London has the largest student population of any British city, although not the highest per capita. Universities in London may be divided into two groups:
First, the federal University of London, which, with over 120,000 students, is the largest contact teaching university in the United Kingdom (smaller only than the distance-education Open University) and one of the largest Universities in Europe. It comprises 19 colleges and 12 institutes, as well as a distance-learning External System. Constituent colleges have a high degree of autonomy, controlling their own admissions and degree programmes, and are effectively universities in their own right. The largest and most well-known University of London colleges include (in order of size) University College London, Birkbeck, King's College London, Queen Mary, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, and the Institute of Education. Smaller schools and institutes (with fewer than 5,000 students) include the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London Business School, the School of Pharmacy, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, St. George's Hospital Medical School and Central School of Speech and Drama. Traditionally all of the University of London institutions awarded degrees from the University of London itself, and not from the individual college or institution, but this changed in 2007/2008 when University College London, King's College London, the London School of Economics, and the Institute of Education remained within the University of London system, but began awarding their own degrees. Imperial College London was a part of the University of London until 2007, but is now a separate institution.
Secondly, there are other universities not part of the University of London, most of which were polytechnics until UK polytechnics were granted university status by a 1992 Act of Parliament. Among these are London South Bank University and University of Greenwich in south London, City University, London, Middlesex University and London Metropolitan University in north London, Brunel University and University of West London in west London, the University of East London and various other higher education institutions.
UCL, Imperial College London, King's College London and LSE are leading centres of research and stand alongside MIT, Berkeley, Princeton, Yale and other US universities in terms of international reputation. All or virtually all of the leading British learned societies are based in London. The Royal Institution is a historic and important repository and proponent of the acquisition of scientific knowledge through research and study.
Other institutions of higher education
There are also number of colleges in London which provide education leading to degrees validated by universities, but which are not actual universities themselves. Some of these colleges are private institutions very similar to actual universities, such as European Business School or Regent's College.
London also has many further education colleges funded by the Learning and Skills Council. Traditionally these were clearly separated from the higher education system, and offered vocational education below university level, but this distinction is breaking down and many further education colleges now offer university level courses validated by a local university and prepare students for university entrance, as well as providing vocational courses.
London is Britain's leading centre for arts education. London's four music conservatories are the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Other drama schools include Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts ("RADA"), and the Central School of Speech and Drama. Art & Design schools include Central Saint...