London South Bank University (LSBU) is one of the oldest universities in central London with over 23,000 students and 1,700 staff based in the London Borough of Southwark. The Chancellor is the newscaster Sir Trevor McDonald and the Vice-Chancellor is the historian Professor Deian Hopkin.
The university has four faculties covering health and social care; business and computing; arts and humanities and engineering and the built environment. Many courses hold national accreditation. It hosts the oldest bakery school in the world, the National Bakery School, founded in 1894.
Its most celebrated teacher was the British painter David Bomberg (1890-1957), now recognised as one of the greatest British artists of the last century, who taught painting and drawing part-time at the Borough Polytechnic between 1945 and 1954 and took part in exhibitions with his students organised in the Borough Group (1946-51) and the Borough Bottega (1953-55). Major paintings by Bomberg were acquired by the Tate Gallery only after his death. The University's hall of residence, David Bomberg House, carries his name.
The university has performed poorly in newspaper university rankings. In the Times' Good University Guide 2009, London South Bank University ranked 113th out of 113. The Guardian's University Guide 2009 ranked LSBU second to last, with a score of 32.10.
In June 1888 the South London Polytechnics Committee, which sat on the London School Board (whose members included the Lord Mayor of London, Lord Salisbury, Lord Rosebury and Sir Lyon Playfair) met at Mansion House to motion that they approved "of a Scheme for the establishment in South London of Polytechnic Institutes". Two years later in 1890 the former buildings of Joseph Lancaster's British & Foreign Schools Society were bought for £20,000 to form a new polytechnic. In May of that year, the South London Polytechnics Institutes Act was passed, so that by June 1891 a governing structure and general aims were created for the future Borough Polytechnic. These aims were "the promotion of the industrial skills, general knowledge, health, and well-being of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes" and also for "instruction suitable for persons intending to emigrate". By January 1892 £78,000 had been raised for the new Battersea and Borough Polytechnics and W.M.Richardson had been chosen to be clerk to the Governing Body, Mr C T Millis appointed as Headmaster and Miss Helen Smith appointed Lady Superintendent.
On 1 October 1892 the Polytechnic opened as the Borough Polytechnic Institute, with a remit to educate the local community in a range of practical skills and thus nicknamed "The People's Palace". The Polytechnic was given a seal based on the Bridge House emblem of the City of London and a motto taken from Ecclesiastes - "Do it with they Might". A Gala event was held to mark the occasion, opened by Lord Rosebury which was widely reported in the press. One of the speeches made included the hope that "the Polytechnic would do its share towards perfecting many a valuable gem found in the slums of London". Such a comment came from the terrible social conditions found in Southwark at the time which were described as containing every "Dirt, Damp, Dissipation and Destitution". The new Polytechnic was also regarded as a tool to help fill a skills gap threatened by Germany at the time.
The Polytechnic had classes in art, science, language, literature and general knowledge as well as holding public lectures, musical entertainments, exhibitions, sporting facilities, clubs, a museum and a library. A weekly printed journal supplied news of events and societies sprang up in debating, literature, economics, photography, chess, draughts, antiquarianism and natural history. Popular courses included tanning, typography, metalwork, electrical engineering, baking and boot & shoe manufacture. George Bernard Shaw, J A Hobson and Henry M Stanley all lectured at the Polytechnic.
In 1894 and 1895 Herold's Institute in Bermondsey and the Norwood Technical Institute were set up as a branches of the Polytechnic in order to train students for it more advanced study. In 1894 the National Bakery School was opened with 78 pupils. Three years later, in 1897 the Polytechnic was let to sightseers who wished to see the Diamond Jubilee parade for Queen Victoria. In 1898 15 houses on Kell Street were purchased, along with five workshops and laboratories, Victoria Gymnasium, and nine lecture theatres. In this year also, the Polytechnic issued its first diplomas and in 1902 was once again let to sightseers who wished to see the Coronation parade of King Edward VII. 1904 saw the first prospectus published, and by 1908 Edric Hall was built with money donated by Edric Bayley and the Polytechnic filled the tapezoidal island site it still sits on today. In 1909 the Leathersellers Technical College opened in Tower Bridge Road and Polytechnic classes were held there until 1925.
In 1911 the Governors commissioned a number of large paintings by members of the Bloomsbury Group to decorate the Students' room with the theme of "London on Holiday". These comprised:
In 1931 they were given to the Tate where they still remain.
In 1912 the Polytechnic opened a Senior Technical Day School, Trade School for Girls and a Domestic Economy School. By the beginning of the First World War the Polytechnic had almost 7000 students, by the end, only 700. During WW1 the Polytechnic helped manufacture munitions and medical supplies for the War Effort and ran special courses for the army. 127 men from the Borough Polytechnic Institute lost their lives in WW1.
After the war the National Certificate system was taken up, engineering courses were offered to women, printing classes were dropped and run at Morley College and C T Millis retired as Principal in 1922. J W Bispham was elected the new Principal and a major rebuilding scheme was undertaken. Class numbers increased to 8,682 students by 1927 and on February 20th 1930 the Duke of York opened the Polytechnic's new buildings. In 1933 Dr D H Ingall took over as Principal and the Sports Ground as Turney Road, Dulwich was obtained for the Polytechnic with a sports pavilion opened there in 1938, which was later requisitioned by the Army in WW2 for use by a barrage balloon and searchlight unit. 1933 saw farriery being dropped as it was too difficult to bring horses into the building any more and in 1935 for the first time student hours hit 1,000,000.
The Second World War saw the Borough Polytechnic Institute suffer badly from the Blitz. Southwark was bombed seven times in all and its population halved by the end of the War. From 1940 to 1941 the Polytechnic was bombed 5 times and large amounts of its building stock were destroyed. The college provided 100 meals a day to the homeless of Southwark during this period and Boys and Girls from its Trade and Technical Schools were evacuated to Exeter. By 1945 the Borough Polytechnic Institute was named "The University of the Slums" by newspaper headlines and its Junior Technical School merged to become the Borough Beaufoy School and its Girls' Technical Day School amalgamated to become the Paragon School.
From 1945 to 1954 David Bomberg taught art at the Polytechnic and worked as part of the Borough Group artists. In 1956 the Polytechnic was designated a Regional College of Technology and Dr J E Garside was installed as the new Principal until 1965, when Mr V Pereira Mendoza took over. In 1970 the Brixton School of Building (founded in 1904 and known as the London County Council School of Building up until 1943), the City of Westminster College (founded in 1918 as St. George's Institute and renamed in 1959) and the National College of Heating, Ventilating, Refrigeration and Fan Engineering (founded in 1947) all merged into the Polytechnic. Parts of the Rachel McMillan College of Education were also merged into the Polytechnic in 1970s. In 1970 the Borough Polytechnic Institute changed its name to the Polytechnic of the South Bank and adopted a new coat of arms designed to include two Thames barges set above a pentagon surrounded by five other pentagons. The next year Margaret Thatcher attended an inauguration and presentation ceremony at the new Polytechnic of the South Bank. 1976 saw the merging of Battersea College of Education (founded the same year as the Borough Polytechnic Institute and known as the Battersea Polytechnic Institute until 1964) and Battersea Training College (founded in the 19th Century) with the Polytechnic.
In 1978 Dr John Beishon stood as the Polytechnic's Director, being taken over by Mrs Pauline Perry, later Baroness Perry of Southwark, in 1986. The next year saw the Polytechnic undergo another name change to become South Bank Polytechnic. In the same year the British Youth Opera (BYO) was founded and made a home at the Polytechnic's Southwark campus. In 1990 the Polytechnic was accredited for Research Degrees and in 1991 the Central Catering College at Waterloo and the South West London College were merged with it.
In 1992 the Polytechnic became one of the Conservative government's new universities, changed its name to South Bank University and held its graduation ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. 1992 also saw the new University celebrate its centenary and was nicknamed "the University without Ivory Towers". Betty Boothroyd was given the first honorary degree by the University. To celebrate 1992's achievements an exhibition entitled "Bomberg and his Students" was opened at the Gillian Jason Gallery, organised by the University and former students and several Borough Group artists attended and presented new and old works of art to the University.
Three years later saw Redwood College of Health Studies and Great Ormond Street School of Nursing merge with the University.
The University sponsors British Youth Opera, a vital training opportunity for highly gifted young opera singers.
A third of the University's United Kingdom students are from the London Borough of Southwark, a third from the rest of Greater London and the remaining third from the rest of the UK. The University serves over 3,000 EU and international students from more than 120 different countries. 56% of the student population are from ethnic minorities and a large proportion of the students are classified as mature (over 21 when they start their course).
The main campus is located in Southwark, south east of Waterloo, south west of London Bridge and north of Elephant and Castle tube and rail stations. The site is located about 5 minutes walk from London's South Bank. To the north of the campus is Borough Road, where the main entrance is situated, to the west is London Road and to the east is Southwark Bridge Road. At the northeast corner is St George's Circus.
There are two smaller campuses in East London; at Whipps Cross Hospital in the London Borough of Waltham Forest (LSBU at Whipps Cross) and the Havering Campus (LSBU at Havering), diagonally opposite the Harold Wood train station.
The University uses the local St George's Cathedral for its degree day ceremonies, with receptions afterwards in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum. Southwark Cathedral is used for honorary degree day ceremonies, often with a reception at the Glaziers Hall next to London Bridge.
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