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Prior to its use in its current sense, the term had been used historically to refer to universities that were at the time new. For instance, in the mid-19th century, the term "new universities" was used in England to distinguish the recently established universities of Durham and London from the "old universities" of Oxford and Cambridge. In the early 20th century, the term was used to describe the civic universities that had recently gained university status, such as Bristol and others (now known as red brick universities). The term was later used to refer to universities gaining their status in the 1960s, such as the former colleges of advanced technology, which were converted to universities following the 1963 Robbins Report on higher education, and the plate glass universities, which were already in the process of being established at the time of the report.
Following the 1992 Act, 33 polytechnics in England, the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, the Polytechnic of Wales and three Scottish central institutions were granted university status, alongside another trio of central institutions in the years following.
Many of these Polytechnics had roots in the middle 19th Century.
All the categories of university award their own academic degrees, but universities created in England and Wales since 2004 may only have the power to award taught degrees, because the power to award research degrees has been removed from the criteria for university title. The Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, which became the University of Gloucestershire in 2001, was the only institute to become a university in England between the polytechnics in 1992 and the relaxation of the criteria in 2004. Two new universities have subsequently been established in Scotland, where the old criteria still apply: Queen Margaret University, another former central institution, (2007) and the University of the Highlands and Islands (2011).
Post-1992 universities with polytechnic roots
Anglia Ruskin University - formerly Anglia Higher Education College, Anglia Polytechnic then Anglia Polytechnic University
University of South Wales - formed in April 2013 from the merger of the University of Glamorgan, formerly Glamorgan Polytechnic then the Polytechnic of Wales, and the University of Wales, Newport, formerly Gwent College of Higher Education then University of Wales College, Newport
Staffordshire University - formerly Staffordshire Polytechnic (originally North Staffordshire Polytechnic) and previously the separate Staffordshire College of Technology, the Stoke-on-Trent College of Art and the North Staffordshire College of Technology
Buckinghamshire New University - formerly Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, and before that Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education, and earlier the High Wycombe College of Art and Technology
Cardiff Metropolitan University - formerly University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), and before that Cardiff Institute of Higher Education, and earlier the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education
^Anesa Hosein, Namrata Rao, Chloe Shu-Hua Yeh, Ian M. Kinchin (14 June 2018). Academics' International Teaching Journeys. Bloomsbury. p. 76. In the UK, these institutions are referred to as a 'post-1992 university', 'modern university', or 'new university' (Read, Archer and Leathwood 2003: 263) established under the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992, expanding university provision in the UK. ... While the Act of 1992 immediate awarded former polytechnics in the UK university status, post-1992 universities also include institutions that were not polytechnics, often colleges (in the UK sense) of HECS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
^The Charitable Trusts Bill. The Lancet. 2. 27 August 1853. p. 193. the Solicitor General, by a piece of flimsy special pleading, endeavoured to establish a distinction between the cases of the old and the new Universities.
^Herklots, H, 1928, The New Universities - an external examination, Ernest Benn, London