Royal Holloway, University of London

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Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) is a constituent college of the University of London. The college has three faculties, 18 academic departments, and about 8,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students from over 130 different countries. The campus is located slightly west of Egham, Surrey, within the boundary of the Greater London Urban Area, although outside of the M25 motorway and some 20 miles (32 km) from the geographic centre of London.

The Egham campus was founded in 1879 by the Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Holloway. Royal Holloway College was a women-only institution, and was officially opened in 1886 by Queen Victoria. Royal Holloway College became a member of the University of London in 1900. In 1945, the College began admitting male postgraduate students, and in 1965, male undergraduates. In 1985, Royal Holloway College merged with Bedford College (another formerly all-women's college in London which was founded in 1849 and, like Royal Holloway College, joined the University of London in 1900 and became fully co-educational in 1965). The merged college was named Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (RHBNC), this remaining the official registered name of the College by Act of Parliament. The campus is dominated by the Founder's Building, a Grade I listed red-brick building which is modelled on the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France.

Royal Holloway College

Royal Holloway College, a women-only college, was founded by the Victorian entrepreneur Thomas Holloway in 1879 on the Mount Lee Estate in Egham. The founding of the College was brought about after Holloway, seeking to fulfil a philanthropic gesture, began a public debate through The Builder regarding 'How best to spend a quarter of a million or more', at which point his wife proposed to build a college especially for women. Holloway later increased his original sum of money to half a million, and today, the campus is still best known for its original 600-bed building, known as the Founder's Building, designed by William Henry Crossland and inspired by the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley, France.Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called the original College building "the most ebullient Victorian building in the Home Counties", and noted that together with its sister building the Holloway Sanatorium, it represents "the summit of High Victorian design". The Founder's Building, which is now Grade I listed, was officially opened in 1886 by Queen Victoria, who allowed the use of "Royal" in the college's name. Founder's has been described by The Times as "one of Britain’s most remarkable university buildings", largely due to its elaborate architecture, and according to The Sunday Times it "makes the college instantly recognisable". The college also has a Chapel, completed in 1886 as one of the last parts of the University to be finished. October 1887 saw the arrival of the first 28 students at Royal Holloway College. It later became a constituent of the University of London in 1900, as did Bedford College with which Royal Holloway College would eventually merge.

Merger of Royal Holloway College and Bedford College (1985)

Bedford College was founded by Elizabeth Jesser Reid in 1849 as a higher education college for the education of women. Reid leased a house at 47 Bedford Square in the Bloomsbury area of London, and opened the Ladies College in Bedford Square. The intention was to provide a liberal and non-sectarian education for women, something no other institution in the United Kingdom provided at the time. The college moved to 8 and 9 York Place (off Baker Street) in 1874, and the to Regent's Park in 1908. In 1900, the college became a constituent school of the University of London. Like Royal Holloway College, following its membership of the University of London, in 1965, it allowed male undergraduates to study on its premises for the first time.

Royal Holloway College and Bedford College merged in 1985. The pressure for the merger was due to a lack of government funding for higher education, and the college was named Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (RHBNC), with an inauguration being held at the College Chapel in 1986 by Elizabeth II. The newest title remains the official registered name of the college, though this was changed for day-to-day use to "Royal Holloway, University of London" by the College Council in 1992.

Since the merger with Bedford College, Royal Holloway has entered into collaborative discussions with Brunel University and St George's, University of London. The latter project was cancelled in September 2009. Royal Holloway, St George's and Kingston University continue to work together in the field of health and social care teaching and research.


Royal Holloway has forged successful academic links with other universities in the Greater London area and beyond. In 2004 RHUL became a member of the WestFocus Knowledge Exchange based at Kingston University along with Brunel, Roehampton, Thames Valley Universities, University of Westminster and St George's, University of London. The WestFocus initiative was created to forge business and enterprise links between its member institutions and small to medium-size business partners in the South East of England. The John Adams Institute for Accelerator Research (J.A.I.) is a major collaboration in the field of particle physics between Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford. In the field of health and social care research, the SWan (South West London academic network) between Royal Holloway, St George's and Kingston University based at St George's in Tooting is another of Royal Holloway's major collaborative projects.

Location and governance

Royal Holloway's campus in Egham is set in 135 acres (55 ha) of woodland, between Windsor and Heathrow. Around 200 species of shrubs, 150 different types of tree and numerous wild flowering plants can be found in Royal Holloway's parkland. The campus is 35 minutes from Waterloo station in central London which is 19 miles (31 km) away, and Windsor is 5 miles (8 km). The campus is 2 miles (3.2 km) from M25 junction 13 and close to the M3, M4 and M40 and London Heathrow Airport. While Royal Holloway's worst feature is considered to be that "Egham is not known for its social scene", it has been noted that the campus's environment "offers the best of both worlds - friendly and relaxed on the one hand, dynamic and busy on the other." The former principal, Professor Stephen Hill, also commended its "superb campus environment and the close-knit nature of our community".The Independent stated that the University is "Renowned for its friendly and supportive environment".

The Founder's Building, which dominates the campus, has striking north and south towers, two large quadrangles and contains a chapel, kitchen and dining hall, lecture theatre and the arts library along with student rooms and offices. The building has often been the centre of media attention and has become a popular filming location for TV and film as a grandiose 'university' or 'public school'. Apart from the ITV's 'Trinity', the 2006 film Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction starring Sharon Stone was partly filmed at the South Quad of the Founder's Building during the summer of 2005, becoming the only location to be used outside London. Some areas of the building were also made to look like a psychiatric institute for the film. Similarly, the Academy Award-winning movie Howards End had some scenes shot inside one of the Founder's courtyards with the statue of Queen Victoria visible. The BBC's Antiques Roadshow has used the North Quad of the Founder's Building as a location for one of its antique filming days, and in 2002, external scenes for an episode of Midsomer Murders, ("Murder on St. Malley's Day"), featuring a fictional public school sports day were partly shot inside the South Quad of the Founder's building. The character Sophie Neveu in the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is mentioned as having studied cryptography at the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway. Royal Holloway's Information Security Group is amongst the biggest academic security groups in the world, and in 1998, it was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in recognition of its work. In the autumn of 2009, the Founder's Building provided the external settings for the ITV2 satirical drama, Trinity.

The College Council is the governing body of Royal Holloway, taking responsibility for the College's "financial probity and for setting its overall strategic direction." There are 25 members of the council, many of which are lay members from outside Royal Holloway, and each is appointed for a fixed term. A total of 16 lay members are appointed; 2 from local authorities; 1 selected by the Privy Council; another by the University of London; 2 more are appointed as alumni from Royal Holloway, Bedford College or Royal Holloway College; and the rest are chosen to offer a range of skills and experience. The Council's Chairman, who is appointed for 5 years, is also a lay member. One of The Chairman's duties is to chair a number of committees including the Remuneration Committee, which handles the pay and benefits of the senior staff. At a special meeting held on the 19 March 2010, the Council appointed Professor Paul Layzell as the Principal, from 16 August 2010.

Academic structure

The University is made up of a number of schools and departments organised into three faculties, and 18 academic departments. One Dean heads each faculty, and are supported by Deputy Deans. The Principal takes the role of appointing The Heads of Department, who in turn report to their faculty's Dean. The faculties are as follows:


Royal Holloway runs a variety of academic degree programmes, including Single Honours and Joint Honours, with fees of £3,145 for full-time undergraduate students. The study of an undergraduate programme leads to one of five University of London degrees, which include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science (Economics), Bachelor of Music and Master in Science. Lowered fees, or even free places are allocated to students who stay on to complete a postgraduate degree. The University also runs e-degrees in classics, history and business management. New degrees planned for 2008 include maths and finance, criminology and sociology, computer science and finance, and geography and international relations. For students who obtain results of ABB or more at A-Level, standard bursaries of £500 are automatically doubled. On a competitive basis, Founder's Scholarships worth £3,500 a year are given to 20 students who achieve AAA, and for those who do not have a maintenance grant, 60 Bedford Scholarships are made available worth £1000.

Royal Holloway is particularly strong in the arts and humanities; "cultural and artistic opportunities are hard to rival with excellent theatres, high-profile student media outlets and a strong musical tradition", wrote The Sunday Times. In the most recent research reviews, French, German, geology and music were judged to be of an international standard, with 5* ratings.The Guardian UK University Guide in 2005 ranked the Language Department 9th in Britain.

In biological sciences and psychology, teaching assessments awarded top scores to the departments, in addition to all of the sciences being rated "nationally outstanding" for research in 2001, managing to obtain the highest 5 or 5* awards. In the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) of 2008, Royal Holloway's School of Biological Sciences was ranked joint 3rd achieving a proportion of 4* and 5* rankings. In the National Student Survey, physics at Royal Holloway achieved the best results. Royal Holloway also makes a science foundation year available at further education colleges within the region.

The School of Management has all three of its MBA programmes accredited by AMBA, and obtained management school status in 1993. At present, the school has 1000 undergraduate students, in addition to 300 postgraduates. Royal Holloway also runs the University of London MBA distance-learning programme, in 2008 the MBA in International Management was ranked as one of the world’s 40 best distance-learning MBAs by the Financial Times.

The History department is traditionally one of the best in the country and many of the college's most notable academics are longstanding members of the department. The department has been recognised as a centre for research excellence and has received equally good teaching reviews. It remains the University of London's biggest History Department.

An Advanced Skills Programme is also run at the University, featuring information technology, communication skills and foreign languages.The 2007 Sunday Times University Guide lists all of the following subjects taught at Royal Holloway as excellent: classics and ancient history; drama, dance and cinematics; economics; geology; history; maths, statistics and operational research; organismal biosciences; physics and astronomy; and psychology.

The number of students from working-class homes has seen an increase at Royal Holloway, though undergraduates from independent school count for a quarter of the University's undergraduate students, and it is listed as having one of the lowest state school intakes. Student applications for 2007 courses, 11,931 in total, increased by more than 14 per cent, while there were only 2,153 places available. The rise was attributed to the high student satisfaction being shown by two national surveys, the most recent of which proved Royal Holloway's geography students to be the most satisfied in the country. It is estimated that 20 per cent of undergraduates are from overseas. 67.3 per cent of students achieve a First or 2:1 degree. Royal Holloway employs 1388 members of staff, including 534 academic staff and 132 research staff. The total number of undergraduate and postgraduate students is around 7,700 from 120 countries.

Study Abroad Programme

RHUL has developed a variety of study abroad programmes, allowing its students to spend a year in institutions including;

Royal Holloway collaborates with Queen Mary, University of London to help run programmes at a college of the University of London in Paris, France, known as the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). This offers undergraduate and graduate students the chance to study University of London ratified French Studies degrees in France. Students who take a degree in French, German, Italian or Hispanic Studies will all take a year abroad as an integral part of the course.

Academic reputation

Royal Holloway has been recognised for maintaining a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. The University's graduate unemployment rate has been judged to be "consistently among the very lowest", with only 3.2 per cent of graduates unemployed. Furthermore, according to the latest official statistics for 2006, Royal Holloway is second out of 90 universities in England and Wales for the amount of its students who go into graduate employment. Royal Holloway also came 5th in a league table of UK universities in the 2005 National Survey of Student Satisfaction, placing it alongside universities such as University College London and Exeter.

The university is popular with both state and privately-educated students, with the latter group currently accounting for around 25% of all students.


For 2010, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the college 13th in the UK, 22nd in Europe, and 88th in the world. The Times Good University Guide for 2009 ranked the college at 30th in the United Kingdom, with a total score of 626 points out of a possible 1000.The Sunday Times University Guide for 2008 listed Royal Holloway as the 28th best in Britain out of 120, with a 74.9 per cent student satisfaction. In The Good University Guide, Royal Holloway is ranked number 22 in Britain, while The Guardian placed it at 35,The Independent at 22, and The Telegraph at 13. In 2007 The Times rated Royal Holloway 12th in the country and The Telegraph placed it 13th. In the same year The Good University Guide placed it at 11th. The college has been consistently in the top tier of UK universities, and is a solid member of the top 10 in a range of individual subject rankings.

This said, students have expressed dissatisfaction at the university's recent and alarming drop in the league tables. Students graduating in 2008 and 2009 felt cheated, considering that the university's reputation had suffered so dramatically in such a short period of time. In an interview with The London Student, one student - having been awarded three As at A level - remarked that he felt as if the college had let him down. It was subsequently claimed, in an article featured in The Founder, that an administrative error had resulted in an incorrect value being submitted to league table publishers which quoted an inflated student/staff ratio of 400:1. It is alleged that this mistake explains the college's aforementioned sudden fall in the university rankings.

However, in 2010 the college benefited from upgraded evaluation methods used by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. They ranked the college as 88th in the world, and 22nd in Europe.

Following Imperial College's recent withdrawal, Royal Holloway is now placed fourth amongst the colleges of the University of London federation, behind LSE, University College London and King's College London. The University is also listed as the 5th best university in London out of 20.


The results of the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise placed Royal Holloway at 9th among ten university institutions whose departments all earned the top ratings for research, whether they achieved 4, 5 or 5* ratings. Additionally, Royal Holloway was listed as the 12th best University for research in Britain by The Sunday Times. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) a range of departments were rated in the national top ten for the quality of the research undertaken. Economics, Geography, Psychology, Earth Sciences & Biological Sciences all made the top 10, whilst the Music department at RHUL was the highest rated Music department of any UK university. Overall Royal Holloway placed 16th in the country (over 150 institutions were assessed).

The current research policy chief of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, David Sweeney and his predecessor Rama Thirunamachandran were both sourced directly from Royal Holloway.

Halls of residence

Most halls are around the main campus, are initially allocated to the first year to students who firmly accept a conditional or unconditional offer. Accommodation prices at the University can vary, ranging from £67-£112 per week. Catered-pay-as-you-go accommodation is also available. Currently 2,900 students live in halls of residence.

The Founder's Building houses 479 students in original Victorian rooms and converted space. Meals for catered students are provided in the impressive dining hall. Also on campus, Gowar and Wedderburn, a construction of 564 study bedrooms in two new blocks opened in September 2004. These halls will also be used as accommodation for rowers at the 2012 Olympic Games. Similar accommodation blocks, named Butler, Tuke and Williamson, were completed in September 2007 to replace the ageing Athlone, Cameron and Williamson Halls. Of the waste created by the demolition of Athlone, Cameron and Williamson, 98 per cent was recycled. All five of these new halls were named after former principals and have been designed to be environmentally friendly, accomplished by sedum-planted roofs that change colour by season, as well as being designed to improve insulation. In an assessment used to distinguish the environmental performance of buildings, BREEMAN rated the Butler, Tuke and Williamson halls as "very good", as their construction was designed to reduce heat loss. The Kingswood I and II accommodation is 1-mile (1.6 km) away. These halls hold over 400 students, and a free bus service operates to the campus. Other accommodation includes Highfield Court (125 students), Penrose Court (200 students), Reid Hall (287 students), Runnymede Hall (441 students) which was opened by HRH The Princess Royal in 1992 and Victorian Houses (25 postgraduate students).

Campus redevelopment

Between 2002 to 2008, the college underwent a £100 million investment programme and a re-development of its campus, as a result of the merge with Bedford College and the sale of Bedford's site in Regent's Park. A number of recent projects undertaken by Royal Holloway have included an extension to the School of Management, the library (which holds half a million books), and the academic staff, as well as an improvement to student services. The biological science laboratories have also been renovated and the Windsor Building has been used to create seminar rooms and a 400-seat auditorium. As an extension to the drama department, the on-site Victorian boilerhouse has been converted into a performance space. The International Building, opened in 2000 by HRH The Princess Royal, houses the Language Centre along with the English, European Studies, French, German, Italian and Hispanic Studies Departments. The new developments have also been followed by the establishment of formal links with New York University, the University of Sydney, and Yale University, and connections with the Royal College of Music means that music students at Royal Holloway have the opportunity to take lessons there.

The size of the campus has allowed the college to develop some of the best sports facilities of any university institution in the London area, and helped build the college's reputation as a sporting institutions of excellence. An aerobics studio, fitness suite, sports Hall, sports fields and tennis courts account for some of the sporting facilities that Royal Holloway offers. Situated on the campus are restaurants, college shops, a bank, a health centre, a Chapel, a careers centre, as well as a new sports complex. As a result of an evaluation by People & Planet in 2007, Royal Holloway was ranked a disappointing 60th out of 120 universities for environmental performance. The University has put into place initiatives to enhance environmental performance, such as the improvement of woodland management to develop nature conservation and more recycling banks are being introduced to halls of residence.

The Picture Gallery and Holloway Collection

Royal Holloway's famous Picture Gallery is in Founder's Building. From 1881-3, Thomas Holloway paid the equivalent of £6m for 77 Victorian era paintings. Most of the collection was acquired from Christie's sales' catalogues, except for five, and it is thought that Holloway was only ever outbid once. The Royal Holloway Collection is currently on a 2-year tour of the United States, its debut exhibition overseas. In 2008, the paintings were displayed at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, moving on to other art museums in America until 2011. In order to fund the maintenance of Founder's, 3 paintings were sold for £21 million between 1993 and 1995, and the remaining paintings at Royal Holloway have a current value of £16.6 million. The Picture Gallery is a resource for the Victorian Studies Centre for teaching and research in Victorian art, architecture and literature, including a taught MA under the Department of English. A major refurbishment of the gallery was completed in 2008. The Holloway collection is due to return to the College in 2011.

Students' Union

With little nearby off-campus activity, there is a great emphasis placed on The Royal Holloway Students' Union (SURHUL), which supposedly "has a reputation as one of the best unions in the London area", in words of The Independent. The Students' Union provides much of the on-campus 'entertainment', organising and sponsoring the sport clubs and special-interest societies, on top of providing welfare advice to students through the Student Advice Centre.


The Royal Holloway Students' Union is responsible for broadcasting Insanity radio station, which was established in 1998. Available locally on 1287 kHz, Insanity broadcasts during term time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The station is also available worldwide through the internet. Receiving a positive reaction, the station has twice won the Silver Award for Best Student Radio Station at BBC Radio 1's Student Radio Awards, and has also won the Best Marketing and Promotions Award 3 times since 1999.

The Orbital is the RHUL campus magazine and is published by the Students' Union, covering subjects from higher education news, opinion and reviews. The original official Royal Holloway student publication was in the format of a newspaper called The Egham Sun, but this was replaced with the magazine edition in the early 1990s.

The Founder is the independent student newspaper. Founded in 2006, 4,000 free copies are printed and distributed on a fortnightly basis to numerous spots on campus and in the local area. The newspaper receives no financial support from the College or SURHUL and thus advertising revenue acquired by the students on the editorial board pays for the printing costs of the paper. This means that editorial and financial responsibility is entirely that of students. In December 2010 the newspaper became the first student publication in the UK to launch an iPhone app.

At the 2007 Guardian Student Media Awards, Christian Anthony was shortlisted for the Student critic of the year Award. At the inaugural 2011 London Student Journalism Awards Kate Brook, the newspaper's Features Editor, was recognised with the Best Feature Writer award.

Additional logos

Royal Holloway's coat of arms consists of the Royal Holloway shield and its surrounding elements. There are three crescents shown on the coat of arms, which are taken from Thomas Holloway's own coat of arms. Taken from the Bedford coat of arms, the field is coloured black and gold in a chequered design, with the addition of ermine spots (feather-like symbols representing ermine tails) from the Royal Holloway coat. Placed between two black lozenges, there is a lamp of learning. Traditionally, the lozenge is worn on the arm of unmarried women or widows, which places significance on the coat of arms' lozenges as it acts as a reminder that the colleges were founded for women. Below, the motto is displayed which is taken from the arms of Bedford College, and reads esse quam videri.

The Royal Holloway shield was created following the merger of Bedford and Royal Holloway Colleges in 1985. The shield appears (in a black and white form) on legal documents and stationery for legal reasons, along with the following: "Incorporated by Act of Parliament. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College."

The use of the University's identifying marks is governed by the Corporate Identity Manual, RHUL.

Notable alumni

Notable alumni and former students of Royal Holloway College, Bedford College and RHUL include:

Notable staff

The following is a partial list of notable office-holders, academics and others who have spent time teaching or conducting research:


In date order

  • Matilda Ellen Bishop, first principal of the college (1887–1897)
  • Dame Emily Penrose, second principal of the college (1898–1907) and former principal of Bedford College
  • Ellen Charlotte Higgins, alumna and third principal of the college (1907–1935)
  • Janet Ruth Bacon (1935–1944)
  • Fanny Street, alumna, founder of Hillcroft College and acting principal {1944-1945}
  • Dr Edith Clara Batho (1945–1962)
  • Dame Marjorie Williamson DBE alumna, British academic, educator, physicist and university administrator (1962–1973)
  • Dr Lionel Butler first male principal (1973–1981)
  • Dr Roy Miller alumnus and last principal before the merger with Bedford College (1982–1985)
  • Professor Dorothy Wedderburn last principal of Bedford College and authority on poverty and the welfare state. First principal of the merged college (1985–1990)
  • Professor Norman Gowar (1990–2000)
  • Sir Drummond Bone (2000–2002)
  • Professor Stephen Hill (2002–2009)
  • Professor Paul Layzell (2010- )
  • Elizabeth Jesser Reid Founder (1849–1864) then run by committee until first Principal appointed
  • Dame Emily Penrose First Principal (1893–1898) also Royal Holloway (1898–1907)
  • Ethel Hurlbatt (1898–1906)
  • Dame Margaret Jansen Tuke (1907–1929)
  • Geraldine Emma May Jebb (1930–1951)
  • Norah Lillian Penston (1951–1964)
  • Dorothy Wedderburn, last Principal of Bedford College (1981–1985)


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