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List of UK universities by date of foundation

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

In many cases the supposed date of foundation is open to debate. The date in which an institution officially achieved royal charter is therefore provided first, with any unofficial date in parentheses.

Ancient universities

Main article: Ancient university

Until the nineteenth century there were only two university establishments in England and five in Scotland (including two in Aberdeen, see below).

Name Country Date of foundation Motto Notes
University of Oxford England Before 1167 Dominus illuminatio mea (The Lord is my light)
University of Cambridge England 1209 Hinc lucem et pocula sacra (From here, light and sacred draughts)
University of St Andrews Scotland Between 1410 and 1413 ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ (Ever to Excel)
University of Glasgow Scotland 1451 Via, Veritas, Vita (The way, the truth, the life)
University of Aberdeen Scotland 1495 Initium sapientiae timor domini (The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord) For centuries, Aberdeen had two universities. King's College (1495) and Marischal College (1593) merged to form the University of Aberdeen in 1860[1]
University of Edinburgh Scotland 1583

Eighteenth century colleges and nineteenth century universities

No new universities were founded in the United Kingdom after Edinburgh until the nineteenth century, building on the earlier establishment of a number of colleges such as St George's (1733), the London Hospital Medical College (1785) and the Royal Veterinary College (1791).

Name Date of foundation Date of royal charter Motto Notes
University of Wales, Lampeter 1822 as St David's College 1828 Gair Duw Goreu Dysg ("The Best Education is God's Word") Limited degree awarding powers (BD only) from 1852, BA from 1865.
The University of Durham 1832 (Act of Parliament) 1837 Fundamenta eius super montibus sanctis (Her foundations are upon the holy hills) Derives university status from act of parliament rather than charter[2]
University of London 1836 1836 See below
The Queen's University of Belfast 1845 as Queen's College, Belfast 1850 as part of Queen's University of Ireland Independent charter from 1908
University of Wales 1893 1893 Goreu Awen Gwirionedd (The Best Inspiration is Truth) See below

Note that the University of London, the University of Wales, and Queen's University of Ireland were founded as federal universities incorporating earlier colleges. The cases of London and Wales are discussed below; the Queen's University of Ireland was replaced by the Royal University of Ireland in 1879, and this was subsequently broken up in 1908.

Also note that 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 until 1964.[3]

University of London

Attempts to list UK universities in order of foundation are greatly complicated by the existence of the federal University of London, formed by the federation of two existing institutions, King's College London and University College London in 1836. Prior to this neither college had the right to award degrees, while after federation they awarded degrees from the University of London. As the two colleges did not have independent degree awarding powers then by strict definitions they might not be considered full universities. However the great majority of their activities were, and continue to be, carried out independently, and for most practical purposes they can be considered as independent universities from this date. The University of London subsequently grew as additional colleges joined the federation.

In 2003 King's College London, University College London, 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 entirely independent. In 2011 the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) gained the right to award its own degrees, and this right was first exercised in 2013. Thus the University of London now combines a federal structure, made up of colleges which are not full universities but award London degrees, and a confederal structure, including King's College, SOAS and University College which are now full independent universities.

Institution College Founded Joined Federation Notes
Heythrop College, University of London 1614 1971 Founded in Leuven and based outside London until 1970
St George's, University of London 1733 1836 Awarded independent degrees from 2007
University College London 1826 1836 Awarded independent degrees from 2007
King's College London 1829 1836 Awarded independent degrees from 2007. The St Thomas's Hospital Medical School was founded around 1550.
Royal Holloway, University of London 1886 1900 Merged with Bedford College in 1985
Queen Mary, University of London 1885 1907 Merged with Westfield College in 1989
Goldsmiths, University of London 1891 1904 Full College from 1988
London School of Economics 1895 1900
Imperial College London 1907 1907 Independent from 2007
Birkbeck, University of London 1907 1920 Founded 1823 as London Mechanics' Institute; named changed in 1866 to Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution; finally to Birkbeck College in 1907
SOAS, University of London 1916 1916 Awarded independent degrees from 2013
Courtauld Institute of Art 1932 1932
London Business School 1964 1964

University of Wales

A similar situation occurred in Wales with the federation in 1893 of University College Wales (now Aberystwyth University), University College North Wales (now Bangor University) and University College South Wales and Monmouthshire (now Cardiff University) as the University of Wales. Prior to this federation 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 (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 breakup of the university in 2011.

Institution College Founded Joined Federation Notes
Aberystwyth University 1872 as University College Wales 1894 Independent from 2007
Cardiff University 1883 as University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire 1894 Independent from 2005
Bangor University 1884 as University College of North Wales 1894 Independent from 2009
Swansea University 1920 as University College of Swansea 1920 Independent from 2007
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David 1828 as Saint David's College, Lampeter 1971 Independent from 2010

Civic universities

These universities were distinguished by being non-collegiate institutions that admitted men without reference to religion or background and concentrated on imparting to their students "real-world" skills, often linked to engineering.

Red brick universities

Main article: Red brick university

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.[4] All of the red brick institutions have origins dating back to older medical or engineering colleges.

Name Date of foundation Motto Notes
Victoria University 1880 (defunct 1903) Olim armis nunc studiis Victoria University was a federal college based in Manchester with satellite sites in Leeds and Liverpool.

It was defunct by 1903 as Leeds and Liverpool sought independent university status which led to the formation of the Victoria University of Manchester as a new entity.

University of Birmingham 1900 Per ardua ad alta The first independent civic university to be awarded full university status by Royal Charter.
Victoria University of Manchester 1904 Cognitio, sapientia, humanitas Merged with UMIST in 2004 to form the University of Manchester.
University of Liverpool 1903 Haec otia studia fovent Formerly a constituent college of the Victoria University.
University of Leeds 1904 et augebitur scientia Formerly a constituent college of the Victoria University.
University of Sheffield 1905 Rerum cognoscere causas
University of Bristol 1909 Vim promovet insitam

Second wave of civic universities

The second wave of civic universities differed from the first in that they evolved from local university colleges and all awarded external Oxford University and University of London degrees before being granted full university status.

Name Date of foundation Motto Notes
University of Reading 1926 Developed from University College Reading, founded by Christ Church, Oxford as an extension college in 1892
University of Nottingham 1948 Sapientia urbs conditur Developed from University College Nottingham, founded in 1881 as a constituent college of the University of London
University of Southampton 1952 Strenuis Ardua Cedunt Developed from the Hartley University College, which became a constituent college of the University of London in 1902, based on the Hartley Institution founded in 1862
University of Hull 1954 Lampada ferens Developed from University College Hull, an external college of the University of London founded in 1927
University of Exeter 1955 Lucem sequimur Developed from the 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 Ut Vitam Habeant Developed from Leicestershire and Rutland University College, founded in 1921, which became University College, Leicester, an external college of the University of London, in 1927

Plate glass universities

Main article: Plateglass university

Universities founded during the 1960s are called this because of their architectural style. This was the era of the Robbins Report, when the number of UK universities more than doubled from 20 to 43. Many of these new universities incorporated older (in some cases, much older) institutions, but others were newly created at this time.

Name Date of foundation Motto Notes
University of Sussex 1961 Be still and know
Keele University 1962 Thanke God for All Established in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire
University of East Anglia 1963 Do Different
University of York 1963 In limine sapientiae York is a collegiate university and is made up of nine colleges
Newcastle University 1963 Traces its origins back to 1834 as the School of Medicine and Surgery, but became independent from the University of Durham in 1963. Despite this, it is often referred to as a redbrick university due to the architectural style of many of its buildings built before becoming the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Lancaster University 1964 Patet omnibus veritas Lancaster is a collegiate university and is made up of nine colleges
University of Strathclyde 1964[3] 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 Cui servire regnare est Kent is a collegiate university and is made up of six colleges
University of Essex 1965 Thought the harder, heart the keener
University of Warwick 1965 Mens agitat molem
Loughborough University 1966 Veritate, Scientia, Labore Traces its origins back to 1909 as the Loughborough Technical Institute
Aston University 1966 Forward Traces its origins back to 1895 as the Birmingham Municipal Technical School
Brunel University 1966 Innovate or Die Traces its origins to Acton Technical College, which was founded in 1928
University of Surrey 1966 Traces its origins back to Battersea Polytechnic Institute which was founded in 1891
University of Bath 1966 Generatim discite cultus Traces its origins to the Bristol Trade School of 1856
University of Bradford 1966 Make Knowledge Work Traces its origins back to the Bradford Mechanics Institute, founded in 1832
City University, London 1966 To serve mankind Founded in 1894 as the Northampton Institute
Heriot-Watt University 1966 Originally established in 1821 as the School of Arts of Edinburgh but was not given a royal charter.
University of Salford 1967 Altiora Petamus Origins can be traced to 1896 with the opening of the Royal Technical Institute, Salford
University of Dundee 1967 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
Royal College of Art 1967 Founded in 1837 as the Government School of Design
Cranfield University 1969 Post Nubes Lux Founded in 1946 as the College of Aeronautics

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).

Intermediate era

Only three universities were founded between 1969 and 1992 and they were all the "odd-one-out" in some way: The Open University is the UK's only solely undergraduate distance learning university; the University of Buckingham is a private university; and Ulster University was formed from the merger of a plate glass university with a polytechnic.

Name Date of foundation Motto Notes
The Open University 1969 Live and Learn
University of Buckingham 1976 Flying on our own Wings
University of Ulster 1984 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

1992 universities

The passage of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 allowed all polytechnics to become universities and award their own degrees rather than degrees governed by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) . 38 took up the offer immediately, nearly doubling the number universities again from 46 to 84. While still commonly referred to as 'New Universities', many of these institutions claim heritage back to the nineteenth century.

Name University status Motto Notes
Napier University June 1992 Nisi sapientia frustra Founded as Napier Technical College 1964
Anglia Ruskin University 1992 A Creative Constellation Founded as Cambridge School of Art 1858; polytechnic 1991
Birmingham City University 1992 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
De Montfort University 1992 Founded as Leicester Polytechnic 1969
Coventry University 1992 Founded as Lanchester Polytechnic 1970
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 Success Through Endeavour
University of Greenwich 1992 To learn, to do, to achieve
University of Hertfordshire 1992 Seek Knowledge Throughout Life
University of Huddersfield 1992
Kingston University 1992
Leeds Beckett University 1992 Changed its name from Leeds Metropolitan University in September 2014; formerly Leeds Polytechnic, founded in 1970
University of Lincoln 1992 Excellence through study Formerly Humberside Polytechnic (located in Kingston upon Hull); moved to Lincoln in 2001
Liverpool John Moores University 1992 Audentes Fortuna Juvat Founded as Liverpool Mechanics' School of Arts in 1823;
London South Bank University 1992 With Thy Might Founded as the Borough Polytechnic Institute in 1892
Manchester Metropolitan University 1992 Many Arts, Many Skills
Middlesex University 1992
Northumbria University 1992
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 Excellence in diversity Founded as the Oxford School of Art in 1865; became Oxford Polytechnic in 1970.
University of the West of Scotland 1992
University of Plymouth 1992 Indagate Fingite Invenite
University of Portsmouth 1992 Lucem Sequamur
The Robert Gordon University 1992 Omni Nunc Arte Magistra Developed out of Robert Gordon's Hospital (founded 1750)
Sheffield Hallam University 1992 Learn and Serve
Staffordshire University 1992 Create the difference Founded in 1906 by Alfred Bolton and opened in 1914 as the Central School of Science and Technology.
University of Sunderland 1992 Scientiam Dulce Hauriens
Teesside University June 1992 Facta Non Verba Founded as Constantine Technical College in 1930; became Teesside Polytechnic in 1969
University of West London 1992 Thames Valley University 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.
University of Westminster 1992 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
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
University of Abertay Dundee 1994

Second wave of new universities

Main article: New universities

After a seven-year hiatus, a great number of polytechnics, university colleges and higher education institutes began to apply for university status. 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. So far, 31 new universities have been created bringing the total number to 115.

Name University status Motto Notes
University of Gloucestershire 2001 In animo et veritate
University of Wales, Newport 2002
London Metropolitan University August 2002 Formed by the merger of two 1992 Universities, London Guildhall University (tracing its origins back to 1848) and the University of North London (founded as the Northern Polytechnic Institute in 1896), this institution should not be considered 'second wave'.
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.
Cardiff University 1 August 2004 Gwirionedd Undod A Chytgord Established 1883 as the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire before becoming University of Wales, Cardiff and breaking from the University of Wales federation in 2004.
Roehampton University 1 August 2004 Earliest constituent college (Whitelands College) founded in 1841.
University of Manchester 1 October 2004 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), this institution should not be considered 'second wave'.
Bath Spa University August 2005 Founded as Bath College of Higher Education 1975; university college 1992
Canterbury Christ Church University 2005 Veritas liberabit vos
University of Chester 2005 Qui docet in doctrina Founded as Chester Diocesan Training College in 1839; degrees awarded by University of Liverpool 1910; university college 2003
University of Chichester 2005 Docendo discimus Founded as West Sussex Institute of Higher Education 1977; university college 1999; established as a provider of higher education in 1839
University of Winchester June 2005 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 awarding powers.
Liverpool Hope University July 2005 In Faith, Hope and Love Originally three teacher training institutions, Christs College, Notre Dame and St Catherines which merged in the late 1970s to become Liverpool Institute of Higher Education and then later, Liverpool Hope University College
Southampton Solent University July 2005 Scintill Tuus Imaginationem 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.
University of Worcester September 2005 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 Transforming lives, inspiring change
University of Bedfordshire 2006
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
Buckinghamshire New University 2007 Arte et Industria formerly Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education until 1995, then Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College
University Campus Suffolk 1 August 2007
University of Cumbria 1 August 2007 merger of St Martin's College, Cumbria Institute of the Arts and part of University of Central Lancashire
Aberystwyth University 1 September 2007 Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth Founded as University College Wales 1872; founder member of University of Wales 1893
Bangor University 1 September 2007 Gorau Dawn Deall Founded as University College of North Wales 1884; founder member of University of Wales 1893
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.
Trinity University College 1 September 2007 Founded as Trinity College, Carmarthen 1848
Cardiff Metropolitan University 1 September 2007 The most valuable possession is knowledge Named University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) until October 2011
Swansea Metropolitan University January 2008 Founded as

Swansea Institute of Higher Education 1992

Glyndwr University July 2008 Founded as Wrexham School of Science and Art 1887
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David 2010 Merger between University of Wales, Lampeter (1828) and Trinity University College, which is governed by the 1828 charter granted to Lampeter.
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
Norwich University of the Arts January 2013 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 6 February 2013 Former Newman University College granted university status
BPP University August 2013 Your Ambition Realised Founded as BPP Law School 1992

Universities in Overseas Territories

Name Territory University status Motto Notes
University of the West Indies Anguilla
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
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

Former universities

This table contains universities that were given a Royal Charter and awarded degrees 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.

Name University status Motto Dissolved Reason
University of Northampton 1261 1265 Dissolved by King Henry III
University of Wales, Lampeter 1852 Gair Duw Goreu Dysg 2010 merged with Trinity University College to form University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, which is governed by the 1828 charter.
Victoria University 20 April 1880 Olim Armis Nunc Studiis 1 October 1904 Leeds and Liverpool left; surviving college became Victoria University of Manchester
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 North London 1992 1 August 2002 merged with London Guildhall University to form London Metropolitan University
UMIST 1993 Scientia et Labore 1 October 2004 Traces its origins to 1824, Royal Charter from 1956, but did not award independent degrees until 1993. Merged with Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester
St Martin's College 2006 1 August 2007 merged with Cumbria Institute of the Arts and part of University of Central Lancashire to form University of Cumbria
Trinity University College 1 September 2007 2010 merged with University of Wales, Lampeter to form University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, which is governed by the 1828 charter.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Durham World Heritage Site: Durham University, Founded in 1832". Dutham World Heritage Site. Retrieved 2014-12-23. Durham University was officially recognised through an act of parliament which received the royal assent on July 4th 1832, with the first students being admitted in the autumn of 1833. 
  3. ^ a b "A History of the World - Object: Anderson's University, Glasgow". BBC. Retrieved 2013-08-29. In 1964, the institution merged with the Scottish College of Commerce and received a royal charter, granting it university status under the name of the University of Strathclyde. 
  4. ^ Peers, Edgar Allison (1943). Redbrick University.