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Chelsea College, 1972-1985

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lays the foundation stone at Malcolm Gavin Hall (1975)Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lays the foundation stone at Malcolm Gavin Hall (1975)In 1972, with the granting of a Royal Charter, the College was renamed as Chelsea College (University of London). The Governing Body and Academic Board become Council and Senate respectively, and Sir John Wolfenden was elected as the first President of the College.

During the 1970s, universities faced a number of challenges. Major changes were proposed for Chelsea College, and with efforts to develop a new site in Wandsworth proving unsuccessful, Chelsea launched an appeal to acquire the site of the former College of St Mark and St John (Marjon), between the King’s Road and Fulham Road, a short walk from the main buildings.

NUS march against education cuts outside Chelsea College (1981)NUS march against education cuts outside Chelsea College (1981)The campaign attracted support from a number of influential friends of the College, most notably Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who had laid the foundation stone for the Malcolm Gavin Hall of Residence in November 1975, and took a personal interest in the future of the College. Vigorous press campaigns were taking place in The Daily Telegraph and the Times Higher Education Supplement, and television coverage included a plea from Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate, that the site should be retained for educational purposes. The appeals were a success and on securing the Marjon site in 1979 Chelsea presented The Queen Mother with a volume of colour photographs of the site, together with historical commentary, as a token of thanks for her support.

Chelsea College Library at Manresa RoadChelsea College Library at Manresa RoadChallenges continued for the College throughout the 1980's, and the Students' Union were particularly active, playing a major part in organising a campaign against education cuts which included a march of 5000 students and staff from London colleges and universities. From 1982, following an academic review, it was decided that the College should group its interests into four main fields, namely Molecular Science, Human and Environmental Science, Education, and Physical Sciences. This narrower focus at Chelsea led to the discontinuation of the departments of Humanities and Social and Psychological Studies from 1983. The new shape of the College, with four main Schools of study, was praised by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, who recognised that there were few London institutions that would not have to follow Chelsea’s lead in concentrating on their strengths for survival.

This need for consolidation was echoed further in educational institutions over subsequent years, and it was recommended that within London there should be fewer centres of operation and that studies should be concentrated into the areas of biological science, social science, physical science, engineering and arts. Queen Elizabeth College and King's College sought reunification and it was agreed that Chelsea be included in this dialogue, in the hope of developing as a further possible campus of King’s College. The negotiations proved successful and existing Chelsea students and courses were transferred to King’s College in 1985.

For more images of Chelsea College, see our gallery.

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