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London South Bank University was established as the Borough Polytechnic Institute in 1892. In 1883 a local solicitor, Edric Bayley, heard that the government's Charity Commissioners had been given powers to redistribute redundant money from City of London parishes to improve the physical and moral condition of poor Londoners. This led him to set up the South London Polytechnic Institutes Council in 1887, whose members included the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of London. With Evan Spicer as its Chairman and the Prince of Wales as its President, the Council on the 16th January 1888 petitioned the Charity Commissioners for money. The petition was successful and the Charity Commissioners pledged funds to match any money up to £150,000 raised by the public to establish three polytechnics in South London. As a result a committee of the Council, the South London Polytechnic Institutes Committee, was appointed to raise the funds, select sites and make plans for the three polytechnics, chosen to be located at Elephant and Castle, New Cross and Battersea. After a public appeal by the Committee at Mansion House in June 1888, £78,000 was raised in four years to set up the Battersea and Borough Polytechnics. Also by 1892 the Borough Polytechnic's Governing Body had been set up and the British & Foreign Schools Society's, Borough Road Training College had been bought to house the Polytechnic.
The stated aims of the Charity Commissioners' Scheme for the Borough Polytechnic were 'the promotion of the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes' (LSBU/1/9/3). It was officially opened on 30 September 1892 by Lord Rosebery the Foreign Secretary. The first Chair of the Board of Governors was Edric Bayley, the first principal was Charles Millis and the Secretary and Clerk to the Board of Governors was William Richardson. From 1893 the Polytechnic received grants from the Technical Education Board (TEB) of the London County Council. And the London Polytechnic Council (LPC) was established to inspect and co-ordinate the work of the polytechnics. Both the TEB and the LPC were abolished following the London Education Act in 1904, when the London County Council took over responsibility for education in London.
From its inception, the Polytechnic focused on teaching skills relevant to industry and the workplace. The first 'Technical and Trade' classes were offered to apprentices or tradesmen and included woodcarving, boot and shoe manufacture, typography, oils and colours and varnishes. Women could attend classes in laundry, needlework and dressmaking. Science classes comprised chemistry, building construction and drawing, machine construction and drawing and hygiene and music courses, art and design, commercial classes and elocution were also offered in the early years, though most emphasis was placed on the trade classes. Bakery classes began in 1894 and by 1898 comprised the largest group of students at the Polytechnic. In 1899 the National School of Bakery and Confectionery (now the National Bakery School) was opened. In 1898 the Polytechnic introduced its own diplomas, though in 1921 the Ordinary National Certificate (ONC) and Higher National Certificate (HNC) were introduced.
From 1894 the Polytechnic established three Junior Technical Schools, partly in order to justify the employment of full-time staff: many rooms were unoccupied during the day as much of the teaching and activities took place in the evenings. The junior school also had the advantage of producing students able to take up the polytechnic's adult courses. The first school was the Domestic Economy School for Girls in 1894, followed by the Technical Day School for Boys in 1897 and the Day Trade School of Waistcoat-making for Girls in 1904. The schools, for boys and girls aged 12 years and above, taught practical skills for the home and the future workplace.
The governors of the Polytechnic sought to integrate their work with that of neighbouring institutions, in particular Herold's Institute, the London Technical School of Leather Manufacture and the Norwood Technical Institute. In 1907 some work was transferred to Morley College in an attempt to rationalise technical education in London, and a Joint Committee established (see LSBU/3/10/5). In 1917 commercial classes and some language work also transferred to Morley.
During the 1920s diplomas and certificate work for structured courses were introduced, pioneered by the Borough Polytechnic and soon after introduced at other polytechnics as part of a national system. Courses evolved over time and were continually adapted to the vocational needs of students. Single courses were divided into elementary and advanced parts, preliminary and ancillary courses were added, such as mathematics or basic science, and gradually the course grew until it became suitable for examination under the National Certificate or some other scheme. This led to a considerable amount of specialisation in course content and level.
During the Second World War, the polytechnic was bombed with more than 13,000 square feet of the buildings destroyed or made unsafe. New courses were introduced during the war, notably accelerated Higher National Certificate engineering courses under the Hankey scheme by Lord Hankey, Chairman of the War Cabinet's Scientific and Engineering Advisory Committee, and two-year engineering courses were developed for the army. At the end of the war degree courses in Pure Science and Engineering were introduced, which the polytechnic decided to concentrate on. Some courses were discontinued, such as welding, metal plate work and paper technology. Scientists were recruited from the services and war industries and accommodation and equipment required for degree standard work was developed. Due to the 1944 Education Act the junior schools were separated from the Polytechnic after the war. Degree courses were offered in the late 1940s and in 1955 the National Council for Technological Awards (NCTA) began awarding Diplomas of Technology and Technology Engineering. The diploma was the first major award of first degree standing for technical colleges and was quickly adopted by the Polytechnic's different departments. Further education and training was reorganised following the White Paper on Technical Education in 1956. The variety of levels of work at the Polytechnic meant that it was designated a regional college rather than a college of advanced technology, after which the governors decided to reduce the proportion of lower level work. The NCTA was replaced in 1964 by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) and the South Bank Academic Board established. There was a large increase in full-time and sandwich courses in diploma, CNAA and external degree courses.
The publication of the White Paper 'A Plan for Polytechnics and Other Colleges', published in 1966, had announced the creation of some 30 polytechnics throughout the country to form what became called the public sector of the binary system of higher education. The 13 existing colleges managed by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) were to be reorganised into five. The Borough Polytechnic Institute, the Brixton School of Building, City of Westminster College and the National College for Heating, Ventilating, Refrigeration and Fan Engineering joined together to become the Polytechnic of the South Bank in 1970.
First degree courses were the mainstay of the new polytechnic's activities, and by the mid-1970s departments were offering full-time or sandwich courses and part-time courses in each major discipline. There was a rise in full-time and sandwich education leading to diplomas, CNAA and external degree awards. CNAA honours degrees in several subjects replaced London external degrees and CNAA ordinary degree, and new awards were introduced. The polytechnic expanded its range of courses into new areas of work, including sociology, town planning, management, education and law, in an environment where science and engineering had been dominant. Courses such as dental technology and building crafts were also transferred in order to rationalise work at the Polytechnic. Engineering and science courses continued to be central, with electrical and mechanical engineering and chemical engineering particularly growing in importance. Postgraduate work increased during the 1970s and 1980s, with 16% of students studying on postgraduate courses by 1990. In 1976 Battersea College of Education was incorporated into the Polytechnic, as were the parts of the Rachel McMillan College of Education that provided courses at the New Kent Road annexe. During the 1980s the Polytechnic pioneered the provision of access courses, including one in legal studies, for part-time and mature students. A new Department of Hospitality, Food and Product Management provided a new range of courses, including hotel management and in 1988 the Polytechnic was accredited for first degrees by CNAA. In 1991 students from South West London College transferred to South Bank on the dissolution of the College, and the Central Catering College was also incorporated into the Polytechnic.
In 1987 the Polytechnic became known as South Bank Polytechnic, and as result of the 1988 Education Reform Act was awarded corporate status and became independent of local authority control. Funding of polytechnics was given over to a new body, the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC), which was itself replaced in 1992 when the Higher and Further Education Act created a single Higher Education Funding Council, removing any remaining distinctions between polytechnics and universities. As a consequence South Bank Polytechnic became South Bank University on 18 June 1992 with the power to award its own degrees.
South Bank University consolidated and developed course specialities in computing, engineering, applied science; architecture, construction and estate management, business studies, management, languages and law, social sciences, arts, media studies and a new programme of Combined Honours degree subjects. In 1995 Redwood College of Health Studies and Charles West School of Nursing were incorporated into the University, bringing a number of health courses including nursing and allied health professions.
In 2003 the University underwent another name change to London South Bank University and teaching was split into four faculties: Arts and Human Sciences (AHS), Business, Computing & Information Management (BCIM) (from 2009 Business), Engineering, Science & the Built Environment (ESBE) and Health and Social Care (HSC).
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