The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

XIV. Education

§ 23. The university of London

Two visits to the newly founded university of Bonn (1818), paid by Thomas Campbell in the summer and autumn of 1820, made a deep impression upon the poet. In particular, he appears to have conceived, at that time, the idea of a university for London which should reproduce the educational aims, scope and professorial organisation of the German model, with which his own Glasgow education predisposed him to sympathise. He mooted the idea among his associates, and finally made it public in a letter to The Times (9 February, 1825), thus coming into touch with Henry Brougham and the group of thinkers who were anxious for the general diffusion of knowledge and a radical change in English educational institutions. The nonconformist bodies of London, whose members were virtually shut out from the older universities, heartily welcomed the scheme, and they were joined by churchmen who desired to see in the metropolis a university devoted to modern studies and free from the expense entailed by residence in colleges. So marked was the adhesion of these born opponents, that Campbell feared it would be necessary to provide two theological chairs, one for church and one for dissent; but Brougham succeeded in eliminating divinity from the scheme. In February, 1826, the proprietors and donors who had furnished the capital formally constituted themselves “an institution for the general advancement of literature and science by affording young men opportunities for obtaining literary and scientific education at a moderate expense”; the institution being styled “the University of London.” The duke of Sussex laid the foundation-stone of the building in Gower street early in 1827 and, on 2 October, 1828, lectures began to some 300 students. In the meantime, the church became alarmed at the divorce between education and religion represented by the new establishment. At midsummer, 1828, the duke of Wellington, then prime minister, presided over a public meeting which resolved to found a college for general education in which, while literature and science were subjects of instruction, it should be essential that the doctrines and duties of Christianity, as inculcated by the church of England, should be taught. This second institution received its charter as King’s college, London, in August, 1829, and the college was opened in October, 1831.