describes itself as being 'an institution of university status'[139] but not recognised as a university by the Office for Students[107]
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland 1993/94[140]
Royal Northern College of Music 2007[141]
Ashridge Executive Education 2008[142]
London Institute of Banking and Finance 2010[143] Granted University College status (as ifs University College) in 2013[143]
University College of Estate Management January 2013[144] Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1922 [145] Granted University College status in November 2015[146]
Guildhall School of Music and Drama April 2014[147]
Writtle University College March 2015[148] Granted University College status in May 2016[149]
University College of Osteopathy December 2015[150] Granted University College status in October 2017[151]
NCG June 2016[152]
AECC University College July 2016[150] Granted University College status in August 2017[153]
Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance February 2017[154]
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine August 2017[155]
Richmond, The American International University in London May 2018[156]
Plymouth College of Art March 2019[157][158]
BIMM Limited March 2019[159][160]
Norland College March 2019[161][162]
Architectural Association School of Architecture October 2019[163][164]
NCH at Northeastern Ltd February 2020[165]

Federal universities[edit]

Some institutions were members of federal universities as university-level institutions before becoming universities in their own right.

University of London[edit]

The University of London was formed as a degree-awarding examining board in 1836 in response to the application of University College London (UCL) to be chartered as a university. It originally operated a system of affiliated institutions with two registers: one (controlled by the government) of institutions allowed to submit students for examination for Arts and Law degrees, and a second (controlled by the university) of institutions allowed to submit students for medical degrees. Apart from being allowed to submit students for London examinations, there was no connection between the affiliated colleges and the university.[25]

In 1858, the affiliation system was abandoned for Arts and Law degrees, with these being opened to anyone willing to travel to London for the examinations. In 1900, following a period of pressure from UCL and King's College London (KCL), the university was reorganised as a federal body after the model of the Victoria University and the University of Wales. Degrees were reorganised as external (the earlier open examinations, now University of London (Worldwide)) and internal (for students at London institutions that became schools of the university).[25]

In 2005–2006 UCL, KCL, the London School of Economics and Imperial College London gained the right to award degrees in their own name, although this right was not exercised until 2007. In 2007 Imperial College left the federation and became an independent university. Other institutions have since gone on to gain their own degree awarding powers, and a number of institutions have recently joined the federal structure. The University of London Act 2018 allowed member institutions to become universities in their own right while remaining part of the federal university; in February 2019 twelve colleges said they were applying to become universities.[166]

Institution College founded Joined federation Full college Notes
University College London 1826[21] 1836[21] 1900[25] Merged into University of London 1907–1977.[167] Incorporated by royal charter 1836–1907 and again from 1978.[168] Awarded independent degrees from 2007
King's College London 1829[21] 1836[21] 1900[25] Merged into University of London 1910 – 1980.[25] Royal charter was initially received in 1829 but was reincorporated by a new royal charter in 1980, currently incorporated under a royal charter granted in May 2009.[169][170] Awarded independent degrees from 2007. The St Thomas's Hospital Medical School was founded around 1550.
St George's, University of London 1733[171] 1840[172] 1900[25] Awarded independent degrees from 2007. Statutory body under the National Health Service Act 1946 rather than established by royal charter.[173]
Royal Holloway, University of London 1886[174] 1900[174] 1900[174] Merged with Bedford College (founded 1849) in 1985.[174] Merged college incorporated by act of parliament (as Royal Holloway and Bedford New College) 1985 rather than by royal charter; Royal Holloway College incorporated by act of parliament 1949–1985; Bedford College incorporated by royal charter 1909, revoked 1985.[175] Has its own degree awarding powers.[176][177]
London School of Economics 1895[178] 1900[178] 1900[178] Awarded own degrees from 2007. Company Limited by Guarantee rather than established by royal charter.[179]
Goldsmiths, University of London 1891[180] 1904[180] 1988[180] Royal charter 1990.[180] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
Queen Mary, University of London 1887[182] 1907–1915[182] 1915[182] Merged with Westfield College (founded 1882) in 1989. Merged with St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College (founded 1843) and London Hospital Medical College (founded 1785) in 1995. Awards own degrees since 2013.[182] Royal charter 1934.[183]
SOAS, University of London 1916[184] 1916 1916 Royal charter 1916.[185] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
Birkbeck, University of London 1823[186] 1920[186] 1920[187] Founded 1823 as London Mechanics' Institute; admitted women from 1830; named changed in 1866 to Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution;[188] finally to Birkbeck College in 1907. Royal charter 1926.[187] Holds, but does not use, degree awarding powers.[189]
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 1899[190] 1924[190] Royal Charter 1924.[190] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
Courtauld Institute of Art 1932[191] 1932 1990s[191] Company Limited by Guarantee rather than established by royal charter.[192]
Royal Veterinary College 1791[193] 1949[193] Royal charter 1875.[193] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
London Business School 1964[194] 1965[194] Originally registered as a company; incorporated by royal charter 1986.[194] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
Institute of Cancer Research 1909[195] 1996[195] 2003[195] Incorporated 1954 as a Company Limited by Guarantee.[196]
Royal Academy of Music 1822[197] 1999[197] Royal charter 1830.[197] Has its own degree awarding powers.[181]
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 1906[198] 2005[198] 2005[198] Incorporated 1989. Has held degree awarding powers since 2005. Became the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2012.[198] Company Limited by Guarantee.[199]
City, University of London 1894[64] 2016[64] 2016[64] Founded 1894 as the Northampton Institute. University status from 1966 by royal charter. Merged with the Inns of Court Law School (founded 1852) in 2001.[64] Surrendered university status and joined the University of London 1 September 2016.[200]

Former members of federal universities[edit]

Former federal universities in Great Britain include the Victoria University, the University of Wales, the University of St Andrews, the University of Durham, and the Federal University of Surrey. In the first two cases, the federal university merged with one of its colleges when it broke up (a process still ongoing as of July 2018 for Wales) while in the other three cases, where the university had previously existed as a non-federal body, it simply reverted to that status. In Ireland the Queen's University of Ireland was succeeded by the Royal University of Ireland which was succeeded (without Belfast) by the National University of Ireland, which continued to exist after Irish independence.

The longest lived of these federal institutions was the University of Wales, which was founded by royal charter in 1893 with the federation of University College Wales (now Aberystwyth University), University College North Wales (now Bangor University) and University College South Wales and Monmouthshire (now Cardiff University). Prior to this, students at these university colleges prepared for examinations of the University of London. The university grew with the addition of further colleges, and in 1971 St David's College, Lampeter (now part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David), Wales' oldest degree-awarding institution, suspended its own degree-awarding powers and entered the University of Wales as St David's University College.

In 2007 the university changed from a federal structure to a confederation of independent institutions, allowing individual institutions which had gained the status of universities in their own right to use the title of university, and in 2008 Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities decided to exercise their right to award their own degrees. This led to the effective break-up of the university in 2011, with it being decided that the University of Wales would merge with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and no longer accredit other institutions. From August 2017 the two institutions have been functionally integrated although a legal merger has not (as of July 2018) been finalised.[201]

This table of former members of federal universities is sorted primarily by when they became part of a federal university, with date of institutional foundation as a secondary index.

Institution College founded Original name Federal university Joined federation Left federation Notes
Queen's University Belfast 1845 Queens College Belfast Queen's, Royal 1850 1908
Victoria University of Manchester 1851 Owens College Victoria 1880 1994 Owens College merged with the Victoria University in 1904 to form the Victoria University of Manchester. Merged with UMIST in 2004 to form the University of Manchester.
University of Liverpool 1882 University College, Liverpool Victoria 1884 1903
University of Leeds 1884 Yorkshire College Victoria 1887 1904 Yorkshire College formed 1884 from the merger of Yorkshire College of Science (est. 1874) and Leeds School of Medicine (est. 1831).
Aberystwyth University 1872[202] University College Wales Wales 1893[203] 2007[121]
Cardiff University 1883[113] University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire Wales 1893[113] 2005[113]
Bangor University 1884[204] University College of North Wales Wales 1893[204] 2007[205]
University of Dundee 1881 University College, Dundee St Andrews 1887 1967
Imperial College London 1907 - London 1907 2007 Traces history back to the Royal College of Chemistry (est. 1845), the Royal School of Mines (est. 1851) and the Royal College of Science (est. 1881).
Newcastle University 1908 Newcastle division Durham 1908 1963 Comprised Armstrong College (est. 1871 as the Durham College of Physical Science) and the University of Durham College of Medicine (est. 1831 as the Newcastle School of Medicine and Surgery). These two institutions merged in 1934 to form King's College, Durham.
Swansea University 1920[206] University College of Swansea Wales 1920[206] 2007
University of Wales Trinity Saint David 1822[122] Saint David's College, Lampeter Wales 1971[122] 2011 University of Wales, Lampeter merged with Trinity University College in 2010 to form University of Wales Trinity Saint David[122]
Cardiff Metropolitan University 1865[125] Cardiff School of Art Wales 1992[125] 2011[125] University of Wales Institute Cardiff from 1992.
University of Wales, Newport 1840s[207] Newport Mechanics' Institute Wales 1996[207] 2011 University of Wales College, Newport from 1996. Merged with University of Glamorgan in 2013 to form the University of South Wales[207]
Roehampton University 1975 Roehampton Institute of Higher Education Surrey 2000 2004 Traces history to foundation of Whitelands College in 1841
Wrexham Glyndŵr University 1887[123] Wrexham School of Science & Arts Wales 2004[123] 2008[123][124] Higher Education Corporation from 1993 under the name of North East Wales Institute[124]

Former universities[edit]

This table contains universities that were officially recognised but were dissolved either by merging, splitting or just closing down. It does not include institutions which did not receive official recognition as universities, such as the attempt to found a university at Stamford in the 14th century, Cromwell's New College, Durham in the 17th century, or colleges of the federal universities of Wales and London that never became independent universities. It also does not include universities in the Republic of Ireland that ceased to be UK universities on independence from the UK.

Name University status Motto Ceased to be a university Reason
University of Northampton 1261 1265 Dissolved by King Henry III
University of Fraserburgh 1592 1605 Founded by permission of royal charter granted to Sir Alexander Fraser. Closed after the Principal, Charles Ferme, was arrested and imprisoned for "unlawfully assembling against the letters and charges of his majesty".[208]
Marischal College 1593 1860 Founded by George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, later confirmed by act of parliament. Was merged into the University of Aberdeen
Queen's University of Ireland 1850 1880 Federal university with colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway. Replaced by the Royal University of Ireland (see below)
Royal University of Ireland 1880 1908 Examining board for Irish colleges. Replaced by the National University of Ireland, with Queen's College Belfast becoming Queen's University Belfast
Victoria University 20 April 1880 Olim Armis Nunc Studiis 1 October 1904 Leeds and Liverpool left; surviving college became Victoria University of Manchester
University of Wales 1893 October 2011 Still legally in existence as of August 2018 but "effectively abolished" in October 2011 via merger with University of Wales Trinity St David.
Victoria University of Manchester 1 October 1904 Arduus Ad Solem 1 October 2004 Merged with UMIST to form the University of Manchester
New University of Ulster 1968 1984 merged with Ulster Polytechnic to form University of Ulster
University of Glamorgan 1992 Success Through Endeavour April 2013 merged with University of Wales, Newport to form the University of South Wales
University of North London 1992[80] 1 August 2002[80] merged with London Guildhall University to form London Metropolitan University[80]
London Guildhall University 1992[80] 1 August 2002[80] merged with University of North London to form London Metropolitan University[80]
UMIST 1994[99] Scientia et Labore 1 October 2004 Traces its origins to 1824. Students gained Victoria University of Manchester degrees from 1905. Royal Charter as a university college in 1956. Independent university 1994. Merged with Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester
Swansea Metropolitan University 2008 1 August 2013 Merged into the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
City University, London 1966[64] To serve mankind 2016 Became a college of the University of London in 2016 as City, University of London

Timeline of university numbers[edit]

Year No. of unis Founded that year Closed/merged that year
1167 1 Oxford
1209 2 Cambridge
1261 3 Northampton
1265 2 Northampton
1413 3 St Andrews
1451 4 Glasgow
1495 5 Aberdeen
1583 6 Edinburgh
1592 7 Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire
1593 8 Marischal College, Aberdeen
1605 7 Fraserburgh
1832 8 Durham
1836 9 London
1850 10 Queen's Ireland
1860 9 Marischal Aberdeen
1880 10 Victoria, Royal Ireland Queen's Ireland
1893 11 Wales
1900 12 Birmingham
1903 13 Liverpool
1904 14 Leeds, Victoria Manchester Victoria
1905 15 Sheffield
1908 15 Queen's Belfast Royal Ireland
1909 16 Bristol
1926 17 Reading
1948 18 Nottingham
1952 19 Southampton
1954 20 Hull
1955 21 Exeter
1957 22 Leicester
1961 23 Sussex
1962 24 Keele
1963 27 East Anglia, York, Newcastle
1964 29 Lancaster, Strathclyde
1965 32 Kent, Essex, Warwick
1966 40 Loughborough, Aston, Brunel, Surrey, Bath, Bradford, City London, Heriot-Watt
1967 43 Salford, Dundee, Stirling
1968 44 Ulster New
1969 45 Open
1983 46 Buckingham
1984 46 Ulster Ulster New
1992 84 Glamorgan, Anglia Ruskin, Birmingham City, Bournemouth, Brighton, C Lancs, Coventry, De Montfort, Derby, E London, Greenwich, Hertfordshire, Huddersfield, Kingston, Leeds Beckett, Lincoln, Guildhall, N London, John Moores, South Bank, Manchester Met, Middlesex, Napier, Northumbria, Nottingham Trent, Oxford Brookes, W of Scotland, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Robert Gordon, Sheffield Hallam, Staffordshire, Sunderland, Teesside, W London, Westminster, W of England, Wolverhampton
1993 87 Glasgow Caledonian, Cranfield, Luton
1994 89 Abertay, UMIST
2001 90 Gloucestershire
2002 89 London Met Guildhall, N London
2004 91 Bolton, Arts London, Roehampton, Manchester UMIST, Victoria Manchester
2005 101 Cardiff, Canterbury, Chester, Winchester, Liverpool Hope, Solent, Bath Spa, Worcester, Northampton, Chichester
2006 103 Bedfordshire, Edge Hill, York St John Luton
2007 110 Imperial, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Swansea, Queen Margaret, Cumbria, Bucks New
2008 113 Glyndwr, Swansea Met, Creative Arts
2010 114 Trinity St David
2011 116 Cardiff Met, Highlands & Islands
2012 127 Law, UC Birmingham, Bishop Grosseteste, Bournemouth Arts, Falmouth, Harper Adams, Plymouth Marjon, Leeds Trinity, Royal Agricultural, Norwich Arts, Newman
2013 128 South Wales, Regent's, BPP Glamorgan, Swansea Met
2014 129 Twickenham
2015 130 Arden
2016 130 Suffolk City London
2017 131 Leeds Arts
2018 133 Ravensbourne, Hartpury

Universities and university colleges in overseas territories[edit]

These are not considered UK universities and are not recognised as degree-awarding bodies by the British government.[209]

Name Territory University status Motto Notes
University of the West Indies Anguilla
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
1962 Operates across current and former British territories in the West Indies. Physical campuses in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Operated as part of the University of London 1948–1962 as the University College of the West Indies
International College of the Cayman Islands Cayman Islands 1970
University College of the Cayman Islands Cayman Islands 1975
St. Matthews University Cayman Islands 1997 Founded in Belize; moved to the Cayman Islands in 2002
Saint James School of Medicine Anguilla 1999 Founded in Bonaire; moved to Anguilla in 2010
University of Science, Arts and Technology Montserrat 2003

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