Based in the heart of Regent’s Park, Regent’s University London and its buildings have a rich and diverse history.
The University occupies the site of South Villa, which formed part of the plans for Regent’s Park when they were drawn up by royal architect John Nash in 1818. The house itself was designed by Decimus Burton in 1827 and soon after a library, science laboratories and other facilities were designed by Basil Champneys in Queen Anne style. In 1930 the Tuke Building completed the fourth side of the quadrangle and the original South Villa was demolished.
Regent’s Park, as we know it today, was designed in 1811 by John Nash, the favoured architect of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Surrounded by classical style terraces, Regent’s Park spans over 410 acres and includes a lake, canal and a number of villas.
The land became “royal” following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The royal connection is more gently remembered in Queen Mary’s gardens, which were developed in the centre of Regent’s Park in the 1930s. More than 30,000 roses of 400 varieties can be found in these 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
The beginnings of higher education in London arrived in 1828, with the founding of University College in Gower Street. This was for men only, but in 1849 a “Ladies College” was founded by Mrs Elisabeth Reid and opened nearby in Bedford Square. It was always short of funds, but in 1908, thanks to a generous legacy, the College was able to take a Crown lease on South Villa in the Inner Circle, and so moved into Regent’s Park, taking the “Bedford” name with it. Local residents protested at the arrival of their new neighbours and questions were asked in Parliament about the impact of a college on the amenity of the Park.
Nevertheless, academic buildings such as the present Tate Library and science laboratories were erected in the park. Science was at the core of the College’s very first programmes, together with the arts and humanities and teacher training.
The 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 70s eventually led to a merger with Royal Holloway College and a move to the edge of a larger royal park, near Windsor.
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.
In 1984 the Crown lease was taken by Rockford College, Illinois, which founded Regent’s College primarily to provide 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 College gardens).
Gradually, other institutions began to take up residence on the campus. The European Business School London moved here in 1987, widening the international focus with its emphasis on languages and internationalism and its programme of student exchange. The School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology was established in 1990 maintaining the presence of the sciences. In 1994 the College agreed with Webster University in St Louis Missouri to provide its London campus and deliver its degrees through the Webster Graduate School and British American College London (now Regent’s American College London). Regent’s Business School London was established in 1997. Most recently, the London School of Film, Media and Performance was established in 2009 as part of the HASS faculty.
Regent’s University London is one of the UK’s most respected independent universities and one of the most internationally diverse, with students from more than 140 different countries worldwide.