Key Dates for the College

Construction of the Darwin Building
Construction of the Darwin Building, 1961

The Royal College of Art starts life as the Government School of Design.

The small-scale School of Design is radically transformed into the Central Training School for Art.

The institution moves to SW7, as part of the South Kensington Museum.

Becomes the National Art Training School.

The National Art Training School becomes the Royal College of Art, based on art and design practice.

The Royal College of Art plays a major role in the birth of the modern school of British sculpture, with students including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

A new emphasis is placed on the teaching of product design and on the provision of highly specialised, professional instruction. New courses include graphic design, industrial design and fashion.

All design and applied art courses move to the new Darwin Building in Kensington Gore – named after Robin Darwin, the College’s Principal from 1948 to 1967 and Rector from 1967 to 1971.

The College is granted a Royal Charter, transforming it into an independent institution of university status with the power to grant its own degrees.

A comprehensive programme of reconstruction, re-equipment and expansion is begun.

HRH The Prince Philip opens the new Stevens Building in Kensington Gore – named after Jocelyn Stevens, the College’s Rector from 1984 to 1992 – marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Royal Charter.

The exhibition Design of the Times celebrates the story of design at the College.

The centenary of the Royal College of Art as the College we know today.

The College scores 23 out of 24 in an in depth review of its education work conducted by the Quality Assurance Agency on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

About two million people watch the six-part BBC documentary series Royal College of Art, exploring the life and ambitions of the College at the turn of the twentieth century.

Rector Christopher Frayling’s book Art and Design: 100 Years at the Royal College of Art is published, celebrating the centenary of the formal establishment of the College in 1896.

The publication Designing the 21st Century features the work of one hundred of the most important contemporary designers from all over the world. Nearly half of the designers included are graduates of the College.

With a generous grant of £3 million from the Helen Hamlyn Foundation, the future of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre is secured, and with it, the College’s leading role in inclusive design.

In research, the College achieves a score of 5 for art and design in the national Research Assessment Exercise, putting the RCA at the top of the league of specialist institutions in the UK.

The College receives a grant from the London Development Agency to establish an advanced rapid-prototyping facility.

The results of the latest survey of recent graduates is published, covering the years 1997 to 2001, and shows that 91 per cent of RCA graduates are in employment, at the right level, in an area directly related to the discipline they studied at the College.

Design London is launched to create an ‘innovation triangle’ between design (represented by the Royal College of Art), engineering and technology (represented by Imperial College Faculty of Engineering) and the business of innovation (represented by Imperial’s Tanaka Business School).

The refurbishment of the Sculpture Building at Howie Street is completed in time for students to host their annual Sculpture graduation show in the new space.

Ambitious plans to increase the College's physical space by some 50 per cent through the development of a new site in Battersea, are unveiled.

Dr Paul Thompson becomes Rector of the Royal College of Art.

The new Sackler Building designed by Haworth Tompkins, housing the Painting programme opens, and wins an RIBA Award for its architecture.

Construction begins on the Dyson Building at Battersea, the new home for Photography and Printmaking when it is complete in 2012.

Sir James Dyson succeeds Sir Terence Conran as Provost of the Royal College of Art.

The School of Fine Art is brought together in one location for the first time in College history, with the completion of the Dyson Building at Battersea.

The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art is published, telling the story of the world’s oldest art and design school in continuous operation. An accompanying exhibition features work by RCA faculty and alumni. 

Construction begins on the next phase of the College’s expansion in Battersea, and The Sir Po-Shing and Lady Helen Woo Department of Applied Art (the Woo Building).

The Helix Centre (Healthcare Innovation Exchange) opens, in partnership with Imperial Health Trust’s St Mary’s Hospital and funded by HEFCE.


Jewellery & Metal and Ceramics & Glass programmes move to the newly opened Sir Po-Shing and Lady Helen Woo Department of Applied Art (the Woo Building).