University of Westminster
Arms of the University of Westminster
|Royal Polytechnic Institution
London Polytechnic-Regent Street
Polytechnic of Central London (PCL)
|Motto||The Lord is our Strength|
|Established||1838 (Royal Polytechnic Institution)
1891 (The Polytechnic Regent Street)
1970 (Polytechnic of Central London)
1992 (University of Westminster)
|Endowment||£ 0.991 million (2015)|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
The University of Westminster is a public university in London, United Kingdom. Its antecedent institution, the Royal Polytechnic Institution, was founded in 1838 and was the first polytechnic institution in the UK. Westminster was awarded university status in 1992 meaning it could award its own degrees.
Its headquarters and original campus are in Regent Street in the City of Westminster area of central London, with additional campuses in Fitzrovia, Marylebone and Harrow. It operates the Westminster International University in Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Westminster's academic activities are organised into seven faculties and schools, within which there are around 45 departments. The University has numerous centres of research excellence across all the faculties, including the Communication and Media Research Institute, whose research is ranked in the Global Top 40 by the QS World University Rankings. Westminster had an income of £170.4 million in 2012/13, of which £4.5 million was from research grants and contracts.
- 1 History
- 2 Campuses
- 3 Organisation and administration
- 4 Rankings
- 5 Student life
- 6 Public events
- 7 Notable people
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The Royal Polytechnic Institution was built by William Mountford Nurse in 1837 and opened at 309 Regent Street on 6 August 1838 to provide (in the words of its prospectus of 1837) “an institution where the Public, at little expense, may acquire practical knowledge of the various arts and branches of science connected with manufacturers, mining operations and rural economy.” 
Sir George Cayley (1773–1857), the "father of aeronautical engineering", was the first chairman and the Polytechnic formally received a Royal charter in August 1839. The Polytechnic housed a large exhibition hall, lecture theatre and laboratories, and public attractions included working machines and models, scientific lectures and demonstrations, rides in a diving bell and, from 1839, demonstrations of photography. Prince Albert visited the institution in 1840, when he descended in the diving bell, and became a patron in 1841. The first public photographic portrait studio in Europe opened on the roof of the Polytechnic in March 1841.
In 1848, a theatre was added to the building, purpose-built to accommodate the growing audiences for the Polytechnic’s optical shows. These combined magic lantern images with live performances, music, ghosts and spectres, illuminated fountains and fireworks in increasingly sophisticated displays, spreading the fame of what was arguably the world’s first permanent projection theatre.
‘Professor’ John Henry Pepper joined the Polytechnic in the 1840s. Probably best known today for his illusion ‘Pepper’s Ghost’, his contribution to education deserves recognition. Pepper established evening classes in engineering, applied science and technical subjects for young working Londoners, beginning the tradition of widening access to education continued by the University of Westminster today.
Expansion gradually gave way to financial difficulty, reflecting a long-standing tension between education and the need to run a successful business. A fatal accident on the premises in 1859 caused the first institution to be wound up and a new one formed. Various regeneration schemes were considered, but in 1879 a fire damaged the roof, precipitating the final crisis.
In September 1881, the Royal Polytechnic Institution closed making a transition to new ownership and a new era of educational development. Philanthropist Quintin Hogg (1845–1903) acquired the lease to the building in December 1881 for £15,000. Hogg had already established a Ragged School and Boys Home in the Covent Garden area of London to provide a basic education for some of London’s poorest children. In 1873, he established the Youths’ Christian Institute and Reading Rooms to provide educational, sporting and social opportunities for young working men. Membership fees paid for free use of a library, social rooms, gymnasium and entertainments for members; a small additional fee was required from students for technical classes which included Science and Art classes from 1878.
The Institute moved to Long Acre in 1878 and was renamed the Young Men’s Christian Institute (YMCI). Following Hogg’s purchase of 309 Regent Street, the YMCI moved into the new premises, re-opening on 25 September 1882. About 6,000 members and students – three times the anticipated number – attended during the first 1882/3 session. The institute gradually adopted the name the Polytechnic Young Men’s Christian Institute, or simply, the Polytechnic, for short.
From 1882 an expanded programme of classes began, including science, engineering and art classes held in conjunction with the Science and Art Department (of the Board of Trade), and a scheme of technical and trade education, related to the City and Guilds of London Institute of Technical Instruction and to the London Trades Council. The building housed classrooms, a swimming bath, gymnasium, and a refreshment room. Activities included Parliamentary debating, a Reading Circle, music and drama societies and several sports clubs.
By 1888 membership was 4,200, in addition to 7,300 students, and over 200 classes were held weekly as well as concerts, lectures, and an annual industrial exhibition. Membership was open to those aged between 16 and 25. A Young Women's Branch, housed in separate premises in Langham Place, was also established.
In the early 1880s the Institute attracted much favourable attention from the technical education lobby. Following the City of London Parochial Charities Act in 1883, it became clear that funds would be available to endow the Polytechnic and to found and support institutions on the same model across London. A public appeal was launched in 1888 to raise the required matching funding. The Scheme was finalised under the auspices of the Charity Commissioners in 1891, when the Institute was reconstituted as the Polytechnic-Regent Street, managed by a newly created governing body.
In 1886, Hogg founded the Polytechnic Day School for Boys. The school has had several names, including the Polytechnic Intermediate Day School, Polytechnic Middle Class School and Polytechnic Secondary School. The first official name was conferred in 1946 when it was re-christened the Quintin School. From 1892 the school divided into two virtually separate schools – a Technical Division under Charles Mitchell and a Commercial Division under David Woodhall, with a separate Preparatory Division under Hobart Pritchard. The school only came together for prayers and ceremonial occasions, with the rivalry between the two divisions culminating in the annual sports day each year when it took place at Chiswick. During the interwar period the two divisions were reunited and under the headship of P. A. Abbott it became rigorously academic on the grammar school model, with particular strengths in science and maths. During World War Two the school was evacuated to Minehead in Somerset under the capable headship of Dr Bernard Worsnop. The school remained evacuated for the duration of the war and afterwards was unable to return to 309 Regent Street due to the lack of space. Space problems, together with the 1944 Education Act, meant that change was inevitable and discussions began which eventually led to the transfer of governance of the school from the Polytechnic to the London County Council. As part of the transfer, the school was renamed the Quintin School and in 1956 it relocated to St John’s Wood. In 1969, the school merged with its neighbour Kynaston Technical School, becoming the Quintin Kynaston School. In 2001 the school became a Specialist Technology College and in November 2011, it became an Academy, changing its name to Quintin Kynaston Community Academy.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Polytechnic ran a savings bank, a labour bureau, a school, and arranged holidays for members to coastal resorts and the countryside of the UK. In 1888, the boys from the Polytechnic Secondary School toured Belgium and Switzerland as part of the first educational holiday to see the mountains they were learning about in geography lessons, which led to the formation of the Polytechnic Touring Association (PTA). By 1895 the PTA had itineraries to Ireland, Scotland, Paris and Madeira as well as chalets in Switzerland and a steam yacht which toured the Norwegian fjords. The travel company pioneered package holidays to Europe, including the first escorted air tour to Switzerland in 1932. The travel company was acquired by Sir Henry Lunn Ltd. in 1962 and became Lunn Poly (sold to Thomson Travel International SA in 2000).
The building at 309 Regent Street was rebuilt in 1910–1912 to reflect the needs of a growing institution whose student members exceeded 15,000. Pioneering work in emerging professional and commercial disciplines, alongside general interest subjects, was the hallmark of the institution. When Hogg died in 1903, he was succeeded as President by Sir Kynaston Studd (1858–1944), who remained in office until his death in 1944, and did much to continue the traditions of the founder. Two major appeals were launched to support expansion, the first for the rebuilding of 309 Regent Street in 1910–1912, and the second to build the Polytechnic Extension building for the Women’s Institute in Little Titchfield Street, which was formally opened in 1929. Both buildings continued to provide sporting and social facilities for members of the Institute as well as workshops and classrooms for students of the Education Department.
The Education Department provided a wide range of courses, with a rapid expansion of commercial subjects alongside the original trade and technical classes. Courses ranged from post-elementary school entry for craft and technical training at 13 to degrees accredited by the University of London external degrees programme. Most teaching was in the evening and part-time, though day classes increased throughout the period. Following World War Two there was a rapid growth in the demand for further education and training, which was reorganised following the White Paper on Technical Education in 1956.
The variety of levels of work at Regent Street meant that it was designated a regional college rather than a college of advanced technology, after which the governors decided to reduce the proportion of lower level work. Following the establishment of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) in 1964, a number of degree courses were approved and became operational; including Engineering (Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Building), Architecture, Photography (1966), Arts Administration (1967), Life Sciences (1973) and Media Studies (1975).
In 1960 the London County Council announced a plan to turn Regent Street into a tri-partite federal college by adding a new College of Architecture and Advanced Building Technology (CAABT) and also a College of Engineering and Science (CES). The existing commercial subjects would remain centred on no 309 Regent Street. CAABT was allocated the Luxborough Lodge site in Marylebone Road and CES a site in New Cavendish Street. Both schemes suffered prolonged delays and the new buildings were not finished until 1970. Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce was merged with Regent Street Polytechnic to form the Polytechnic of Central London (PCL). At a ceremony on 21 May 1971, the Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham, grandson and namesake of Hogg, opened the new buildings and designated the new institution. In 1990, Harrow College of Higher Education became part of PCL.
PCL was re-designated as the University of Westminster following the Higher and Further Education Act (1992), which created a single funding council, the Higher Education Funding Council, for England and abolished the remaining distinctions between polytechnics and universities. The newly established university was re-dedicated at Westminster Abbey as the University of Westminster on 1 December 1992. As a university, Westminster gained the power to grant its own degrees.
Dame Mary Hogg (great-granddaughter of Quintin Hogg, founder of the Regent Street Polytechnic) was awarded an honorary doctorate of law (LLD) by the University of Westminster in 1995. Hogg also became part of the court of governors at the university, thus continuing the university's close association with the Hogg family.
In recent years, the university has established Westminster Business School, the institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture, the Centre for the Study of Democracy and the Policy Studies Institute. In 2002 Westminster established the Westminster International University in Tashkent at the invitation of the government of Uzbekistan.
The university has attracted controversy for offering science degrees in subjects not widely considered as scientific. The Department of Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Therapy and the Department of Chinese and Complementary Therapies, both of which were based in the School of Life Sciences, offered courses in alternative medicine, and naturopathy which were criticised in the journal Nature for providing science degrees "without the science". These departments closed in 2009 and the associated courses were taken on by the Department of Complementary Medicines. The number of courses offered in these subjects has gradually been reduced, but the university still offers degrees in traditional chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine.
In 2013, the university celebrated 175 years of research, teaching, and providing education for all, regardless of background or financial status. Special events were organised both at campuses in the UK, and with their teams around the world. Celebrations included an interfaith service at Westminster Abbey on 30 January 2013.
In 2015, in the wake of international press attention, the university commissioned an independent panel chaired by Lord Morgan, to provide an external and impartial review of policies and procedures relating freedom of speech at the university.
|Regent||309 Regent Street|
|Little Titchfield Street||4–12 Little Titchfield Street (Westminster Law School, Library)|
|16 Little Titchfield Street (Education Abroad Centre)|
|32/38 Wells Street|
|Cavendish||115 New Cavendish Street|
|101 New Cavendish Street (Corporate Services)|
|120 New Cavendish Street (Corporate Services)|
|Marylebone||35 Marylebone Road|
- Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground (Polytechnic Stadium)
- Cavendish Road, Chiswick
- Quintin Boat Club (QBC)
- Ibis Lane, Chiswick
- Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT)
- 12 Istiqbol Street, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
The Regent Campus comprises a group of buildings clustered around its historic headquarters at 309 Regent Street. These include the Wells Street buildings and the Little Titchfield Street building which houses the library for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, including the Westminster Law School. The Regent Street Cinema(website) lies within the 309 Regent Street building, and serves as a fully functioning cinema, open to the public.
The Marylebone Campus is located on Marylebone Road directly opposite Madame Tussaud's and Baker Street underground station. Built in the 1960s it is home to the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Westminster Business School and the Policy Studies Institute. The P3 exhibition area, a 14,000 sq ft (1,300 m2) space located in the former concrete construction hall of the School of Engineering, was opened in 2008.
The Cavendish Campus is a modern glass and steel building in New Cavendish Street (Fitzrovia), close to the BT Tower. It houses science, engineering and computer laboratories. Cavendish campus is close to Warren Street, Great Portland Street and Goodge Street underground stations.
The Harrow Campus is the base for Media, Arts and Design courses. It is also home to London Gallery West which exhibits a broad mix of contemporary media, art and design work. The nearest Tube station to the Harrow campus is Northwick Park on the Metropolitan line.
The University of Westminster is incorporated under the Companies Act as a charity and company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. It is also an exempt charity under the Charities Act 1993. Westminster's academic activities are organised into seven faculties and schools, within which there are around 45 departments. Westminster had an income of £170.4 million in 2012/13, of which £4.5 million was from research grants and contracts.
The university's governing body is the Court of Governors. It meets five times per year and is ultimately responsible for the effective conduct of the activities of the university, including its strategic development, educational character and mission, and finances. The members of the Court of Governors are the trustees of the charity.
Prior to 2013, Westminster was organised into seven schools; Law (School of Law), SSHL (School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages), ECS (Electronics Engineering and Computer Science), LSS (School of Life Sciences), MAD (School of Media, Arts and Design), WBS (Westminster Business School), and ABE (School of Architecture and the Built Environment). Within the schools were 45 departments and 65 research centres. However, a new faculty system was put in place at the start of the new academic year (2013/2014). Among these, two former schools from the previous system have remained, and left unintegrated into the faculties.
- Faculty of Science and Technology (Cavendish)
- Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design (Harrow)
- Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (Regent)
- Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (Marylebone)
- Westminster Law School (Regent)
- Westminster Business School (Marylebone)
The University of Westminster is internationally recognized for the Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design (MAD) based in north London, which offers one of the most extensive portfolios of media degrees in Europe. The university has numerous centres of research excellence across all the faculties, including the Communication and Media Research Institute, whose research is ranked in the Global Top 40 by the QS World University Rankings.
In the financial year ended 31 July 2013, Westminster had a total income (including subsidiaries) of £170.44 million (2011/12 – £165.42 million) and total expenditure of £159.34 million (2011/12 – £155.13 million). Key sources of income included £98.73 million from tuition fees and support grants (2011/12 – £81.16 million), £43.12 million from funding council grants (2011/12 – £56.24 million), £4.51 million from research grants and contracts (2011/12 – £4.95 million), £0.66 million from endowment and investment income (2011/12 – £0.73 million) and £23.42 million from other income (2011/12 – £22.34 million).
At year end Westminster had reserves and endowments of £56.14 million (2011/12 – £46.02 million) and total net assets including pensions liabilities of £112.96 million (2011/12 – £103.8 million).
The university's coat of arms reflects a number of key aspects of its heritage. The portcullis is the symbol of Westminster whilst the open book symbolises learning. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who agreed to continue as the Patron, is represented by the Tudor rose, one of the royal emblems. The motto of the university, "The Lord is our Strength", is influenced by Quintin Hogg and his Young Men's Christian Institute. The open book on the escutcheon contains a Latin motto which reads as "Veritas", meaning "truth".
In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, Westminster was ranked 2nd for Communications, Cultural and Media Studies research, 6th for Art and Design research, in addition to the university performing strongly in Architecture and the Built Environment, and Geography and Environmental studies. Almost 80% of the university's submitted research across 20 subject areas was judged to be of international quality. The university achieved world leading and internationally excellent status for most of their work in Media and Communication; Art and Design; and Architecture and the Built Environment. In Law; Life and Health Sciences; Computing; Business and Management; Town and Country Planning; Environmental Studies, the majority of their submissions were found to be of internationally recognised quality.
In 2016, the QS World University Rankings ranked Media and Communications 3rd (UK) and 29th= (World)., and English Language and Literature among the top 250 schools. The QS rankings are based on (i) reputation among academics and employers and (ii) citations to published works. Westminster was also ranked joint second in the UK by the Architects’ Journal in their "AJ Top 100" special issue (9. May 2013).
The Complete University Guide (CUG) ranked Art & Design within the top ten in the UK (6th) for 2014. The CUG also ranked Westminster up by 4 places in 2012. Overall, rising up by 21 places since 2011.
Research Excellence Framework 2014 ranked Westminster 28= out of 89 schools for English Language and Literature, 22nd out of 45 in Architecture, 3rd out of 84 in Art and Design, 5= out of 67 in Communications, Cultural and Media Studies.
The Polytechnic’s management encouraged the establishment of a Student Representative Council (SRC) in 1933, to create a sense of unity and expand the social activities of its day students. The SRC was affiliated to the National Union of Students but initially restricted itself largely to social activities.
After 1945 it began to campaign on issues such as improvements to the canteen, lifting the ban on religious or political activity within the Polytechnic, and for a formal Students’ Union. The Sectarian Ban was finally lifted in 1962 and a Union granted in 1965. However, the canteen continued to be an issue throughout the 1980s.
The University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU) was founded in 1966 as The Polytechnic Students' Union. Its first President was Owen Spencer-Thomas (1966–1967). During the 1970s the number of full-time students at PCL doubled and the newly formed Polytechnic of Central London Students’ Union (PCLSU) engaged in a strategy of protest and direct action. Against a backdrop of general social unrest, PCLSU campaigned against cuts in student grants, lack of accommodation, the rise in costs for overseas students, and issues with the canteen. Students also joined the many national demonstrations marching in London.
After 1992, the SU was based primarily at the Marylebone site, where the SU served all students across four of its campuses. It now has offices on all campuses. The union also operates a bar, The Undercroft, and The Loft venue, located on the Harrow Campus.
The Union is run by five elected Officer Trustees who are campus based. Currently in role for 2016/2017 are:
President - Freya Thompson Vice President (Harrow) - Dan Seamarks Vice President (Regent & LTS) - Tasawar Kurdish Vice President (Cavdenish) - Ludovica Siniscalchi Vice President (Marylebone) - Salsabil Al-Siri
Smoke Radio is a student-run radio station at the University of Westminster. It was founded in 2004 and broadcasts online from a studio in the university's Harrow campus. Since September 2005 the station has run a 24-hour playout system and broadcast a schedule of live programmes during the week. Smoke Radio is a member of the Student Radio Association and won Gold for Best Station in 2016.
Smoke TV is the student television station of the University of Westminster. Launched in September 2011 and headed by Lewis Wright, it is run by the students and targeted at students. The station produces programmes covering campus news, film reviews and sport events and showcases student productions such as short films, TV shows, documentaries and music videos. The station is associated with the National Student Television Association. Smoke TV is distributed online via the station's official website and its YouTube channel. Regular shows include the weekly Smoke News, Great Start TV, The Big Debate, Advice Services, as well as broadcast coverage of the annual UWSU elections. Sabbatical officers of UWSU make occasional appearances on Smoke TV to either take part or to deliver messages to students. Smoke TV is also available on its own YouTube channel.
The first magazine published at Westminster, The Polytechnic Magazine, was founded in the 19th century. Published weekly, fortnightly and then monthly, the Polytechnic Magazine formed a wide-ranging record of a unique institution at the heart of London. In 1879, Quintin Hogg began the magazine when his Young Men’s Christian Institute was based in Covent Garden. Initially called "Home News", and then "Home Tidings" from issue 2, in February 1888 it was renamed the "Polytechnic Magazine". Regular subjects included are personal news of members (births, marriages, deaths and emigrations), sports and social clubs reports, commentaries on London events and current affairs, news of the Polytechnic women’s activities and the Old Quintinians, reports from Polytechnic Touring Association holidays, examination results and prizes. There are also advertisements (commercial and small ads), religious articles, lists of library stock, and general letters to the editor. During World War One the Magazine took on an important role by enabling members to contact and keep track of one another, as well as co-ordinating relief efforts and generally boosting morale. The wartime issues include lists of men who have enrolled, photographs of those who were killed and reports from the Front. The magazine can be accessed for free via the University's archives.
During the mid 20th century, the University saw yet another student-led publication called "Student Forum". Originally a typescript newsletter, the Student Forum was later printed into newspaper as demand grew. Regular items included Rag events; postponement of Student Players' production; Debating Society reports; review of recent jazz concerts; editorial regarding attendance at general meetings; film reviews; student organisation in India; best-dressed girl in Poly; sports reports; and advertisement for the Cameo Polytechnic [cinema]. Nevertheless, most notably the Student Forum covers the formation of the University of Westminster Student Union (UWSU) which was then known as the Polytechnic Students' Union. However, the newspaper reached the end of its lifespan in 1953, lasting only 6 years.
In the early 90s, the union began expressing interest in new print media at the university. The Smoke was originally printed in 1992 as the official magazine of the University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU). Though, in 2006 The Smoke had switched to a newspaper format, initially being published fortnightly during term time. However, the newspaper format was later scrapped for a much smaller magazine format. In 2012, a growing number of students began expressing their dissatisfaction towards the quality of student media at Westminster. As a result, an independent online editorial dubbed "The Heurist" emerged from the student outcry. The name, "The Heurist" was coined by the founder, Ash Chetri, after the word "Heuristics". The definition describes The Heurist as a platform which enables a person to learn & discover something for themselves (a nod towards setting up independent student media outside the guidance of UWSU). In reaction, UWSU launched a university-wide newspaper of their own, The Quintin Hogg (informally known as "The QH" or "The Hogg") in September 2012. It is understood that the abbreviation "QH" refers to Quintin Hogg's initials and pen name, especially in several articles for the Polytechnic Magazine, which Quintin was a frequent writer for. Initially, The QH served exclusively as a publication for the School of Social Sciences Humanities & Languages (SSHL) at the flagship Regent Street campus. However, due to the surge in popularity and student participation, UWSU quickly made the decision to circulate the newspaper to all four of the university's campuses. The QH currently serves as the main student publication at the university.
Past student publications included Poly-hoo (1938–1939), The Poly Tribune (1946), Publicity Committee News (1946), the Journal of the Maths and Physics Department (1945–1946), New Chameleon (1962), Polygon (1963), Polygen (1964), West One (1966–1969), McGarel (1968–1993), and Gen (1970). Examples of which are in the University of Westminster archives. The university also publishes an annual alumni magazine, Network, as well as several academic student journals such as the Law Review and Wells Street Journal.
Sport has always played an important part of life at the university. The athletic club, the Harriers, was established in 1883 and was for many years the largest athletics club in the country. In 1908, the polytechnic organized the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1908 London Olympic Games, also hosting a venue at The Polytechnic Stadium in Chiswick. From 1898, the polytechnic awarded the Studd Trophy, an annual trophy for the best sports performance. Over the years, the award was given to sportsmen from various disciplines, such as swimming, boxing and cycling, but the majority of awards have been given to athletes.
Noted award holders include:
- Willie Applegarth (1912/13), Olympic medallist sprinters
- Albert Hill (1919/20), Olympic gold medallist and middle-distance runner
- Harry Edward (1922), Olympic sprint bronze medallist
- Alan Pascoe (1971/72/73/74/75), hurdler
The university has grounds in Chiswick on the Thames with boat house, tennis courts, athletics track and about 12 pitches. There are sports pitches and a sports hall at the Harrow campus whilst the Regent Campus has a gym, badminton courts and offers sports, martial arts and yoga classes.
The university has three Halls of Residence – two in central London and one in Harrow. These are Alexander Fleming Hall, Harrow Hall and Marylebone Hall. In 2012, Raffles House at Wembley was opened for first-year students, Raffles House has 481 en suite rooms reserved exclusively for the University of Westminster. During term time rooms are available for full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students. The university also has nomination agreements with other private providers to increase the number of bed spaces available to their students. In 2014, the university added Urbanest Hoxton and Urbanest Tower Bridge to their list of student halls, in addition the university is in nomination with Felda House based in Wembley increasing the total number of bed spaces to 1770. During the summer the residence halls are available to the general public to book on a daily rate.
"The Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, where an infinite variety of ingenious models are exhibited and explained, and where lectures comprising a quantity of information on many practical subjects are delivered, is a great public benefit and a wonderful place."
The University of Westminster has a rich history in public events, lectures, and seminars that dates back to its antecedent institution; "The Royal Polytechnic Institution". Often, several notable figures, authors, researchers, inventors, and leaders would take to the stage of 309 Regent Street's cinema before an audience (made of staff, students, and the general public). The theatre was built by James Thomson, the architect of the Polytechnic, at a cost of approximately £10,000-£12,000. The building was listed as Grade II in 1973, and is located within a Conservation Area.
In 1847, John Henry Pepper delivered his first lecture at the Royal Polytechnic Institution (and went on to take the role of analytical chemist and lecturer the year after). Pepper also oversaw the introduction of evening lectures at the Royal Polytechnic Institution and wrote several important science education books, one of which is regarded as a significant step towards the understanding of continental drift.
In 1862, inventor Henry Dircks developed the Dircksian Phantasmagoria, where it was seen by John Pepper later on in the year in a booth set up by Dircks at the Royal Polytechnic. Pepper first showed the effect during a scene of Charles Dickens's The Haunted Man at the Regent Street theatre to great success. However, Pepper's implementation of the effect tied his name to it permanently. Though he tried many times to give credit to Dircks, the title "Pepper's ghost" endured.
On 21 February 1896, the first performance of a moving film (Cinématographe) to a paying UK audience was delivered by the Lumière brothers at the Regent Street Theatre. For this reason the Regent Street theatre is sometimes claimed to be the "birthplace of British cinema".
The university currently hosts several inaugural and alumni lectures as well as an annual law review, the "Plug In Your Brain" series of talks, film screenings, art fairs and exhibitions, an annual science festival, and conferences which are all open to the public.
- Rafik Abdessalem – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
- Tom Ang – photographer and BBC presenter
- Nabil Ayad, director of the Diplomatic Academy of London
- Philip Bagwell, labour and transport historian
- Richard Barbrook, political simulations and gaming
- Cherie Blair, senior barrister, wife of Tony Blair
- Harpal Brar, author, journalist, chairman of the CPGB-ML
- Derek Bryan, diplomat and lecturer in Chinese
- Richard Burton, journalist
- Nina Fishman, industrial and labour historian
- Mont Follick – former Labour Party MP for Loughborough
- Nicholas Garnham, emeritus professor in the field of media studies
- Andrew Groves, fashion designer
- Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute
- Peter H Millard, president of the UK Nosokinetics Group
- Chantal Mouffe, political theorist
- Michael Nath, author and academic in English Literature
- Walter Nurnberg, industrial photographer
- Joshua Oppenheimer, Oscar nominated filmmaker
- Charles Parsons, Engineer – inventor of the steam turbine
- Ezra Pound, poet
- Martin Rowson, political cartoonist and novelist
- Jean Seaton, professor of media history
- Mitra Tabrizian, photographer
- Edmund de Waal, ceramic artist
- Alfred Waterhouse, architect and designer of Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum
- Brian Winston, Emmy award winning documentary script writer
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