How London Metropolitan University came to be

Our history

London Metropolitan University has a rich history with strong educational roots dating back to 1848.

The University as it is today was created in 2002 with the merging  of London Guildhall University and the University of North London, the first merger between two universities in the UK. Its roots, however, lie firmly in the nineteenth century with the establishment of the Metropolitan Evening Classes for Young Men in 1848.

Moorgate and Aldgate campuses

In 1848 the then Bishop of London called upon the clergy to set up evening classes to improve the "moral, intellectual and spiritual condition of young men in the metropolis". The Metropolitan Evening Classes for Young Men was thus born and later became the City of London College and then the City of London Polytechnic. In 1992 it was awarded university status and adopted the name London Guildhall University.

Holloway campus

Over the past 100 years, our north London campus has developed into a modern, progressive centre with a strong reputation for widening access into education.

This campus began life in 1896 as the Northern Polytechnic Institute. By 1900, student numbers had doubled and later the Institute's evening degrees were recognised by the University of London. In 1992 the Polytechnic of North London won the right to the title of University and the ability to award its own degrees.

Events which shaped our history

Our history

London Metropolitan University's long, rich history starts in 1848 when the Bishop of London and the Reverend Charles Mackenzie established The Metropolitan Evening Classes for Young Men.

1848 The classes are set up as a result of the Bishop’s appeal to his clergy “to improve the intellectual and moral conditions of the industrial classes”.

1851 Prince Albert is so impressed with the classes that an annual celebration of the students’ work is held under his patronage. Royal patronage has continued, and today the patron of London Met is HRH Prince Philip.

1861 Enrolment numbers increase to 800 and the classes are established as the City of London College. The following year all teachers are paid for the first time and a principal is appointed.

1896 The Northern Polytechnic Institution in Holloway opens its doors. Its mission: ‘To promote the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women’. 

A thousand students enrol in the first year to be taught by 34 members of staff on courses including English, Chemistry, Botany, Hygiene, and Elocution. All were at elementary level and most were offered as evening classes.

1899 Sir John Cass Technical Institute is founded by Sir John Cass (1661-1718), an Alderman of the Ward of Portsoken, an area in which the University’s Jewry Street building now stands. The revenue from the charitable trust he endowed enabled the governors of the Sir John Cass Foundation to establish first a school, and later the Technical Institute. Courses included physics, theoretical mechanics and domestic economy (which included dressmaking, cookery and housewifery).

1900 The Northern Polytechnic is an instant success; student numbers had doubled and, by 1910, every department offered day classes. A little later, five-year evening degrees were available, as was research supervision on Saturdays.

1902 King Edward VII Nautical College founded.

1927 The department of navigation established at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute to provide full-time courses in navigation.

1929 The North Western Polytechnic established and enrols more than 2,200 students with an academic staff of 150. The Polytechnic concentrates on social sciences, humanities and arts. Its site in Kentish Town is opened by HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, and cinema audiences throughout the country watch the event on Pathe News.

1940 The City of London College building is completely destroyed by bombing.

1944 700 students enrol on courses in the first term of the City of London College’s new residence at Electra House, Moorgate.

1949 The department of navigation’s more junior courses are transferred to the King Edward VII School under the London County Council development plan. The navigation department of Poplar Technical College closed and its courses transferred to the Sir John Cass College Technical Institute.

1950 Sir John Cass Technical Institute changes its name to Sir John Cass College.

1954 The Sir John Cass training vessel, a 112-foot motor launch is converted into a floating school to enable students to study the operation of radar equipment and other modern navigational aids. It becomes a regular sight on the River Thames.

1960 The total student roll of the City of London College is over 8,000.

1961 The tercentenary of the birth of Sir John Cass.

1964 Shoreditch Technical Institute renamed London College of Furniture.

1965 Sir John Cass School of Art founded by the amalgamation of the department of silversmithing and allied crafts from the Central School of Art, and the department of fine and applied art from the Sir John Cass College. The new college takes up residence in Central House, opposite the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

1966 White Paper published, A Plan for Polytechnics - ”to provide the means of expanding higher education ... by offering courses which are relevant to the vocational aims of students and at the same time retain the flexibility which will enable these institutions to respond to rapidly changing demands”.

1967 Constituent colleges of polytechnic proposal and ILEA hold first meeting to consider the formation of new polytechnics.

1969 School of Navigation formed by the amalgamation of the senior department of the King Edward VII Nautical College and navigation department of Sir John Cass College.

1970 The Sir John Cass College becomes the Sir John Cass School of Science and Technology and the City of London College becomes the School of Business on their incorporation into City of London Polytechnic.

1971 Reception held at Guildhall to mark the occasion of the designation of the new City of London Polytechnic, which starts with 2,000 full-time and 15,000 part-time students.

1971 The Northern and North Western polytechnics merge to form the Polytechnic of North London.

1990 London College of Furniture joins the City of London Polytechnic.

1992 Further and Higher Education Act receives Royal Assent, which gives polytechnics university status and degree awarding powers. City of London Polytechnic’s new name is London Guildhall University. The Polytechnic of North London becomes the University of North London.

1996 University of North London celebrates its centenary.

1998 London Guildhall University celebrates its 150th anniversary.

2002 London Guildhall University merges with the University of North London on 1 August to form London Metropolitan University. This is the first merger between two universities in the UK.

2003 A ceremony is held at Mansion House in the City of London, attended by the Patron, to launch the University. The Duke of Edinburgh, the then Patron, is awarded London Metropolitan University’s first degree.

2003 Launch ceremonies held in Brussels, China, Cyprus, Greece, India and Pakistan.

2004 Two new buildings opened: the Graduate School, designed by Daniel Libeskind, and the Goulston Street building, designed for the teaching of law courses. Work begins on the science block.

2006 New Science Centre opens containing the largest and most advanced science teaching facility in Europe. It includes a Super Lab with 280 individual workstations and an international quality basketball court made from recycled aircraft tyres.

2007 Launch of London Metropolitan Business School, one of Europe’s largest business schools and the largest education provider of professional courses in the UK’s South East.

2008 London Met becomes a London 2012 Pre-Games training facility. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy.

2009 Two thirds of the research outputs submitted by the University to the Research Assessment Exercise are judged to be "internationally recognised", "internationally excellent" or "world-leading".

2010 On 25 January Professor Malcolm Gillies joins London Met as the new Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.

2011 London Metropolitan University receives the highest accolade in the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) review published on 15 April 2011.

2013 HRH The Duke of York, KG succeeds his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, as Patron of London Metropolitan University.

  • City of London Polytechnic - A History

    A film from the London Metropolitan University archive covering the history of the City of London Polytechnic, up to the grant of its university status as London Guildhall University (1992).