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As an educational institution of higher learning, the University of Westminster boasts a rich history and has for years been providing students with academic excellence, cultural engagement and personal enrichment, dating back to its inception as The Polytechnic Institution in 1838. In the following article we talk about the school’s unique heritage, and the traditions of excellence that have helped to shape it today.

 University of Westminster: Brief History

The Westminster story began in 1838, when Sir George Cayley opened the Polytechnic Institution at 309 Regent Street in London. In 1881, philanthropist Quintin Hogg bought the Royal Polytechnic Institution building and moved his Young Men’s Christian Institute into 309 Regent Street, which soon became the publicly funded Regent Street Polytechnic.

Since then, the school has secured a reputation as a place for firsts. Some of these firsts include:

  • The first polytechnic in the UK (1838)
  • The opening of the first public photographic portrait studio in Europe (1841)
  • The venue for the first public moving picture show in the UK, organized by the Lumiere brothers (1896)
  • Organizing the first marathon race (at the London Olympics) over the now traditional distance of 26 miles, 385 yards (1908)
  • Offering the first degree courses in Photographic Science, Photography, and Media Studies (1960s and 1970s)
  • The first modern university to win the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – International Trade
  • The UK’s first Partner University for UN Habitat, the agency which deals with human settlement and development. 

Established under the chairmanship of the distinguished scientist Sir George Cayley, the Polytechnic Institution at 309 Regent Street was created in order to demonstrate new technologies and inventions to the public and played a significant role in the popularization of science.

In 1841, the name changed to The Royal Polytechnic Institution when Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, became the Patron of the school.

During the 1860s, Quintin Hogg, a young business man, began to provide basic education for some of London's poorest children in the slums of Covent Garden. Hogg developed his vision to provide educational, social, sporting and social opportunities for young working men in The Young Men's Christian Institute. He purchased 309 Regent Street in 1882.

New day and evening courses in technical and commercial subjects were soon introduced to support the expanding economy as London became the world's largest city.

The Polytechnic became publicly funded in 1891 and was re-named the Regent Street Polytechnic. During the First and Second World Wars courses were directed towards the war effort, as the school took the lead in retraining the large numbers of disabled soldiers returning from war.

Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) 1970-1992

The 1960s saw a major new expansion scheme for the Regent Street Polytechnic, transforming it into a multi-site institution. A new site in Marylebone Road was established to house a college of architecture and advanced building technologies, while a second new site in New Cavendish Street was founded to house engineering and science.

By the time the new buildings had been completed, the Regent Street Polytechnic had been merged with Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce to form the Polytechnic of Central London (known as PCL).

As an interesting side note, the newly formed Students’ Union at PCL played host to several leading bands of the era, including Jimi Hendrix and Cream. Pink Floyd also performed at the Polytechnic at this time.

PCL was one of 30 new polytechnics formed in 1970, awarding degrees from the Council of National Academic Awards. Throughout the next 20 years, PCL continued its commitment to part-time and evening education, and pioneered an extensive program of short courses for mid-career professionals that attracted more than 20,000 students a year.

University of Westminster 1992- the present

The Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) gained University status in 1992, which allowed the school to award its own degrees and to participate in publicly funded research.

Today the University, with its 22,000+ students, is far larger than its predecessors and is structured into four campuses:  the Cavendish, Harrow, Marylebone and Regent campuses.

More recently, the expanding overseas activities of the school have resulted in the University being awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2000 and again in 2005.

University of Westminster: Its People

The University of Westminster recognizes that its people—both students and staff—are their most important asset. Together with their students, the staff makes the university what it is—an all-inclusive and diverse university with a passion for learning that makes a difference in the real world.

Their instructors are experts in their respective fields and professionals in their own right, bringing current knowledge and new ways of thinking to the courses they teach. The school also has a proud tradition of adding to the university’s rich culture by awarding honorary degrees to extraordinary people and keeping in touch with their notable alumni.

The University of Westminster strives to create the best possible learning environment for their students, and the staff members are committed to fostering a culture of professional achievement.

The University of Westminster: Vision, Mission and Values

The University of Westminster was founded as Britain's first polytechnic in 1838. Since then it has developed into a university that combines both metropolitan and cosmopolitan dimensions, a school which is closely involved in business, professional and academic life within London, as well as overseas.

The University has always been, and continues to be, imaginative in recognizing the current needs of its students and developing appropriate offerings for its many target markets. The University also has a strong and historic commitment to promoting equality and embracing diversity. As a place to work or to study, the University of Westminster consistently strives to strengthen their reputation as a welcoming and inclusive organization.


According to the school’s website, the vision of the University of Westminster focuses on three main areas:  the experience the school offers, the difference it makes, and their international reputation.

The Experience They Offer

The University of Westminster strives to create a vibrant learning environment – fostering innovation and creativity, informed by practice, inspired by research, and focusing on the globally relevant areas in which they excel.

The Difference They Make

The University of Westminster is building the next generation of highly employable global citizens to shape the future.

Their International Reputation

The University of Westminster has partnerships with over 20 international institutions across Europe and Asia, opening doors for students all over the world.

The school was one of the co-founders of the Westminster International University of Tashkent (WIUT), which boasts 2,000 students and over 1,200 graduates. Moreover, for nearly ten years they have been involved in validating the Informatics Institute of Technology in Colombo.


The University of Westminster intends to shape the future of professional life by:

  • Being a diverse, vibrant and inspirational learning environment.
  • Establishing the University of Westminster as the leading practice-informed teaching and research university.
  • Being a responsive, metropolitan and cosmopolitan university serving the needs of diverse communities.
  • Embedding internationalization, employability and green-thinking in all that they do.


The University of Westminster holds many values dear, and consistently aims to be:


The University of Westminster understands that without risk there is no innovation. Therefore, they are bold enough to question ideas, provoke new ways of thinking, strip away the superfluous and focus on those things at which they can truly excel.


The school is an integrated team of professionals; a team that, at its core, is about trust, collaboration and connectivity across their different disciplines and throughout the world.


The University of Westminster respects and celebrates diversity. With a generosity of spirit, they value emotional intelligence as well as knowledge, empowering each other and enabling their students to realize their full potential.


The school always demands excellence. Its staff understands the importance of critical thinking, discipline and responsibility, and they expect the very highest standards of themselves and their students.


Green-thinking is at the heart of everything the University of Westminster does. Their common goal is to respect the planet and they are committed to sustainable practices, both on the global stage and in their own working environment.

Information for International Students

Internationalization is one of the core values of the University of Westminster.  As such, the school offers a number of different programs for international students, including a number of different study abroad and student exchange programs.

The University of Westminster offers more than 300 academic and professional programs of study, including foundation courses, and classes leading to undergraduate (bachelor) and postgraduate (master’s and research) degrees. All of their courses begin in September, but they also offer a number of postgraduate courses starting in January.

Additionally, Westminster offers a wide range of full- and part-time short courses and foundation courses in subjects such as computing, finance and foreign languages. They also teach a range of courses in English as a Foreign Language to accommodate their international student body.

English Language Support

The University of Westminster’s Professional Language Center provides pre-sessional courses and in-sessional Academic English courses.

For students who have been offered a place in one of the university’s undergraduate or postgraduate courses, but have yet to have reached the language level for their chosen course, a pre-sessional course may be the perfect solution, provided that the student meets the entry level requirements.

The university also offers support in Academic English for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students—students who can take an Academic English module alongside their studies. At the undergraduate level, Academic English modules are credited and count towards the students’ degree.

All Programs Available:
  • Architecture, Building and Landscape
    • Architecture
  • Arts, Design and Crafts
    • Fashion
    • Photography
  • Business
    • Business Administration
    • Management
    • International Business
    • Human Resources
    • Marketing
    • Public Relations
  • Communications
    • Film TV and video
    • Journalism
    • Multimedia
  • Computing
    • Information Technology
  • Engineering
    • Graphic and Industrial Design Engineering
    • Electronic Engineering
    • Engineering Science
  • Finance
    • Finance
    • Accounting
  • Health
    • Health Occupations
    • Human Nutrition and Dietetics
    • Pharmacology
  • Hospitality, Leisure, Tourism and Travel
    • Tourism
  • Humanities
    • History
  • Law
    • Law
  • Philology, Languages, Literature
    • Philology and Linguistics
    • Literature
  • Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Geography
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Athletics and exercise science
Language of instruction


Type of school

Public University


+44 207 911 5000


309 Regent Street, London, The United Kingdom, W1R 8AL

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