New universities (United Kingdom)

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For the new universities of France, see Universités nouvelles.

The term new universities has been used informally to refer to several different waves of new universities created or renamed as such in the United Kingdom.[1] Currently, the term is synonymous with post-1992 universities and sometimes modern universities, referring to the former polytechnics and central institutions given university status by John Major's government through the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, as well as the higher education college and other institutions granted university status since then under the Act (although not those institutions, such as Imperial College London and Cardiff University, granted university status since 1992 by royal charter). Though referred to as "new" or "modern", some of these universities have significant histories, having been founded under other titles from the early to mid 19th century (e.g. the University of Westminster, founded in 1838 as the Royal Polytechnic Institution, or the University of Winchester, established in 1840 as the Winchester Diocesan Training School).

For many centuries the only universities in England or Wales were Oxford and Cambridge (Scotland's tradition was quite different, with several mediaeval universities). Thus the term "new universities" was used in the mid 19th century to refer to the universities of Durham and London, as distinct from the "old universities" of Oxford and Cambridge.[2][3] Following this, the term was applied to the civic universities of the early 20th centuries, such as Bristol University and others, afterwards known as the red brick universities.[4] It later came to be used to refer to any of the universities founded in the 1960s: the Colleges of Advanced Technology that were converted to universities following the 1963 Robbins Report on higher education, and the plate glass universities, which were in the process of being established prior to the Robbins Report.[5]

The post-1992 universities[edit]

Following the 1992 act, 33 polytechnics in England, the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, the Polytechnic of Wales and three Scottish central institutions converted to universities immediately, with another trip central institutions following by 1994. The Polytechnic of Ulster, in Northern Ireland, had previously merged with the New University of Ulster (founded in 1968) to form the University of Ulster in 1984.

All the categories of university award their own academic degrees, but universities created in England and Wales since 2004 may only have the power to award taught degrees, the UK Government having removed holding research degree awarding powers from the criteria for university title. The Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, which became the University of Gloucestershire in 2001, was the only institute to become a university in England between the polytechnics in 1992 and the relaxation of the criteria in 2004. Two new universities have subsequently been established in Scotland, where the old criteria still apply: Queen Margaret University, another former central institution, (2007) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (2011).

Post-1992 universities that trace their roots to former polytechnics[edit]

Post-1992 universities that trace their roots to former central institutions[edit]

Post-1992 universities that are not former polytechnics or central institutions[edit]


  1. ^ What is a University in the UK
  2. ^ The Anomalous Position of the University of London. The Lancet. 2. 19 July 1851. p. 64. We are now only seeking to contrast the general powers conferred on the old and on the new Universities 
  3. ^ The Charitable Trusts Bill. The Lancet. 2. 27 August 1853. p. 193. the Solicitor General, by a piece of flimsy special pleading, endeavoured to establish a distinction between the cases of the old and the new Universities. 
  4. ^ Herklots, H, 1928, The New Universities – an external examination, Ernest Benn, London
  5. ^ "Chapter IV: Institutions of higher education in Great Britain". Higher Education – Report of the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister under the Chairmanship of Lord Robbins. 1963. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "History of the University of South Wales – University of South Wales". 
  7. ^ "History – University of West London". 
  8. ^

See also[edit]