Our history

The University of Leeds was founded in 1904, but our origins go back to the nineteenth century with the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831 and the Yorkshire College of Science in 1874.

In 1831, a group of young men established the Leeds School of Medicine which meant that medical students no longer had to go to Scotland, London or overseas to study.

The Yorkshire College of Science was founded around 40 years later, largely because the wool and textile industries worried that the rapid development of new technologies in Europe posed a threat to the local cloth trade.

Improving access to education

For the sons of local families, the Yorkshire College of Science was one of the first colleges for students of all faiths and backgrounds.

The College supported the values of the recently established University College London and Owens College in Manchester. These colleges had been set up to challenge the exclusivity of Oxford and Cambridge universities, which were predominantly for the Anglican aristocracy and gentry.

By contrast, this new generation of learning institutions welcomed students from all religions, including dissenters, Catholics, Jews and agnostics.

The Victoria University 

The colleges also focused on meeting the technological demands of the fast-changing Victorian era.

From the beginning, the Yorkshire College of Sciences put its full weight behind scientific studies. After a few years, it also started to offer courses in classics, modern literature and was renamed the Yorkshire College.

In 1884, the Yorkshire College combined with the Leeds School of Medicine and three years later the two Leeds-based institutions joined forces with Owens College Manchester, and University College Liverpool, to become the federal Victoria University.

Becoming the University of Leeds

It wasn't long before each of the cities started to consider the benefits of forming their own universities.

After Manchester and Liverpool decided to establish universities, Leeds also took the leap and, in 1904, King Edward VII granted the University its own Charter as an independent institution.

Growing reputation and numbers

Within a few years, the number of students began to increase rapidly and changes to state education meant that students were arriving with a better educational foundation.

The ten years before the outbreak of war in 1914 were ones of growth and consolidation. Most importantly, the new University of Leeds started to develop the strong tradition of research we are still known for today.

Unlike Owens College Manchester, the Yorkshire College had always allowed women to study there. However, women did not enrol in significant numbers until special facilities were provided at the Day Training College in 1896. The first women graduated from the University of Leeds in 1905.

Going global

At the time that the University of Leeds received its Royal Charter, seven out of eight students came from Yorkshire. Now, we welcome students from all over the world as a truly multicultural and international university. 

Notable alumni

Bestselling writers, Oscar-winning actors, medal-winning Olympians and world-leading scientists from around the globe have all studied at Leeds.

Read about notable alumni.

Honorary graduates

Since 1904, we have conferred honorary awards on a host of individuals from the worlds of science, art, academia, entertainment and more.

Read about our honorary graduates.

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