Following on from the signing of the 1858 Charter, the University of London Senate began to advertise the new arrangements by decreeing that they should be ‘extensively circulated among Educational institututions and individuals engaged in Education’
Graduates of the University of London not only benefited from the removal of barriers based on class and religion which had prevented them from accessing degrees in the past, but the University also continued to widen and liberalise the content of its degrees. This made the University of London degrees much more relevant to the needs of the professions.
This relevance was none more evident than with the first cohort of graduates produced by the new system in 1860. They included William Lant Carpenter – son of the University’s own distinguished Registrar, Dr William Benjamin Carpenter FRS – who made his name as an engineer; Walter Cash Clennell, later to become a solicitor in the City of London; and Alfred Spalding Harvey, who rose to become Chief Accountant to the Treasury.
The Reverend Joseph Claudius May (1845-1902)
Gained a University of London degree in 1868 and went on to become a Methodist minister and the Principal of the Wesleyan High School in Freetown, Sierra Leone. His father had been sold as a child to Portuguese slavers but was rescued from them at sea by a British cruiser and landed at Sierra Leone. Joseph’s brother, Cornelius, later became Mayor of Freetown. Together, they sought to embrace their African heritage by forming the Dress Reform Society. Its aim was to eliminate the use of Western clothes as the first step towards ending the influence of European customs over Sierra Leonean society.
In 1878 the University of London became the first university in the UK to admit women to its degrees (Oxford and Cambridge did not formally award degrees to women until 1920 and 1947 respectively). By 1900, over 30 per cent of the 536 graduating students were women.
Sophia Bryant (1850-1922)
An early candidate for the University of London’s Special Examination for Women. A brilliant scholar and teacher, and one of the first two women to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, she was the first woman Doctor of Science and the first woman to be elected to the University of London Senate. After teaching in Highgate, London, she joined the staff of North London Collegiate School, and in 1895 she was appointed its Headmistress, succeeding the School's founder Frances Mary Buss.
Louise Creighton (1850–1936)
Was one of the first women to enter the University of London’s Special Examination for Women, which she passed with honours. She was a social activist, novelist and biographer. She publicly announced her support for votes for women in 1906 and became well-known as a moderate voice in the women’s movement. She served on the London University commission, the venereal disease commission and on the governing board of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.