In 1825, a group of men that included Whigs, reformers and lawyers came together to found a university in London aimed at those excluded from the two established English universities Oxford and Cambridge – where teachers and students were required to be subscribing Anglicans.
To mark the anniversary of UCL’s foundation on 11 Feb 1826 – when it went by its original name the University of London – this lunch hour lecture by Professor Rosemary Ashton (UCL English Language & Literature) looked at the opposition to the new university among Tory politicians and journalists, especially in the ultra-Tory newspaper John Bull.
The new university was designed to have “all the leading advantages of the two great universities” and “no barrier to the education of any sect”. The intention was to exclude theological teaching from the curriculum and have no form of religious test for entrance.
The media ‘against’
John Bull took against the idea with vitriol and had a longstanding campaign to ridicule those behind it. Sweeping, exaggerated warnings of threat to church and state were driven by a fear of working-class revolution in the vein of the French model.