Regent Street Polytechnic Architectural School


est.1838 as The Royal Polytechnic Institution[1]

The University of Westminster is a university in London, England, formed in 1992 as a result of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which allowed the London Polytechnic (Polytechnic of Central London or PCL) to rename itself as a university. The London Polytechnic itself was formed from the merger of the Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce and the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1971. Its antecedents, the Royal Polytechnic Institution date back to 1838, making it one of the oldest post-school educational institutions in Britain.


The University of Westminster's headquarters is situated on Regent Street in the West End of London. It has evolved over 160 years from the first institution in the UK to provide post-school education for working people to a multi-faceted modern university. There are plans to celebrate 170 years by publishing a new History of the University in 2008. There are more than 23,800 students from 132 countries studying at the University of Westminster on a variety of programmes. These range from undergraduate and postgraduate courses to tailored professional programmes and short courses. Many Westminster students study part-time; courses are available both during the day and in the evening.

The University of Westminster ranked 55th out of 122 university-level institutions in the United Kingdom in 2005, according to the Guardian newspaper.[2]

The University of Westminster Students' Union provides a wide range of activities for its members. It is based at the Marylebone campus, next to Baker Street tube station, where 'Inter:Mission', a new social venue, costing £750,000 was launched in 2006.[1] The Union also has another bar, The Undercroft, and a night club, Area 51, located on the University's Harrow Campus.

The Union was founded in 1966 as The Polytechnic Students' Union. Its first three Presidents were Owen Spencer-Thomas (1966-1967),[2] Roger Beavil (1967-1968) and Alan Smith (1968-1969).[3].

The University of Westminster is home to the Diplomatic Academy of London, which operates postgraduate degrees on international politics and diplomacy in both its campuses in London and Paris.


The University has had four different names during its long history:

  • The Royal Polytechnic Institution (1838-1881)
  • Regent Street Polytechnic (1881-1970)
  • The Polytechnic of Central London - known as PCL (1970-1992)
  • The University of Westminster (1992 to present)

1838-1881 Royal Polytechnic Institution

The first polytechnic[4] - The Polytechnic Institution- opened to the public at 309 Regent Street on 6th August 1838, under the chairmanship of the distinguished scientist and aeronautical engineer Sir George Cayley. Its aim was to demonstrate new technologies and inventions to the public. The Polytechnic played a significant role in the popularisation of science & engineering, and it became a major tourist attraction in Victorian London.


The Polytechnic was the first institution in London to demonstrate the new invention of photography, and in 1841 the first photographic studio in Europe opened on the roof of the building.


The name changed to The Royal Polytechnic Institution when Prince Albert - the husband of Queen Victoria - became Patron.


A new theatre was added to the building, which became world famous for its spectacular magic lantern shows.


The Director of the Polytechnic, Professor John Pepper, was internationally known as a showman and popular science lecturer; he invented the popular theatrical illusion known as Pepper's ghost.


The Royal Polytechnic closed in 1881. In 1881 the Regent Street Polytechnic was founded. The Polytechnic was subsequently to have a significant influence on English higher education and perhaps an even greater one on sport.[3]

The University's founder was Quintin Hogg who is described on a memorial plaque in the rebuilt flagship building (1911) as an "Education and Christian Benefactor", who "expanded his work by founding the Polytechnic in 1881-2". In Portland Place, is his statue, a memorial to both him and to those staff and students who died during the First World War. The imagery of Hogg's statue conveys the values and priorities of his Polytechnic, because he is depicted giving equal value to book learning and sporting activity. In essence, it reflects the ethos of muscular Christianity, a popular strain in Victorian culture. In the Fyvie Hall in the main building, a plaque explains that the reconstruction in 1911 was a memorial to the late Edward VII and it refers to the commitment of the Polytechnic to the "physical and moral development of youthful subjects".

Degrees offered

The University offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees via its departments:

  • School of Architecture and the Built Environment
  • School of Biosciences
  • School of Law
  • School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages
  • School of Media, Arts and Design
  • School of Integrated Health
  • School of Informatics (formerly the Cavendish School of Computer Science)
  • Harrow Business School
  • Harrow School of Computer Science
  • Westminster Business School

External links

  1. YouTube - Inter:mission
  2. [4] Biography, Owen Spencer-Thomas Accessed 2007-05/09
  3. Harrow Campus
  4. "The first polytechnic": however the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society started in 1832 and is still in existence. It did and does not have the same educational aims and processes as the Regent Street Poly. Of course "Polytechnique" is a French term, predating both institutions.