A history of disruptive thinking

We have a proud heritage of disruptive thinking, a reputation for game-changing research and a unique multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.

UCL has confronted humanity’s biggest issues since 1826

At that time, attending university was a rare privilege.

If you weren’t a man from a wealthy background and a member of the established church, higher education was off limits.

Our founders tore up that rule book.

Black and white photo of old UCL lab.
Study participant wearing UCL ear institute EEG skullcap.

Two students working in the Grant Museum.

We were the first university in England to welcome students of any religion or social background. We were also the first in England to welcome women to university education.

We have challenged inequality ever since, and we hold a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our progressive work practice.

Each year, we invest £13.5 million in bursaries and activities to support students from diverse backgrounds to enter and succeed.

We were also the first university in England to teach subjects such as engineering, architecture and languages.

A pioneering heritage

Our pioneering heritage makes us proud, but it’s the future that really excites us. Since our founding we have continually innovated our teaching methods.

Our Connected Curriculum makes research the cornerstone of our students’ activity. Our Arts and Sciences BASc leads the way in interdisciplinary study.

Learn how to think - not what to think

We are here to further your knowledge, develop your skills of analysis and problem-solving and give you a truly global outlook that draws on diverse cultural perspectives.

Studying in London, you’ll be living, learning and growing your network in one of the world’s greatest cities.

Through our Connected Curriculum you’ll have the chance to work alongside some of the world’s leading researchers. They will drive you to think more analytically and independently – providing opportunities to undertake research activities of your own and create original output.

We are here to further your knowledge, develop your skills of analysis and problem-solving and give you a truly global outlook that draws on diverse cultural perspectives. Learn how to think – not what to think.

We are constantly evolving to meet the needs of our students. Throughout your time here, you’ll have many opportunities to shape our curriculum and how it’s delivered.

Library shelf in UCL library.

Our Nobel laureates

UCL staff and alumni have won at least one Nobel Prize each decade since the award began in 1901, with more than half of our 30 Nobel laureates born outside the UK.

1904 - Chemistry | Sir William Ramsay

Discovered the noble gases: helium, argon, neon, krypton and xenon. 

1913 - Literature | Rabindranath Tagore

Wrote profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse.

1915 – Physics | Sir William Henry Bragg

Analysed the structure of crystals using X-rays.

1921 – Chemistry | Frederick Soddy

Invented the concept of isotopes.

1922 – Physiology or Medicine | Archibald Vivian Hill

Founded biophysics.

1928 – Physics | Owen Willans Richardson

Discovered the law of thermionic emission.

1929 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins

Discovered growth-stimulating vitamins.

1936 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir Henry Hallett Dale and Otto Loewi

Discovered neurotransmitters.

1938 – Physiology or Medicine | Corneille Jean Francois Heymans

Revealed how respiration is regulated.

1944 – Chemistry | Otto Hahn

Made discoveries leading to the development of nuclear technology.

1947 – Chemistry | Robert Robinson

Discovered the structure of morphine and strychnine.

1955 – Chemistry | Vincent du Vigneaud

Carried out the first synthesis of a polypeptide hormone, oxytocin.

1959 – Chemistry | Jaroslav Heyrovsky

Discovered polarography, widely used in clinical and environmental analysis.

1960 – Physiology or Medicine | Peter Brian Medawar

Discovered the key to successful organ and tissue transplantation.

1962 – Physiology or Medicine | Francis Harry Compton Crick

Discovered the molecular structure of nucleic acids (DNA).

1963 – Physiology or Medicine | Andrew Fielding Huxley

Revealed how activity is co-ordinated by a central nervous system.

1967 – Chemistry | George Porter (Baron Porter of Luddenham)

Devised flash photolysis to observe free radicals.

1970 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir Bernard Katz

Advanced remedies against nervous and mental disturbances.

1988 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir James Black

Discovered the first beta-blocker, propranolol.

1991 – Physiology or Medicine | Bert Sakmann

Discovered the role of ion channels in diseases, revolutionising cell biology

2000 – Economics | James Heckman

Discovered the role of ion channels in diseases, revolutionising cell biology.

2001 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir Paul Nurse

Enabled new avenues of research in tumour diagnostics and therapy.

2007 – Physiology or Medicine | Sir Martin Evans

Introduced gene modifications in mice.

2009 – Physics | Charles Kao

Developed the transmission of light for optical communication.

2013 – Physics | Peter Higgs

Predicted the particle: the Higgs boson.

2013 – Physiology or Medicine | James Rothman

Revealed how substances are trafficked by vesicles in our cells.

2014 – Physiology or Medicine | John O’Keefe

Discovered the ‘inner GPS’ in the brain.

2020 – Physics | Sir Roger Penrose

Proved that the general theory of relativity predicts the formation of black holes.