chapter  2
20 Pages


The Birth of the System Until 1826, when what is now University College, London, first admitted students, there were only seven universities in the United Kingdom-Oxford, Cambridge and the five ancient Scottish universities, the latest of which had been founded in 1593.1 In 1825 there were some 3,000 students at the English universities and 4,000 at the Scottish.2 In 1970 there were forty-seven universities (i.e. degreegranting institutions) counting the federations of Wales and London as one each, and including the Open University, Cranfield, and the Royal College of Art; but, more realistically, ten or so of the nonmedical schools at London and the six non-medical constituents of Wales should be counted individually, bringing the total to over sixty.3 In the same year the total of full-time students had reached well over 200,000. The present university system is thus largely the creation of the last 125 years, but the system ofuniversity government is much younger; it cannot nevertheless be understood without some reference to its origins.