The university consists of 17 member institutions and three central academic bodies. The university has around 48,000 distance learning external students and campus-based internal students, making it the largest university by number of students in the United Kingdom.
For most practical purposes, ranging from admissions to funding, the member institutions operate on an independent basis, with many awarding their own degrees whilst remaining in the federal university. The largest colleges by enrolment are UCL, King’s College London, City, Queen Mary, Birkbeck, the London School of Economics, Royal Holloway, and Goldsmiths, each of which has over 9,000 students. Smaller, more specialist, colleges are the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), St George’s (medicine), the Royal Veterinary College, London Business School, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the Royal Academy of Music, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Imperial College London was formerly a member from 1907 before it became an independent university in 2007, and Heythrop College was a member from 1970 until its closure in 2018.City is the most recent constituent college, having joined on 1 September 2016. Under the 2018 act, member institutions ceased to be termed colleges and gained the right to seek university status without having to leave the federal university:
Birkbeck, City, Goldsmiths’, King’s College London, the LSE, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Queen Mary, the Royal Veterinary College, Royal Holloway, SOAS, St George’s and UCL have all indicated that they intend to do so.