London University Founded
The foundation of London University, which metamorphosed into University College London , and then in turn became part of the Federal University of London, and so on ad nauseam, is a minefield of terminology. Equal care needs to be taken when arguing for or against its status as the third oldest university in England, given that various other institutions lay claim to that honour.
The significance of what became UCL is clear, however, in the history of higher education in England: it was specifically founded as a secular place of study, in contrast to the then religious foundations at Oxford and Cambridge . Its establishment and degree conferring status were indeed fought by the Church of England, as ever jealous of its powers. The radical philosopher Jeremy Bentham was one of the godfathers (here a singularly inappropriate term) of the institution centred on Gower Street in Bloomsbury, his donated body duly on display to visitors there.
Further significance can be attributed to the foundation: it opened the doors to further expansion of higher education in the country; later it was probably the first such centre to admit women on an equal footing; and by removing the Anglican monopoly it was a beacon of tolerance and liberal thought. This was given expression in new subject areas, particularly in the sciences, studied there before Oxbridge accepted them.
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