Anthony Crosland, in his notable 1965 Woolwich speech, laid out the Government's vision for a binary system of Higher Education within the UK: i.e. universities and polytechnics, where the latter would concentrate on high-level vocational skills.
He claimed that, whilst it is always sensible to build on what already exists if rapid expansion is to be achieved with limited resources, it is also important to offer an alternative channel to H.E. that is distinct from the established University system in a number of ways:
- Distinct in traditions that have been inherited from its precursors in the non-University sector;
- Distinct in the goals that are set;
- Distinct in its adaptability and responsiveness to social change;
- Distinct organisationally;
- Distinct in the kind of students that it attracts.
The Polytechnic of North London was formed by the merger of the Northern Polytechnic and North Western Polytechnic in 1971. At the time of the institution's creation, its buildings were located in the following areas of North London: Holloway, Camden Town, Essex Road, Highbury and Kentish Town.
The Polytechnic's academic provision was wide-ranging and included specialist subjects such as Architecture and Polymer Science. The main centre for recreational activities was the theatre on Holloway Road, which saw the continuation of the Operatic Society, the Repertory Company and the Modern Symphony Orchestra (all of which originated within the Northern Polytechnic) until the first half of the 1980s.
Until the passing of the Education Reform Act 1988, the Polytechnic was controlled by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), part of the then Greater London Council. Degree awarding authority resided with the former Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) until the Polytechnic, a pioneer of widening participation and access to higher education, was granted university status under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and became known as the University of North London.
In the summer of 2002, the University of North London merged with London Guildhall University to form London Metropolitan University.