The university is the largest university in the United Kingdom by total number of enrolled students (internal and external) from more than 190 countries, with over 52,000 distance learning students in external mode and 161,270 campus-based internal students, making largest university by number of full-time students in the United Kingdom. The university was established by royal charter in 1836, as a degree-awarding examination board for students holding certificates from University College London and King's College London and "other such other Institutions, corporate or unincorporated, as shall be established for the purpose of Education, whether within the Metropolis or elsewhere within our United Kingdom". The university moved to a federal structure in 1900.
In year 2013, Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked University of London in top 50 under World's top 100 universities for producing millionaires. Most constituent colleges rank in the top 50 universities in the United Kingdom and for most practical purposes, ranging from admissions to funding, the constituent colleges operate on an independent basis, with some recently obtaining the power to award their own degrees whilst remaining in the federal university. The ten largest colleges of the university are University College London, King's College London, Queen Mary, City, Birkbeck, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, SOAS, and St George's. The specialist colleges of the university include the London Business School, the Royal Veterinary College and Heythrop College, specialising in philosophy and theology. Imperial College London was formerly a member, before leaving the university a century later in 2007. City is the most recent constituent college, having joined on 1 September 2016.
As of 2015, there are a total of around 2 million University of London alumni across the world, which include 12 monarchs or royalty, 52 presidents or prime ministers, 84 Nobel laureates, 6 Grammy winners, 2 Oscar winners and 3 Olympic gold medalists. The collegiate research university has also produced Father of the Nation for several countries, including several members of Colonial Service, Ceylon Civil Service and Imperial Civil Service during the British Raj and the British Empire. In post-nominals, the University of London is commonly abbreviated as Lond. or, more rarely, Londin., from the Latin Universitas Londiniensis, after its degree abbreviations.
University College London (University College London) was founded under the name “London University” in 1826 as a secular alternative to the religious universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In response to the theological controversy surrounding such educational establishment, King's College London (KCL) was founded and was the first to be granted a royal charter (in 1829).
Yet to receive a royal charter, UCL in 1834 renewed its application for a royal charter as a university (originally applied for in 1830), which would grant it the power to confer degrees. In response to this, opposition to "exclusive" rights grew among the London medical schools. The idea of a general degree awarding body for the schools was discussed in the medical press. and in evidence taken by the Select Committee on Medical Education. However, the blocking of a bill to open up Oxford and Cambridge degrees to dissenters led to renewed pressure on the Government to grant degree awarding powers to an institution that would not apply religious tests, particularly as the degrees of the new University of Durham were also to be closed to non-Anglicans.