The University was founded as Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College in 1921, with students sitting examinations for external degrees awarded by the University of London. In 1927, the institution became University College Leicester, and in 1956 petitioned Her Majesty The Queen for independence, requesting university status.
The Queen approved the granting of a Royal Charter on 1 May 1957, and the University of Leicester came into being. The Chancellor of the new University was Lord Adrian and Charles Wilson became the University’s first Vice-Chancellor. As was custom, the University Visitor, was Her Majesty the Queen.
One of the fundamental changes of the new University, was the power to grant its own degrees. In June 1958, the first University of Leicester degrees were conferred. Wendy Baldwin (1937-2017) – later Dr Wendy Hickling OBE, JP, DL – was the first person to receive a University of Leicester degree. Wendy was an integral part of the University throughout her life, serving on both Council and Court as well as the Convocation (the predecessor to the Alumni Association). She also met the Queen during both of her visits to the University.
During 1957-8, the University celebrated its independence with a series of public events, including a Civic Luncheon held by the City in honour of the institution, where the Lord Mayor presented it with a silver mace, a set of wood and silver staves and robes for the Chancellor and Pro-Chancellors.
In May 1958, one year after receiving its Royal Charter, the University was honoured with a Royal Visit. The Queen, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited campus to open the recently completed Percy Gee Building, described at the time by the Leicester Evening Mail, as “one of the most magnificent buildings in Leicester.”
The opening ceremony took place in the Building’s main hall, which seated 425 people, plus another 120 in the balcony.