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The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a public research university in London, England, and a member institution of the University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw, LSE joined the University of London in 1900 and established its first degree courses under the auspices of the university in 1901. LSE began awarding its degrees in its own name in 2008, prior to which it awarded degrees of the University of London. It became a university in its own right within the University of London in 2022.
|Latin: Rerum cognoscere causas
Motto in English
|To understand the causes of things
|Public research university
|£229.3 million (2023)
|£466.1 million (2022–23)
|The Princess Royal
(as Chancellor of the University of London)
(as Lord President of the Council ex officio)
|President and Vice-Chancellor
|Eric Neumayer (interim)
|Purple, black and gold
LSE is located in the London Borough of Camden and Westminster, Central London, near the boundary between Covent Garden and Holborn. The area is historically known as Clare Market. LSE has more than 11,000 students, just under seventy percent of whom come from outside the UK, and 3,300 staff. The university has the sixth-largest endowment of any university in the UK and in 2022/23, it had an income of £466.1 million of which £39.6 million was from research grants. Despite its name, the school is organised into 25 academic departments and institutes which conduct teaching and research across a range of pure and applied social sciences.
LSE is a member of the Russell Group, Association of Commonwealth Universities and the European University Association, and is typically considered part of the "golden triangle" of research universities in the south east of England. The LSE also forms part of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences, a network of eight European universities focused on research in the social sciences. In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, the school had the third highest grade point average (joint with Cambridge).
LSE alumni and faculty include 55 past or present heads of state or government and 18 Nobel laureates. As of 2017, 13 out of 49 of all Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economics had been awarded to LSE alumni, current staff, or former staff, who consequently comprised 16% (13 out of 79) of all Nobel Memorial Prize laureates. LSE alumni and faculty have also won 3 Nobel Peace Prizes and 2 Nobel Prizes in Literature. The LSE had educated the most billionaires (11) of any European university in a 2014 global census of US dollar billionaires.
The London School of Economics and Political Science was founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, initially funded by a bequest of £20,000 from the estate of Henry Hunt Hutchinson. Hutchinson, a lawyer and member of the Fabian Society, left the money in trust, to be put "towards advancing its [The Fabian Society's] objects in any way they [the trustees] deem advisable". The five trustees were Sidney Webb, Edward Pease, Constance Hutchinson, W. S. de Mattos and William Clark.
LSE records that the proposal to establish the school was conceived during a breakfast meeting on 4 August 1894, between the Webbs, Louis Flood, and George Bernard Shaw. The proposal was accepted by the trustees in February 1895 and LSE held its first classes in October of that year, in rooms at 9 John Street, Adelphi, in the City of Westminster.
The school joined the federal University of London in 1900 and was recognised as a Faculty of Economics of the university. The University of London degrees of BSc (Econ) and DSc (Econ) were established in 1901, the first university degrees dedicated to the social sciences. Expanding rapidly over the following years, the school moved initially to the nearby 10 Adelphi Terrace, then to Clare Market and Houghton Street. The foundation stone of the Old Building, on Houghton Street, was laid by King George V in 1920; the building was opened in 1922.
The school's arms, including its motto and beaver mascot, were adopted in February 1922, on the recommendation of a committee of twelve, including eight students, which was established to research the matter. The Latin motto, rerum cognoscere causas, is taken from Virgil's Georgics. Its English translation is "to Know the Causes of Things" and it was suggested by Professor Edwin Cannan. The beaver mascot was selected for its associations with "foresight, constructiveness, and industrious behaviour".
The 1930s economic debate between LSE and the University of Cambridge is well known in academic circles. The rivalry between academic opinion at LSE and Cambridge goes back to the school's roots when LSE's Edwin Cannan (1861–1935), Professor of Economics, and Cambridge's Professor of Political Economy, Alfred Marshall (1842–1924), the leading economist of the day, argued about the bedrock matter of economics and whether the subject should be considered as an organic whole. (Marshall disapproved of LSE's separate listing of pure theory and its insistence on economic history.)
The dispute also concerned the question of the economist's role, and whether this should be as a detached expert or a practical adviser. Despite the traditional view that the LSE and Cambridge were fierce rivals through the 1920s and 30s, they worked together in the 1920s on the London and Cambridge Economic Service. However, the 1930s brought a return to disputes as economists at the two universities argued over how best to address the economic problems caused by the Great Depression.
The main figures in this debate were John Maynard Keynes from Cambridge and the LSE's Friedrich Hayek. The LSE economist Lionel Robbins was also heavily involved. Starting off as a disagreement over whether demand management or deflation was the better solution to the economic problems of the time, it eventually embraced much wider concepts of economics and macroeconomics. Keynes put forward the theories now known as Keynesian economics, involving the active participation of the state and public sector, while Hayek and Robbins followed the Austrian School, which emphasised free trade and opposed state involvement.
During World War II, the school decamped from London to the University of Cambridge, occupying buildings belonging to Peterhouse.
Following the decision to establish a modern business school within the University of London in the mid-1969s, the idea was discussed of setting up a "Joint School of Administration, Economics, and Technology" between the LSE and Imperial College. However, this avenue was not pursued and instead, the London Business School was created as a college of the university.
In 1966, the appointment of Sir Walter Adams as director sparked opposition from the student union and student protests. Adams had previously been principal of the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the students objected to his failure to oppose Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence and cooperation with the white minority government. This broadened into wider concerns about links between the LSE and its governors and investments in Rhodesia and South Africa and concerns over LSE's response to student protests. These led to the closure of the school for 25 days in 1969 after a student attempt to dismantle the school gates resulted in the arrest of over 30 students. Injunctions were taken out against 13 students (nine from LSE), with three students ultimately being suspended, two foreign students being deported, and two staff members seen as supporting the protests being fired.
In the 1970s, four Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economic Sciences were awarded to economists associated with the LSE: John Hicks (lecturer 1926–36) in 1972, Friedrich Hayek (lecturer 1931–50) in 1974, James Meade (lecturer 1947–1957) in 1977 and Arthur Lewis (BSc Econ 1937, and the LSE's first Black academic 1938–44) in 1979.
In the early 21st century, the LSE had a wide impact on British politics. The Guardian described such influence in 2005 when it stated:
Once again the political clout of the school, which seems to be closely wired into parliament, Whitehall, and the Bank of England, is being felt by ministers. ... The strength of LSE is that it is close to the political process: Mervyn King, was a former LSE professor. The former chairman of the House of Commons education committee, Barry Sheerman, sits on its board of governors, along with Labour peer Lord (Frank) Judd. Also on the board are Tory MPs Virginia Bottomley and Richard Shepherd, as well as Lord Saatchi and Lady Howe.
Commenting in 2001 on the rising status of the LSE, the British magazine The Economist stated that "two decades ago the LSE was still the poor relation of the University of London's other colleges. Now... it regularly follows Oxford and Cambridge in league tables of research output and teaching quality and is at least as well-known abroad as Oxbridge". According to the magazine, the school "owes its success to the single-minded, American-style exploitation of its brand name and political connections by the recent directors, particularly Mr Giddens and his predecessor, John Ashworth" and raises money from foreign students' high fees, which are attracted by academic stars such as Richard Sennett.
In 2006, the school published a report disputing the costs of British government proposals to introduce compulsory ID cards. LSE academics were also represented on numerous national and international bodies in the early 21st century, including the UK Airports Commission, Independent Police Commission, Migration Advisory Committee, UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, London Finance Commission, HS2 Limited, the UK government's Infrastructure Commission and advising on architecture and urbanism for the London 2012 Olympics
Following the passage of the University of London Act 2018, the LSE (along with other member institutions of the University of London) announced in early 2019 that they would seek university status in their own right while remaining part of the federal university. Approval of university title was received from the Office for Students in May 2022 and updated Articles of Association formally constituting the school as a university were approved by LSE council 5 July 2022.
In February 2011, LSE had to face the consequences of matriculating one of Muammar Gaddafi's sons while accepting a £1.5m donation to the university from his family. LSE director Howard Davies resigned over allegations about the institution's links to the Libyan regime. The LSE announced in a statement that it had accepted his resignation with "great regret" and that it had set up an external inquiry into the school's relationship with the Libyan regime and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, to be conducted by the former lord chief justice Harry Woolf.
In 2013, the LSE was featured in a BBC Panorama documentary on North Korea, filmed inside the repressive regime by undercover journalists attached to a trip by the LSE's Grimshaw Club, a student society of the international relations department. The trip had been sanctioned by high-level North Korean officials. The trip caused international media attention as a BBC journalist was posing as a part of LSE. There was debate as to whether this put the students' lives in jeopardy in the repressive regime if a reporter had been exposed. The North Korean government made hostile threats towards the students and LSE after the publicity, which forced an apology from the BBC.
In August 2015, it was revealed that the university was paid approximately £40,000 for a "glowing report" for Camila Batmanghelidjh's charity, Kids Company. The study was used by Batmanghelidjh to prove that the charity provided good value for money and was well managed. The university did not disclose that the study was funded by the charity.
In 2023, the LSE formally cut ties with the LGBT charity Stonewall, a decision which was sharply criticized as transphobic by the LSE Student Union but praised by gender-critical activists as being conducive to freedom of speech.
In the summer of 2017, dozens of campus cleaners contracted via Noonan Services went on weekly strikes, protesting outside key buildings and causing significant disruption during end-of-year examinations. The dispute organised by the UVW union was originally over unfair dismissals of cleaners, but had escalated into a broad demand for decent employment rights matching those of LSE's in-house employees. Owen Jones did not cross the picket line after arriving for a debate on grammar schools with Peter Hitchens. It was announced in June 2018 that some 200 outsourced workers at the LSE would be offered in-house contracts.
Since 2014/15, levels of academic casualisation have increased at the LSE, with the number of academics on fixed-term contracts increasing from 47% in 2016/2017 to 59% in 2021/2022, according to Higher Education Statistical Agency data (internal LSE data puts the latest figure at 58.5%). During this same period, comparable universities such as University of Edinburgh, University College London and Imperial all increased their rates of permanent staff relative to those on fixed term contracts. Only Oxford had a higher proportion of casual academic work for the 2021/2022 year (66%) although in contrast to LSE, the proportion remained constant rather than rising. As a result, the student-to-permanent staff ratio at LSE has worsened and had, as of July 2023, the worst student-to-permanent staff ratio among comparable universities in the UK, according to HESA data. According to research conducted by the LSE UCU Branch into staff well-being, 82% of fixed term academic staff at the LSE experienced regular or constant anxiety about their professional futures. In the same survey, overwork and mental health issues were reported as endemic among respondents, with 40% of fellows reporting that their teaching hours exceeded LSE's universal teaching limit of 100 hours per academic year for LSE Fellows.
In response to industrial action, which included not marking student work, taken by UCU in the summer of 2023 over pay and casualised working conditions, the LSE management took the decision to not accept partial performance of duties and to impose pay deductions on academic staff participating in the action. The LSE also introduced an 'Exceptional Degree Classification Schemes' policy, allowing undergraduate and taught postgraduate students to be awarded provisional degrees on the basis of fewer grades than normally required. In the event that the final classification (once all marks are available) is lower than the provisional classification, the higher provisional classification will stand as the degree classification.
The World Turned Upside Down
A sculpture by Mark Wallinger, The World Turned Upside Down, which features a globe resting on its north pole, was installed in Sheffield Street on the LSE campus on 26 March 2019. The artwork attracted controversy for showing Taiwan as a sovereign state rather than as part of China, Lhasa being denoted as a full capital and depicting boundaries between India and China as recognised internationally. The sculpture also did not depict the State of Palestine as a separate country from Israel.
After protests and reactions from both Chinese and Taiwanese students, The university decided later that year that it would retain the original design which chromatically displayed the PRC and Taiwan as different entities consistent with the status quo, but with the addition of an asterisk beside the name of Taiwan and a corresponding placard that clarified the institution's position regarding the controversy.
Campus and estate
Since 1902, LSE has been based at Clare Market and Houghton Street in Westminster. It is surrounded by a number of important institutions including the Royal Courts of Justice, all four Inns of Courts, Royal College of Surgeons, Sir John Soane's Museum, and the West End is immediately across Kingsway from campus, which also borders the City of London and is within walking distance to Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament.
In 1920, King George V laid the foundation of the Old Building. The campus now occupies an almost continuous group of around 30 buildings between Kingsway and Aldwych. Alongside teaching and academic space, the institution owns 11 student halls of residence across London, a West End theatre (the Peacock), early years centre, NHS medical centre and extensive sports ground in Berrylands, south London. LSE operates the George IV public house and the students' union operates the Three Tuns bar. The school's campus is noted for its numerous public art installations, which include Richard Wilson's Square the Block, Michael Brown's Blue Rain, Christopher Le Brun's Desert Window, and Turner Prize-winner Mark Wallinger's The World Turned Upside Down.
Since the early 2000s, the campus has undergone an extensive refurbishment project and a major fund-raising "Campaign for LSE" raised over £100 million in what was one of the largest university fund-raising exercises outside North America. This process began with the £35 million renovation of the British Library of Political and Economic Science by Foster and Partners.
In 2003, LSE purchased the former Public Trustee building at 24 Kingsway and engaged Sir Nicholas Grimshaw to redesign it into an ultra-modern educational facility at a total cost of over £45 million – increasing the size of the campus by 120,000 square feet (11,000 m2). The New Academic Building opened for teaching in October 2008, with an official opening by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on 5 November 2008. In November 2009 the school purchased the adjacent Sardinia House to house three academic departments and the nearby Old White Horse public house, before acquiring the freehold of the grade-II listed Land Registry Building at 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields in October 2010, which was reopened in March 2013 by The Princess Royal as the new home for the Department of Economics, International Growth Centre and its associated economic research centres. In 2015, LSE brought its ownership of buildings on Lincoln's Inn Fields to six, with the purchase of 5 Lincoln's Inn Fields on the north side of the square, which has since been converted into faculty accommodation.
Saw Swee Hock Student Centre
The first new campus building for more than 40 years, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, named after the Singaporean statistician and philanthropist, opened in January 2014 following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions. The building provides accommodation for the LSE Students' Union, LSE accommodation office and LSE careers service as well as a bar, events space, gymnasium, rooftop terrace, learning café, dance studio, and media centre. Designed by architectural practice O’Donnell and Tuomey, the building achieved a BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating for environmental sustainability, won multiple awards including the RIBA National Award and London Building of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.
The Centre Building, situated opposite the British Library of Political and Economic Science, opened in June 2019. Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners following a RIBA competition, the 13-storey building includes 14 seminar rooms seating between 20 and 60, 234 study spaces, a 200-seater auditorium, as well as three lecture theatres. The building hosts the School of Public Policy, the Departments of Government and International Relations, the European Institute, and the International Inequalities Institute. It includes publicly accessible roof terraces and a renovated square at the centre of campus. The building design was recognised with RIBA's London Award and National Award in 2021.
The Marshall Building, located at 44 Lincoln's Inn Fields, opened in January 2022. Designed by Grafton Architects and named after British investor Paul Marshall, the building houses the Departments of Management, Accounting, and Finance, sports facilities, and the Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. The site was previously home to the Francis Crick Institute's laboratories, which LSE purchased in 2013.
On 15 November 2017, LSE announced that it acquired the Nuffield Building at 35 Lincoln's Inn Fields from the Royal College of Surgeons and plans to redevelop the site to host the Firoz Lalji Global Hub, the departments of Mathematics, Statistics and Methodology, the Data Science Institute, and conference and executive education facilities. The new building will be designed by David Chipperfield Architects.
In 2021, LSE claimed to be the first UK university to be independently verified as carbon-neutral, which it achieved by funding rainforest trees to offset emissions through the Finnish organisation (Oy) Compensate. However, LSE omitted some of its emissions in its calculation and thus did not offset all of them. While it measured and offset emissions from heating, electricity, and faculty air travel, the school left out other travel-related emissions, as well as emissions from construction and on-campus food. LSE plans to offset the remaining emissions (scope 1 through 3) by 2050.
Organisation and administration
Although LSE is a constituent college of the federal University of London, it is in many ways comparable with free-standing, self-governing, and independently funded universities, and it awards its own degrees.
LSE is incorporated under the Companies Act as a company limited by guarantee and is an exempt charity within the meaning of Schedule Two of the Charities Act 1993. The principal governance bodies of the LSE are: the LSE Council; the Court of Governors; the academic board; and the director and director's management team.
The LSE Council is responsible for strategy and its members are company directors of the school. It has specific responsibilities in relation to areas including the monitoring of institutional performance; finance and financial sustainability; audit arrangements; estate strategy; human resource and employment policy; health and safety; "educational character and mission", and student experience. The council is supported in carrying out its role by a number of committees that report directly to it.
The Court of Governors deals with certain constitutional matters and has pre-decision discussions on key policy issues and the involvement of individual governors in the school's activities. The court has the following formal powers: the appointment of members of the court, its subcommittees, and the council; election of the chair and vice chairs of the court and council and honorary fellows of the school; the amendment of the memorandum and articles of association; and the appointment of external auditors.
The academic board is LSE's principal academic body and considers all major issues of general policy affecting the academic life of the school and its development. It is chaired by the director, with staff and student membership, and is supported by its own structure of committees. The vice chair of the academic board serves as a non-director member of the council and makes a termly report to the council. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Academic Board has moved online and has not yet returned to in-person meetings, changing the dynamic of engagement.
President and Vice-Chancellor
The president and vice-chancellor (titled director until 2022) is the head of LSE and its chief executive officer, responsible for executive management and leadership on academic issues. The vice-chancellor reports to and is accountable to the council. The vice-chancellor is also the accountable officer for the purposes of the Office for Students financial memorandum. The LSE's current interim vice-chancellor is Eric Neumayer, who replaced Minouche Shafik on 23 June 2023. In July 2023, the LSE announced that Hewlett Foundation head Larry Kramer would become president and vice-chancellor in April 2024.
The president is supported by four pro-vice chancellors with designated portfolios (education; research; planning and resources; faculty development), the school secretary, the chief operating officer, the chief finance officer, and the chief philanthropy and global engagement officer.
|Sir Halford Mackinder
|The Hon. William Pember Reeves
|Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders
|Sir Sydney Caine
|Sir Walter Adams
|Indraprasad Gordhanbhai Patel
|Sir John Ashworth
|Sir Howard Davies
|Judith Rees (interim)
|Julia Black (interim)
|Eric Neumayer (interim)
Academic departments and institutes
LSE's research and teaching are organised into a network of independent academic departments established by the LSE Council, the school's governing body, on the advice of the academic board, the school's senior academic authority. There are currently 27 academic departments or institutes.
- Department of Accounting
- Department of Anthropology
- Department of Economic History
- Department of Economics
- Department of Finance
- Department of Geography and Environment
- Department of Gender Studies
- Department of Health Policy
- Department of Government
- Department of International Development
- Department of International History
- Department of International Relations
- Department of Management
- Department of Mathematics
- Department of Media and Communications
- Department of Methodology
- Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
- Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science
- Department of Social Policy
- Department of Sociology
- Department of Statistics
- European Institute
- International Inequalities Institute
- Institute of Public Affairs
- Language Centre
- LSE Law School
- Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship
- School of Public Policy
The LSE group has an endowment (as of 31 July 2016) of £119M and had a total income for 2015–16 (excluding donations and endowments) of £311M (£293M in 2014–15) with expenditure of £307M (2014–15 £302M). Key sources of income included £177M from tuition fees and education contacts (2014–15 £167M), £25M from funding council grants (2014–15 £22M), £32M from research grants (2014–15 – £27M) and £5.3M from investment income (2014–15 £4.7M).
The Times Higher Education Pay Survey 2017 revealed that, among larger, non-specialist institutions, LSE professors and academics were the highest paid in the UK, with average incomes of £103,886 and £65,177 respectively.
The London School of Economics (LSE) is aiming to increase the size of its endowment fund to more than £1bn, which would make it one of the best resourced institutions in the UK and the world. The effort was initiated in 2016 by Lord Myners, then chairman of the LSE's Council and Court of Governors. The plan includes working with wealthy alumni of LSE to make large contributions, increasing the annual budget surplus, and launching a new, widescale alumni donor campaign. The plan to grow LSE's endowment to more than £1bn has been continued by Lord Myners' successors at the LSE. The LSE has stated that currently "limited endowment funding constrains our ability to offer 'needs blind' admission to students". Between 2015 and 2022, the endowment increased from £113 million to £229 million.
LSE continues to adopt a three-term structure and has not moved to semesters. Michaelmas Term runs from October to mid-December, Lent Term from mid-January to late March, and Summer Term from late April to mid-June. Certain departments operate reading weeks in early November and mid-February.
Logo, arms and mascot
The school's historic coat of arms is used on official documentation including degree certificates and transcripts and includes the motto – rerum cognoscere causas, a line taken from Virgil's Georgics meaning "to know the causes of things", together with the school's mascot – a beaver. Both these symbols, adopted in February 1922, continue to be held in high regard to this day with the beaver chosen because of its representation as "a hard-working and industrious yet sociable animal", attributes that the founders hoped LSE students to both possess and aspire to. The school's weekly newspaper is still entitled The Beaver, Rosebery residence hall's bar is called the Tipsy Beaver and LSE sports teams are known as the Beavers. The institution has two sets of colours – brand and academic – red being the brand colour used on signage, publications and in buildings across campus and purple, black and gold for academic purposes including presentation ceremonies and graduation dress.
LSE's present 'red block' logo was modified as part of a rebrand in the early 2000s. As a trademarked brand, it is carefully protected but can be produced in various forms to reflect different requirements. In its full form it contains the full name of the institution to the right of the block with a further small empty red square at the end, but it is adapted for each academic department or professional service division to provide a cohesive brand across the institution.