University College London, one of the largest colleges in the University of London, was founded in 1826 after the principles of the utilitarianist philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Bentham did not have a direct hand in the establishment of the college, but took great interest in it and is considered to be its spiritual father.

UCL was the third university to be established in England (after Oxford and Cambridge) and the first to admit students of any race, class or religion. Although students of different nationalities and religions were taught from the college's foundation, it was not until 1878 that women were admitted on equal terms to men. At the time of its inception UCL was known simply as the University of London (until King's College London was founded), and only taught medicine, with other disciplines coming under its remit later (a surprisingly large number being taught formally for the first time).

The main buildings and quadrangle are located on and around Gower Street in Bloomsbury. UCL generally ranks in the top ten UK universities. UCL currently has a community of 24,500 students and staff. UCL's facilities include four museums (including the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology). It also owns the UCL Bloomsbury Theatre on Gordon Street. A complete list of UCL's faculties can be found here:

In 2002, a plan was being considered to merge UCL with Imperial College, and for the combined entity to be renamed the University of London. This plan was intended to secure funding and allow the combined entity to better compete with Oxford and Cambridge. The plan was scrapped when it was determined that the merger would not be beneficial to either party.

At his bequest, Bentham's body is still present at UCL, and is on display seated in a glass fronted cabinet in the South cloisters. The auto-icon is Bentham's preserved skeleton, dressed in a suit of his original clothes and packed out with straw, with a waxwork head.

There are several stories and rumours about the 'auto-icon' as its known: it is reported to attend College Council meetings (and even votes- always in the affirmative). Bentham's actual head, rather inadequately preserved and complete with glass eyes, used to be present at the feet of the auto-icon, but was removed to the safety of the college vaults as it was too often the target for pranks. (It had been used as a football, went missing only to be found in a luggage locker in Aberdeen station, the usual stuff.)

A slightly less far fetched story was that recently the auto-icon had to be removed because beetles were found in its clothes, which had to be carefully expunged by freeze-drying. The oddest thing about the auto-icon is that no-one knows exactly why Bentham made his extraordinary request in the first place.

Random Trivia

UCL had the first Student's Union in England, established in 1893.

The student newspaper is called Pi. Or rather π. It could be described as witty and insightful, if your idea of wit involves calling Irish politicians "insane potato-munching micks".

Some famous UCL alumni include: Alexander Graham Bell, G K Chesterton, Mahatma Gandhi, A E Housman, Raymond Briggs, Digby Jones, Memento director Christopher Nolan, Ricky Gervais, and three members of the band Coldplay (Chris Martin, William Champion and Johnny Buckland).

The quadrangle and main building are used to stand in for The British Museum in the films The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu and The Mummy Returns.

The first transatlantic email message was sent from UCL (although I have been unable to verify this)

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