Higher Education Institutes (HEI) including Universities, the National Colleges and the Polytechnics

Although the history of technical and commercial education did not directly relate to Higher Education (HE) it might be of value to describe some aspects and examples of the creation and development of HE institutions. Since the mid 19th century a succession of Royal Commissions and other inquiries have recommended the urgent need to promote technological institutions at Higher Education level. From 1945, the situation began to improve with the Percy Report– ‘Higher Technological Education’, 1945 and Barlow Reports ‘Scientific Manpower’. Cmd 6824. 1946 and the 1956 White Paper ‘Technical Education.’ Cmd 9703. To accelerate progress two complementary policies were adopted, namely to expand the provision of technological education in the existing universities and to recognise leading technological institutions outside the university sector. Two developments whichreflect this approach werethe selection of the Imperial College for special development and in 1956 the designation of Colleges of Advanced Technology (CAT).

The list is by no means complete but I have tried to trace the development of the universities in Britain. A number of the current universities had roots in scientific and technological disciplines e.g. Colleges of Art and Design, Commerce, Technology, CATs, the National Colleges and Polytechnics and many of these can be traced back to Mechanics’ Institutions and other earlier technical institutes. More detail is given in the history of technical education on this website.

Foundation dates of some Universities and University Colleges

Founding date
University of Oxford and its constituent colleges
University of Cambridge and its constituent colleges
University of St Andrews, Scotland
University of Glasgow, Scotland
University of Aberdeen, Scotland
 (Aberdeen had two universities namely King’s College (1495) and Marischal College (15930 and were merged to create University of Aberdeen in 1866)
University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Trinity College, Dublin
University College, London
King’s College, London
St David’s Lampeter, Wales
(Now part of the University of Wales which was established in 1893)
Durham University College
 (Established in Durham in 1657 by Cromwell)
City of London College.
University of London
(University College + King’s College)
Queen’s College, Birmingham
Queen’s University, Belfast
Victoria University of Manchester from 1903.
(Originally called Owens College 1851.
In 2004 merged with University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST)which was founded in 1824, to form the University of Manchester)
Hartley Institute, Southampton
(1952 renamed University College in 1902 received charter in 1952 to become Southampton University)
Newcastle College of Physical Science
(Later part of Durham University) became Newcastle University in 1963)
University College Wales
(Now Aberystwyth University)
Yorkshire College of Science, Leeds
(Became Leeds University in 1904)
College of Science for the West of England, Bristol.
(Became University of Bristol in 1909)
Royal Holloway, London
Royal University of Ireland
Mason Science College, Birmingham
(Became University of Birmingham in 1900)
University College, Nottingham
Became the University of Nottingham in 1948)
University College, Liverpool
(Admitted to the Victoria University (Manchester in 1884 and became the University of Liverpool 1903)
University Colleges, Cardiff
University College, Bangor
Firth College, Sheffield
(Renamed University College, Sheffield in 1897 and became the University of Sheffield in 1905)
University Extension College, Reading
(Became the University of Reading in 1926 renamed University College.
Exeter Technical and University Extension College
(Became the University of Exeter in 1955)
University of Wales – federation established
London School of Economics and Political Science
Royal College of Art
(Became a University in 1969)
University of London reorganised in 1900.
(In 1898 the University of London Act established a teaching university with a federal constitution. The original schools were University College, King’s College, Bedford College, Royal Holloway College, Royal college of Science, South Eastern Agricultural College at Wye, the Central Technical College, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the ten London medical schools. At the time the University had eight faculties namely: Arts, Economics with Political Science, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Music, Science and Theology. University continued to offer both external and internal degrees. Students from the constituent schools obtained an internal degree while those studying elsewhere gained external degrees)
University College, Hull
(Became the University of Hull in 1954)
University College, Leicester
(Became the University of Leicester in 1957)
The Post-Robbins Era:
University of Sussex
Keele University (Formerly a University College founded after WW2)
University of East Anglia
University of York
University of Strathclyde
Lancaster University
University of Essex
University of Warwick
Loughborough University (Formerly Loughborough CAT)
Aston University
Brunel University
University of Surrey (Formerly Battersea CAT)
University of Bath (Formerly Bristol CAT)
University of Bradford (Formerly Bradford CAT)
City University, London (Former CAT)
University of Kent
Heriot-Watt University, Scotland (Formerly Heriot-Watt CAT)
University of Salford (Formerly Salford CAT)
University of Dundee, Scotland
University of Sterling, Scotland
Cranfield University
(100% post-graduate institution the first of the National Colleges)
Open University
(A very special and innovative university being the only distance learning university)
University of Buckingham
(At present the only privately run university)
University of Ulster, Belfast
(Formed from a merger with Ulster Polytechnic and a plate glass university)
The Post- Polytechnic Era 1992+
This period witnessed the number of universities increasing from 46 to 84.
Napier University, Scotland
(Formerly Napier Technical College  and College of Commerce then Napier Polytechnic 1964)
Anglian Ruskin University
(Formerly Cambridge School of Art and before Essex Institute of Higher Education, Anglia Polytechnic University- Polytechnic designation 1991)
Birmingham City University
(Formerly the Central England in Birmingham and before  Birmingham Polytechnic 1971)
Bournemouth University
(Formerly Municipal College of Technology, Dorset Institute of HE and then Bournemouth Polytechnic)
University of Brighton
(Formerly Brighton Polytechnic 1968 and before the College of Technology and College of Art )
University of Central England
(Formerly Preston Polytechnic 1973)
De Montford University
(Formerly Leicester Polytechnic 1969 and before Regional College of Technology and College of Art)
Coventry University
(Formerly Lanchester Polytechnic 1970 and before Lanchester College of Technology (Coventry and Coventry College of Art))
University of Derby
(Formerly Derbyshire College of HE)
University of East London
(Formerly North East London Polytechnic 1970)
University of Glamorgan
(Formerly Glamorgan Polytechnic and before Treforest College of Technology)
University of Greenwich
University of Hertfordshire
(Formerly Hatfield Polytechnic and before Hatfield College of Technology)
University of Huddersfield
(Formerly Huddersfield Polytechnic and before Huddersfield College of Technology))
Kingston University
(Formerly Kingston Polytechnic and before Kingston College of Technology and College of Art)
Leeds Metropolitan University
(Formerly Leeds Polytechnic and before Leeds College of Technology, College of Art and College of Commerce)
University of Lincoln
(Formerly Humberside Polytechnic)
Liverpool John Moores University
(Formerly Liverpool Polytechnic and before Liverpool College of Technology, College of Building, College of Art and College of Commerce)
London South Bank University
(Formerly South Bank Polytechnic and before Borough Institute 1892)
London Metropolitan University
(Merger of London Guildhall University which was formerly City of London Polytechnic, and the University of North London which was formerly Polytechnic of North London)
Manchester Metropolitan University
(Formerly Manchester Polytechnic and before John Dalton College, College of Art and Design and College of Commerce)
Middlesex University
(Formerly Middlesex Polytechnic)
Northumbria University
(Formerly Newcastle Polytechnic and before Rutherford College of Technology, College of Art and Industrial Design and Municipal College of Commerce)
Nottingham Trent University
(Formerly Trent Polytechnic and before Regional College of Technology and College of Art and Design)
Oxford Brookes University
(Formerly Oxford Polytechnic and before Oxford College of Technology)
University of the West Scotland
University of Plymouth
(Formerly Polytechnic of the South West created from Plymouth Polytechnic. Exeter College of Art and Design , Rolle College and Plymouth School of Maritime Studies)
University of Portsmouth
(Formerly Portsmouth Polytechnic and before Portsmouth College of Technology and College of Art and Design)
Robert Gordon University
Sheffield Hallam University
(Formerly Sheffield Polytechnic and before Sheffield College of Technology and College of Art)
Staffordshire University
(Formerly Staffordshire/Stoke-on-Trent- North Staffordshire Polytechnic and before Staffordshire College of Technology, North Staffordshire College of Technology, Stoke-on Trent College of Art)
University of Sunderland
(Formerly Sunderland Polytechnic and before Sunderland Technical College and College of Art))
University of Teeside
(Formerly Teeside Polytechnic 1970 and before the Constantine Technical College 1930)
University of West London
(Formerly Thames Valley University formed from the merger of Thames Valley College and Ealing College of HE and became Polytechnic of West London)
University of Westminster
(Formerly Polytechnic of Central London originally the Royal Polytechnic 1838)
University of the West of England
(Formerly Bristol Polytechnic)
University of Wolverhampton
(Formerly Wolverhampton Polytechnic and before Wolverhampton College of Technology and College of Art)
Glasgow Caledonian University
University of Abertay, Dundee
(formerly Polytechnic of Wales)

Note: the Polytechnics in London were created out of a range of many existing institutions representing the National Colleges, the earlier Polytechnics, Colleges of Technology, Art, Commerce etc.

Extra notes:
A very important development after 1945 was the creation of the National Colleges. Some were based on existing technical colleges with high percentages of higher level work whilst others were new foundations. All were direct-grant institutions under the Ministry of Education (MoE). They are listed below.

Date of Foundation/Discipline/Location:
1946 Aeronautics (Cranfield)
1947 Horology and Instrument Technology (Northampton Polytechnic)
1948 Rubber Technology (Northern Polytechnic)
1948 Heating, Ventilation, Refrigeration and Fan Engineering (Borough Polytechnic)
1948 Foundry (Wolverhampton)
1949 Royal College of Art* (South Kensington)
1951 Leathersellers’ (London)
1952 Food Technology (Weybridge)
1962 Agricultural Engineering (Silsoe, Bedfordshire)

* The Royal College of Art was in different category of these technological colleges but was designated a national colleges in 1949 and became a University in 1967. National Colleges later became part of the university sector.

Foundation of Colleges of Advanced Technology (CAT)
Colleges with a significant amount of advanced and post graduate work and some research were designated CATs. Their degrees were validated by the National Council for Academic Awards (CNNA). Eight in England: Battersea. (Became University of Surrey), Aston. (Became Aston University), Bradford. (Became Bradford University), Bristol. (Became University of Bath), Brunel, (Became Brunel University).Loughborough. (Became Loughborough University), Northampton. (Became City University), Salford. (Became University of Salford) and Chelsea became part of the University of London.
In Scotland Heriot-Watt. (Became Heriot-Watt University)
In Wales the Cardiff CAT became part of the University of Wales as the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST)

Note: In 1965 following the Robbins report these CATs were established as universities in their own right with titles as shown above.

Believe or not more universities were created after 2001 than at any other time; 31 so far bringing the total to 115! I fear in the current period of massive cuts and increases in student fees many universities will close or merge with others. No doubt the coalition government will encourage more private universities to be created like Buckinghamshire. Sadly in spite of this massive expansion of universities and other HE institutions the number of undergraduates and post-graduates in key subjects like engineering, built environment, mathematics, manufacturing sciences and technologies, physical science, statistics and other disciplines that require mathematics and science is still woefully poor when compared with our competitors. For example in 1971 the applications to HE for the whole of the UK reflected this sad state of affairs i.e. 1,240 applicants for 1,962 places in Engineering, 2,700 applicants for 3,571 places in the Sciences and not surprisingly 10,000 applicants for 2,200 places in Arts and Social Sciences This is a classic example academic drift which did not encourage participation in these strategically important subjects. Instead the universities are currently producing large numbers of graduates in such subjects such as media studies and overall the graduate output is not addressing the imbalance between the supply and demand equations.
Blair’s dream of 50% of young graduates also did not help the situation but did encourage the establishment of many more universities offering in the main, subjects that did little to solve the country’s problems with mathematics, science and technology and how these relate to industry and economic growth and the regeneration of society.
The hopes and ideals presented in the Percy and Barlow Reports and many reports before and since failed to solve this problem.

It is also fair to say that a number of colleges that were created as specialist institutions of science and technology when they eventually became universities inevitably lost those specialisms and it some cases their monotechnic status and became broad and generic.

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