1826 The Beginning

Jeremy Bentham

The story begins in 1826, and the hero of the time is Jeremy Bentham, the substantial figure shown to the left. He was a philosopher and educationalist and reformer, and he was of the opinion that University education in England at that time was in a sorry state. 

There were only two universities in England, Oxford and Cambridge, and to graduate at either you had to be a member of the Church of England. If you were Jewish or Catholic or Nonconformist or whatever, you could not get a degree in England, and you had to go to mainland Europe, or to Scotland, which was educationally more advanced. Also Oxford and Cambridge were strong in mathematics, theology, and classics, but they had no departments in natural sciences and none in modern languages.

Bentham and his followers therefore set out to found a new university with two guiding principles: it would ask no questions about religion on entry, and it would introduce modern studies. This would be the first new University in England for 400 years, and was to become University College.

The foundation of the college is encapsulated in the College Song, shown on the next page.