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  1. Our history
    1. Books about our history

Our history

City's tradition of providing high quality education relevant to business and the professions dates back 160 years. For many of our graduates, time spent at City laid the groundwork for leadership, innovation and excellence that have changed the world we live in.

Click on a time period below to discover its significance in City's heritage.

Pre-1900

1852 - The Inns of Court School of Law founded

The Inns of Court School of Law was founded. One of the earliest providers of legal education in London, it would become a part of The City Law School in 2001.

1876 - Notable alumni

Herbert Henry Asquith, British Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916, graduated from The Inns of Court School of Law. Asquith was the first of many global leaders, including Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi, Clement Attlee, Jawaharlal Nehru, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, to pass through what is now The City Law School.

Ghandi

Margaret Thatcher in 1954

1877 - St Bartholomew's College of Nursing founded

St Bartholomew's College of Nursing was founded, affiliated with London's oldest hospital, St Bartholomew's. The College of Nursing would later be incorporated into the School of Health Sciences at City University London.

1891 - Northampton Institute planning begins

Planning began for the Northampton Institute, to be built on what is now the main part of City's present-day campus. The land was bequeathed by the Marquess of Northampton and the Earl of Compton and generous benefactors included The Worshipful Company of Skinners and The Worshipful Company of Saddlers.

1894 - Northampton Institute founded

nullThe Northampton Institute was founded. With the objective of promoting 'the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes', the first departments established in the Institute were Mechanical Engineering and Metal Trades, Artistic Crafts for Industry, Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, Horology, Electro-chemistry and Domestic Economy.

1898 - College Building opens

The College Building was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of London.

1900 - 1909

1903 - Technical Optics department founded

nullThe Technical Optics department was established within the Northampton Institute, marking the beginning of City's important contribution to the study of optometry.

1908 - Olympic Games host venue

nullThe University Great Hall played host to the boxing competition of the first London Olympic Games, Great Britain excelled in the competition, winning 14 of 15 medals awarded. The University swimming pool (now a library for law students) was also used for the Olympic Games.

The pool as it was for the 1908 Olympic Games

1909 - Aeronautical Engineering courses introduced

nullThe Northampton Institute introduced courses in Aeronautical Engineering, the first offered in the United Kingdom. In this year, the Institute also presented its first candidates for University of London BSc degrees.

1910 - 1919

1914 - 1918 - World War I

During the First World War, the engineering faculties of the Northampton Institute were used to produce munitions and telegraph sets and members of academic staff helped to train munitions workers and service personnel. All departments also participated in schemes to retrain and find employment for wounded ex-servicemen.

Discover City during World War One.

1920 - 1929

Department of Optometry & Visual Sciences founded

null With the founding of the Department of Optometry and Visual Sciences, the Northampton Institute became one of the first establishments in the world to educate optometrists. City University London remains the only institution in London to offer a BSc in Optometry.

1930 - 1939

1939 - Outbreak of World War II

The Northampton Institute once again played a key part in the war effort, providing training courses for members of the RAF, Army and Navy in skills ranging from optics manufacturing to wireless mechanics.

1940 - 1949

1940 - 1945 - World War II

The University buildings suffered bomb damage, notably the Great Hall. Post-war reconstruction work would be completed in 1953.

1946 - A period of expansion begins

The Institute began a period of expansion that would set the stage for its transition into City University London in 1966. Between 1946 and 1956 the number of courses grew, student numbers increased and academic research became more important, as faculty members were given the chance to take research leave from teaching and appoint research assistants.

1950 - 1959

1955 - Summer school lays groundwork for British Computer Society

An early computer at CityThe Northampton Institute offered a summer school on the use of electronic digital computers and calculators in accountancy, costing and management, laying the groundwork for the foundation of the British Computer Society.

1957 - Northampton College of Advanced Technology

Following a government review highlighting the growing need for technical and scientific personnel in British industry, the Northampton Institute became Northampton College of Advanced Technology, with a mandate to increase student numbers and offer advanced degrees whilst retaining the former Institute's close links with industry.

1960 - 1969

1961 - Department of Social & Industrial Studies founded

The Department of Social and Industrial Studies was formed, offering classes in social sciences, industrial administration and management studies.

1962 - Research plays a key role

Research assumed an increasingly important role in the life of the College, as Consultant Lecturers were appointed, a growing number of Science Research Council grants and funding for Research Fellows and Senior Research Fellows was awarded.

1963 - Government recommends university status

A Government Report into higher education recommended that the Northampton College of Advanced Technology become a university, retaining its balance between education and research whilst increasing its postgraduate activity.

The groundwork necessary for this transformation began with the construction of the first halls of residence, close to the City of London.

1966 - University created by Royal Charter

The University's 1966 charterThe University was created by Royal Charter. Dr James Tait was appointed as its first Vice-Chancellor and Oliver Thompson its first Pro-Chancellor. Together they approached the Lord Mayor of London and his enthusiasm for an association between the City and the new University led to a unique arrangement that continues today, in which the Lord Mayor in office is invited to be the Chancellor of City University London.

In 2015, City was placed 97th in the Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 ranking of the world's best universities under the age of 50.

1967 - Vision for 1977

The Development Committee of the University drafted a vision that would shape the next 10 years and would see City evolve into a University dedicated to engineering, science, business, management studies and computing.

1969 - Drysdale & Centenary Buildings open

The Drysdale and Centenary Buildings were completed.

null

1970 - 1979

1970 - University Building opens

The University Building in Northampton Square was opened in 1970.

1971 - Apollo astronauts visit City

The astronauts of Apollo 15 visited City University London and presented Vice-Chancellor Tait with a piece of heat shield from the Apollo 15 command module.

Arrival of the Apollo 15 astronauts at College Building

1974 - Tait Building opens

Another building in Northampton Square - the Tait Building - was completed and opened in 1974.

1975 - First Music degree course launches

The first students of City University London's new degree in Music began their studies. These students benefitted from the close links between the University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

1976 - First Journalism course offered

nullCity offered a Diploma in Journalism, capitalising on its proximity to Fleet Street and its long experience of educating for the professions.

1977 - Centre for Legal Studies founded

The Centre for Legal Studies was established and the Graduate Diploma in Law was offered.

1977 - Spin-out company City Technology Ltd founded

City Technology Ltd was established to develop a new oxygen sensor, designed by academics from City. The sale of the company in 1993 for £24.5m marked one of British academia's most successful commercialisations of intellectual property.

1978 - Professor Raoul Franklin CBE appointed Vice-Chancellor

Professor Raoul Franklin was appointed Vice-Chancellor. He would remain in post for 20 years and be made a CBE in 1994 for his service to the University.

1980 - 1989

1982 - Focus shifts to postgraduate education

The cuts to higher education funding by the new Conservative administration deeply affected City University London and other former Colleges of Advanced Technology, leading to redundancies and an increased strategic focus on postgraduate education.

1986 - Dean becomes Thatcher advisor

The Dean of City University Business School, Professor Brian Griffiths, resigned his Chair at City to become Margaret Thatcher's chief policy advisor.

1988 - School of Engineering founded

The School of Engineering was formed under the guidance of Professor Ludwik Finkelstein, its first Dean.

null

1990 - 1999

1990 - School of Informatics founded

The School of Informatics was formed, bringing together the departments of Information Science, Business Computing and Computer Science.

1990 - First Law degree courses offered

Undergraduate degrees in Law were offered for the first time.

1994 - 100 years of the institution

nullThe University celebrated 100 years since the founding of the Northampton Institute with a series of high profile public lectures and a gala concert in The Guildhall.

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1995 - Health-related institutions join City

St Bartholomew's School of Nursing and Midwifery was incorporated into the University; it would become part of the School of Health Sciences. In the same year, the Charterhouse College of Radiography was also incorporated into the University.

1998 - Professor David Rhind appointed Vice-Chancellor

Professor David Rhind was appointed Vice-Chancellor of City University London, remaining in the post until 2007.

2000 - 2009

2001 - Business School becomes Sir John Cass Business School

nullFollowing a generous donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation towards the Business School's new building project, the School was renamed the Sir John Cass Business School. The Foundation, one of London's oldest and largest education charities, continues to support the Cass Business School. Her Majesty the Queen opened the new building two years later.

2001 - The City Law School expands

The Inns of Court School of Law was integrated into The City Law School.

2003 - School of Arts founded

The School of Arts was formed, bringing together the departments of Music, Journalism & Publishing and Cultural Policy & Management.

2004 - Social Sciences Building opened

nullThe Social Sciences Building - now named the Rhind Building in honour of past Vice-Chancellor Professor David Rhind - was opened.

2010 - present day

2010 - City ranks in top 5% worldwide

City University London was ranked in the top five percent of universities in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and in the top 30 higher education institutions in the UK by the Times Higher Education Table of Tables.

2011 - Vision for 2016

City University London agreed its 2016 Vision.

2012 - Environmental initiatives recognised

In July 2012, City's Environmental Management System was awarded the EcoCampus Platinum Award and ISO 14001 certification in recognition of the University's commitment to reducing its environmental impacts and to integrating sustainability into its daily services and activities.

2013 - George Daniels remembered

Launch of inaugural annual lecture and iconic University Clock named after George Daniels, a City alumnus and one of the world's greatest watchmakers.

2013 - Square Mile campus opens

Cass Executive Education opens at 200 Aldersgate Street, making it one of the largest Executive Education facilities in the Square Mile.