By Richard Temple, Archivist of Senate House Library, University of London
One of my responsibilities since becoming the archivist at Senate House Library, University of London has been to answer queries from family historians. We are limited in terms of the amount of research we can do for genealogical researchers by restrictions on the use of staff time. So digitising genealogical sources and putting them online seemed a logical step. These online resources also include copies of the University Registers, which list students up until 1901.
The University of London was the first university in Britain to admit women to study for degrees: the first female graduates were in 1880. Also found amongst the lists are details of luminaries such as Walter Bagehot, Mahatma Gandhi and H. G. Wells. By 1908, the University of London had over 4000 registered students, exceeding the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge. It had become the largest university in the UK and the fifth largest in the world. The University’s external system (from 1858) meant that it had a global reach. There were over 10,000 internal students in the academic year 1929-1930.
The lists do not only cover University of London students. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, students who attended other institutions took University of London examinations as external students. Also included, therefore, are students who were at the predecessor institutions of universities such as Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Bangor and Aberystwyth.
We’ve also just begun a project to transcribe the University’s examination volumes, 1838-1889. These include details of students who took the matriculation examination. Matriculation exams in the nineteenth century were roughly equivalent to GCSEs. They were a useful qualification for the white-collar professions such as the law and gave partial exemption from exams for Sandhurst and the Royal College of Surgeons. For this reason, many matriculation students did not continue to study for a full degree.
We’ve discovered that names in the examination volumes were not necessarily recorded in the Registers. The plan is to add this data to the student records page. It is a long-term project, however, and will take many years to complete. There are 69 volumes and transcription of individual names (often with their ages and full addresses) is a painstaking and skilled undertaking. Nevertheless, this will be an invaluable resource, not least for family historians.
For more information on the University of London archives visit the student records page, which has recently been extended with the addition of the graduate list 1836-1930.