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Polytechnic of Central London

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1753 PCL
Held at: University of Westminster
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Full title: Polytechnic of Central London
Date(s): 1968-1992
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: c300 boxes
Name of creator(s): PCL | Polytechnic of Central London
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) was designated on 1 May 1970 as a result of the White Paper, 'A Plan for Polytechnics and Other Colleges' (Cmd 3006), published in 1966. This outlined the arrangements for implementing the government's policy for a dual system of higher education, divided by the binary line, first outlined by Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Education, in a speech at Woolwich Polytechnic in 1965. The polytechnics in the public sector would provide vocational, professional and industrially-based courses, some for degrees awarded by the Council of National Academic Awards (CNAA), some at sub-degree level, and some to provide a second chance for those who had missed the opportunity for further education on leaving school.

PCL was the result of a merger of Regent Street Polytechnic with Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce. The new institution was structured as a limited company, incorporated on 22 April 1970. The memorandum and articles of association (1970) defined the responsibilities and constitutional framework, including the powers of the Court of Governors and of the Academic Council. London polytechnics continued to be funded and to an extent managed by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). Degrees were awarded by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) which both validated new courses and carried out a more general quinquennial review of institutions.

By 1970 the plan to turn Regent Street into a tri-partite federal college, first announced by the LCC in 1960, was finally implemented when the buildings on the two new sites at Marylebone Road and New Cavendish Street were finished. At a ceremony on 21 May 1971, Lord Hailsham, Lord Chancellor and grandson and namesake of the founder Quintin Hogg, combined opening the new buildings with the formal presentation of the Instrument of designation to PCL. Marylebone Road housed architecture, building, civil engineering, surveying and town planning, together with a separate block for management studies; electrical and electronic engineering, life sciences, mathematics and physics, and mechanical engineering moved to New Cavendish Street. In the early 1970s the extension building between Riding House Street and Little Titchfield Street was refurbished for the School of Communication, and Languages moved to a newly acquired building in Euston Centre in 1978. The Sidney Webb College of Education was amalgamated with PCL in 1975 and closed in 1980. In 1990 Harrow College of Higher Education merged with PCL.

Between 1970 and 1988 PCL expanded and developed to provide industrial, commercial, professional and scientific education, training and research for students at all levels of higher and technical education. By 1988 there were roughly 5,000 students on full-time and sandwich courses, the majority of whom were following CNAA degree and post-graduate courses; 6,000 students followed part-time and evening courses. PCL ran Europe's largest programme of short courses, with 17,000 people every year engaged in mid-career and personal development. Among a number of innovations was the development of one-year foundation programmes leading to degrees in engineering and science, which were subsequently adopted nationwide as a way of widening participation. Research activity increased. In 1988, PCL was awarded a total value of £3.2 million in external research awards (compared with £30,000 in 1970), although it was excluded from applying for the public research funding available to universities.

The Education Reform Act of 1988 removed polytechnics from the control of local authorities and transferred their funding to a new body, the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC), which was itself replaced in 1992 when the Higher and Further Education Act created a single Higher Education Funding Council, abolishing the binary line by removing any remaining distinctions between polytechnics and universities. PCL became the University of Westminster in 1992.

In 1988 PCL celebrated the 150th anniversary of its predecessor, the Royal Polytechnic Institution, with a programme of special events. The Polytechnic Institute, representing the sports and social clubs characteristic of Regent Street Polytechnic, continued to function during this period, though its activities declined considerably as pressure for educational use in the buildings increased.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records, 1968-1992, of the Polytechnic of Central London: Minutes and committee papers comprise Court of Governors minutes, 1970-1992, and Annual Reports and Statements of Accounts, 1978-1988; Standing Committee of Academic Council minutes, 1972-1983; Academic Council minutes, 1972, 1977-1992; Finance and General Purposes Committee minutes, 1970-1989, Finance and Property Committee minutes, 1989-1992, and Audit Committee minutes, 1989-1992; Higher Degree Committee papers, 1973-1974, 1985-1987, Research Degree Committee papers, 1974-1983, Research Committee papers, 1976-1992, and other research papers; Staff Development Committee papers, 1976-1981; nursery management committee minutes and papers, 1978-1990; Committees of PCL Health and Safety, 1980-1988; Resources Committee papers, 1985-1992; Student Affairs Committee papers, 1984-1992; Committees of Directors of London Polytechnics, 1972-1986; and other committee papers.

Other administrative papers comprise Memorandum and Articles of Association, 1970; certificate of incorporation, 1970; Instrument recording designation as a Polytechnic, 1970; correspondence and papers concerning the Instrument and Articles, 1968-1988; Structure Commission Report on Poly/Holborn amalgamation, 1970; file on designation ceremony and Holborn foundation stone, 1960-1970; papers and reports of J Eric Richardson, including 'The development of the Polytechnic 1957-1970' [1970]; programme of designation and opening of new buildings, 1971; report of the Working Party on Examinations and Assessment, 1971; accommodation strategy report, 1971; papers on organisation of the academic administration, 1972; proposals for the London Regional Management Centre, 1973; annual maintenance grant applications to ILEA (block grant), 1974-1989; papers relating to the CNAA, including its Institutional Review, 1978-1992; specimen certificates for award on successful completion of courses [1970s]; consultants' report on efficiency review, 1986; papers relating to the merger with Harrow College of Higher Education, 1987-1989; papers on the change to University status, 1989-1991; Charity Commissioners' scheme for the Quintin Hogg Memorial Fund, 1991; correspondence with the Privy Council concerning adoption of the title University, coat of arms and letters patent, 1991-1992; PCL Accommodation Strategy report by Touche Ross and Co, 1991.

Financial records include balance sheet and accounts, 1969-1970, report and statement of accounts, 1971-1981, 1983-1985, 1988, and Enterprise in Higher Education Annual Report, 1990.

Departmental records include file of the Library Development Officer, 1972-1973; Library handbooks, 1971-1972, and guide to services [1978]; Library Development Plan, 1980-1985; Department of Surveying proposals for submission of BSc in Quantity Surveying to the CNAA, 1974; American Studies Resource Centre teaching materials, including videos and maps [1980]; photograph album and course booklets for the School of Management; School of Photography handbooks and teaching materials; Poly Law Review, 1975-1982.

Other records include Teaching Staff Association papers, 1970-1977. Material, including ephemera, relating to events includes telegram of thanks for the Polytechnic's message on the silver wedding of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, 1973; programmes of annual dinner at the Café Royal, 1974, 1976; programme of supper and concert for the silver jubilee, 1977; publicity material relating to the 150th anniversary, 1988.

Publications, 1970-1992, include PCL prospectuses (general and departmental), leaflets, brochures and posters for courses and events, guides for applicants, student handbooks, and other information for students; programmes of presentation ceremonies, 1972-1974; Examination pass lists, 1974-1992; PhD student pass lists, 1968-1987; Polytechnic Institute Members' Magazine [1971]-1974; typescript Polytechnic Sports and Social Club monthly newsletter, 1974-1975, succeeded by the Newsletter of Polytechnic Members, 1976-1988; typescript Institute of Polytechnic Sports and Social Clubs newsletter, 1991-1992; publications for staff, comprising miscellaneous PCL staff information bulletins and magazines, 1970-1977, and Central Issue, the staff newspaper, 1977-1985, succeeded by Clarion, 1987-1992; McGarel, 1968/69-1992/93 (incomplete series), described as Polytechnic Students' Newspaper and later as Polytechnic Students' Union Newspaper; printed articles on Polytechnic buildings in Marylebone Road and New Cavendish Street, 1970-1971; Posters advertising the Poly Entertainment Committee concerts held in Portland Hall, 1965-1969; floor plans for Little Titchfield Street, 1971.

Photographs and slides, 1970-1992, including buildings, students, activities and events, among them the designation ceremony, 1971.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signing the Regulations for Access form and unless subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 or exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be supplied, for research use only, unless copyright restrictions apply or the item is too fragile to be copied. Requests to publish original material should be addressed to the University Archivist.

Finding aids:

Typescript handlist for some items. More recently accessioned material is uncatalogued.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Created by the institution.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The University of Westminster Archives also holds records of the PCL's predecessors, the Royal Polytechnic Institution (Ref: UWA RPI), the Youths' Christian Institute (Ref: UWA YCI), and the Regent Street Polytechnic (Ref: UWA RSP); its successor, the University of Westminster (Ref: UWA UOW); and absorbed institutions: Holborn College of Law, Languages and Commerce (Ref: UWA HOL), Sidney Webb College (Ref: UWA SWC), and Harrow College of Higher Education (Ref: UWA HAR).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project, additional information added by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2002 and May 2008.

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