History of the University of Westminster

Westminster-Uni21.jpgThe University of Westminster has a long and distinguished history. In 1883, aeronautics pioneer, Sir George Cayley, established the Polytechnic Institution as “an institution where the Public, at little expense, may acquire practical knowledge of the various arts and branches of science connected with manufacturers, mining Operations and rural economy”.

The Polytechnic Institution rapidly became a centre for the presentation of new ideas and inventions and was granted a Royal Charter in 1839. In its ealry decades it was at the forefront of technological education with classes in railway engineering, navigation, physics and chemistry. It was an early demonstrator of the diving bell, had one of London’s first photographic studios and in 1896 Louis Lumiere gave his first public demonstration of moving pictures in its cinema. Now it regularly welcomes Nobel prize winners and other distinguished guest lecturers.

In 1881 the Polytechnic was re-established by the philanthropist Quintin Hogg, whose vision was to educate the whole person “spiritual, social, educational and athletic”. During this time the academic and vocational programmes in science and engineering were extended through the provision of courses in the arts and humanities. The Polytechnic was re-built in 1912 providing the current prestigious headquarters building for the University. A day school for young people was established in 1950 to serve the local communitiy of north of Regent’s Park, and the University maintains close links with the Quintin Kynaston School today. In the 1950s the institution became known nationally and internationally as the Regent Street Polytechnic and became a model for applied education. The close association with the Hogg family continues to this day through his great-grand-daughter, the Honourable Dame Mary Hogg QC, who is a Governor of the University.

In the 19th century the Polytechnic ran a saving-bank, a labour bureau, an accomadation office and even arranged holidays. The first educational holiday in 1888 led to the formation of the Polytechnic Touring Association which, in partnership with Mr Lunn, later became part of the travel firm Lunn Poly.

Sport was always an important part of life at the Polytechnic. The athletic club  –  the Harriers  –  was established in 1883 and was for many years the largest athletics club in the country. In 1908, the Polytechnic organized the opening and closing 022_LECTURE.gifceremonies of the London Olympic Games. Today, the University still recognizes the importance of sport and enjoys international quality artificial pitches at the sports grounds at Chiswick.

The Polytechnic was the flagship of the post-war polytechnic movement and in 1970 amalgamated with the Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce to form the Polytechnic of Central London, followed in 1990 by integration with the Harrow College of Higher Education and its programmes in the creative arts and design.

Quintin Hogg saw international awareness as an important part of the development of the individual. An international perspective has therefore informed the history of the institution from its earliest times. The University enjoys collaborative partnerships with a range of institutions worldwide which support the exchange of ideas and students, thereby contributing to the formation of knowledge societies.

In June 1992 the Privy Council formally conferred the institution university status with degree-awarding powers for taught courses and research degrees. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II graciously agreed to continue as the Patron of the University of Westminster. The University’s long-established reputation for innovation, academic excellence and the accessibility of its taught programmes and applied research underpins its traditions and its academic portfolio. The University now has more than 23,800 full-time and part-time students from London, other European countries and the global communities across the world. Westminster remains dedicated to its mission of “educating for professional life”.