History

Based in the heart of Regent's Park, Regent's University London occupies a site with a rich and diverse history, and a long tradition of education and achievement.

Regent's Park

Bedford CollegeRegent's Park was designed in 1811 by John Nash, the favoured architect of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Surrounded by grand residential terraces, the park spans 410 acres and includes a lake, canal and a number of exclusive villas.

The land became part of the royal estate when it was seized by the Crown following Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The royal connection is more gently remembered today in Queen Mary's gardens, which were laid out at the centre of Regent's Park in the 1930s. More than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties can be found in the gardens.

Regent's Park is now home to London Zoo, the Royal Botanic Society and a number of other organisations and institutions. It is also the largest outdoor sports area in London.

The arrival of higher education

Bedford College 2The University campus was originally built for Bedford College, which moved to the park from nearby Bedford Square. Founded in 1849 by Elizabeth Jesser Reid, the college was the first higher education institution for women in the United Kingdom.

In 1908, thanks to a generous legacy, the college took a Crown lease on South Villa in the Inner Circle, and in 1911 moved to Regent's Park, taking the 'Bedford' name with it. 

A new, purpose-built campus was designed by architect Basil Champneys in Queen Anne style. Science was at the core of the new college's very first programmes, together with the arts and humanities and teacher training.

The Tate Library, designed by Sydney Smith, was built with £10,000 donated by Lady Amy Tate in memory of her husband Henry, founder of London's Tate Gallery.

The dome of the Astronomical Observatory, opened by the Astronomer Royal, remains in place, despite extensive damage to most buildings in the Second World War.

Bedford College

Bedford College RowingThe ladies at Bedford College were accommodated in Reid Hall, which still houses Regent's University London students to this day. Back then, facilities included coal fires and washstands with an ewer and basin.

Sport was extremely popular amongst the young ladies, and a boating club was a natural development in the environment of the park. The 'swinging sixties' saw the admission of male undergraduates in 1965, and the expansion of UK higher education in the 1970s eventually led to a merger with Royal Holloway College and a move to the edge of a larger royal park, near Windsor.

Regent's College

In 1984 the Crown lease was taken by Rockford College, Illinois, which founded Regent's College to offer a 'study abroad' programme, and provide courses with a clear British focus (Churchill and King Arthur were included). The first students arrived in 1985 and a steady flow from the USA has continued despite the pressures of world events (two students lost at Lockerbie are commemorated with trees in the gardens).

Gradually, other institutions began to take up residence on the campus. The European Business School arrived in 1985, followed by the School of Psychotherapy and Counselling in 1990. Regent's Business School was set up in 1997. These schools formally merged in 2006 to become Regent's College London. Programmes in drama, film and media were launched in 2010 and in 2013 the College began to offer programmes in fashion and design, through the acquisition of AIU in Marylebone.

Regent's University London

In 2012 Regent's College gained its own taught-degree awarding powers and the following year the institution was awarded university status, becoming Regent's University London in June 2013.

 

Images on this page courtesy of Royal Holloway University Archives

Last updated: 22 July 2016

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100 years of HE in Regent’s Park

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Regent’s University London, 100 years of Higher Education in Regent’s Park is now available to purchase online