Camden News - by SIMON WROE Published: 25 September 2008
Medical school victim of rebranding
World famous since Victorian times, Royal Free name is to be ‘written out of history’
ONE of the UK’s oldest medical schools will be written out of history in an extensive rebranding campaign by University College London. The Royal Free Medical School, which has operated under the name since 1898 and was the first college in England to admit female students, will become an undefined part of the “international academic leader”.
The college merged with UCL 10 years ago and took the joint name “The Royal Free and University College Medical School” – now the “Royal” and the “Free” are to be scrapped, although resources, staff and use of the Pond Street site will continue.
In a newsletter to the Royal Free Association, president Dr Rosemarie Baillod spoke of the “great anxiety” the name change had caused. “During the past 10 years we have watched the dismantling of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine administration and its removal to the Gower Street premises with a great loss of personnel,” she wrote.
Dr Baillod added that the trustees were only made aware of the change when UCL Provost Malcolm Grant announced it to staff in June.
The decision had already been made by the University College Council.
The reason behind it, said Dr Baillod, was UCL’s aim “to become the international academic leader known with the brand name of just “UCL””.
Rhiannon Lloyd, a tutor at the Royal Freesaid: “There’s a huge amount of history. [The change] means that tradition has been lost. In it’s own day the medical college was a very important thing but if truth be told we always knew this would happen.”
The Royal Free institution was established in the 19th century by a young farmer’s son turned surgeon, William Marsden.
Walking past St Andrew’s Church in Holborn one evening in 1827, Marsden noticed a sick girl lying in the doorway. He took her to three different hospitals but each time they turned her away because she had no letter from a patron.
She died two days later and Marsden founded a “Free Hospital” for all the next year.
The royal epithet was added when Queen Victoria gave her patronage to the hospital in 1837.
Professor Ed Byrne, head of UCL Medical School, said: “The Royal Free and University College Medical School will officially change its name to UCL Medical School on October 1 2008. “This decision was taken because the existing name did not reflect the number and range of different locations across UCL where UCL Medical School teaching and research takes place. The decision was reached after much internal discussion by the senior management groups of the UCL Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and UCL Faculty of Life Sciences, who unanimously agreed to recommend the change, which was then approved by UCL Council. “This change in no way diminishes the importance of the Royal Free as one of the key campuses where UCL medical students receive their education. “In the future, the Royal Free will continue to play a vital and expanding role in the delivery of undergraduate medical training, as well as pursuing important medical research in areas such as transplantation medicine and infectious diseases.”