Saturday, October 8, 2016

In the United Kingdom, the use of the word "university" (including "university college") in the name of an institution is protected by law and must be authorised by an act of parliament, a royal charter, or by the privy council.[1] Regulations governing the award of university college title are drawn up by the government or devolved administration, and specify (in England) that an institution must hold taught degree awarding powers.[2] However, it is permissible for an institute to be described as a university college without such permission as long as it does not use the term in its name.[3]

As "university college" is a less prestigious title than "university", institutes that meet the (stricter) criteria for university title normally apply for this. In 2005, a number of large university colleges became universities after the requirement to hold research degree awarding powers was dropped, the difference between the criteria for university and university college title being only the requirement for a university to have 4000 students.[4][5] From 2012 the requirement on the number of students needed for university title was relaxed to 1000, allowing ten more university colleges to become universities.[6] A further review of the criteria is currently under way.[7]

Historically, the term university college was used to denote colleges (as opposed to universities) that delivered university-level teaching, particularly those in receipt of the parliamentary grants to universities and university colleges from 1889 until the formation of the University Grants Committee in 1919.[8] Unlike the modern usage of the term, these did not hold their own degree awarding powers but were instead associated with universities. In most cases students at university colleges took the external exams of the University of London, but the colleges of the University of Wales and the Victoria University took degrees of those institutes while the university colleges in Newcastle and Dundee were associated with the universities of Durham and St Andrews respectively. Not all of these university colleges used "university college" in their name.

With the exception of colleges in London that remain part of the University of London, all have gone on to become independent civic universities. Examples include the University of Nottingham (which was University College Nottingham when D. H. Lawrence attended), the University of Southampton which was associated with the University of London until 1952, and the University of Exeter, which until 1955 was the University College of the South West of England; Keele University was founded in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire until it was granted its royal charter in 1962 and transformed into a University. This was the recognised route for establishing new universities in the United Kingdom during the first half of the 20th century, prior to the founding of the plate glass universities.

A related, but slightly different, use of the term existed in the federal University of Wales in the late 20th century; some of its constituent colleges took titles such as "University College Aberystwyth". These colleges were to all intents and purposes independent universities (the University of Wales' powers being largely restricted to the formal awarding of degrees). In 1996, the University of Wales was reorganised to admit two former higher education institutions and the older members became "Constituent Institutions" rather than colleges, being renamed along the lines of University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

In Northern Ireland, there are two institutions using the title "University College": St Mary's University College, Belfast and Stranmillis University College. The usage here is closer to the older usage in England, as neither have their own degree-awarding powers but are instead listed bodies associated with Queen's University Belfast.[9]

There are several specific British institutions named "University College", including, but not limited to:

University College, Oxford is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford; founded in 1249, it claims to be the oldest Oxbridge college.
University College London (often known as UCL) is one of the original constituent colleges of the federal University of London. While remaining part of the University of London, it has awarded its own degrees since 2008 and is, like other large London colleges, effectively an independent university.
University College Hospital is a teaching hospital in London founded as part of, and still closely associated with, UCL.
University College, Durham is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Durham; founded in 1832, it is the foundation Durham college.
Wolfson College, Cambridge was named University College from its foundation in 1965 until its endowment by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972.
University College Birmingham is a former university college (in the modern sense) that now has university status but has continued using "university college" in its name.