This is the first part of a series giving the General Election treatment to Wikipedia's Third Oldest University in England Debate. This first part covers the Build-up to the debate, the second part shows the Debate itself, while the third part covers the Highlights and Analysis.
Chair: Welcome to our coverage of the Third Oldest University in England Debate. The contenders are, of course, University College London, King's College London, Durham University, and the University of London. Tensions are high here in the run up to the start as the representatives from the four contenders check their references and make sure they have all their notes in order.
I'm joined now by Henry and Harriet who will be talking about the issues we're likely to hear discussed tonight. Henry, what will you be watching for?
Henry: One really key issue is the definition of a university. Each of the contenders has a favourite definition that will make them the third oldest university. Remember we're not talking about modern definitions, this is about the 1820s and 1830s, so expect to see a lot of historical references flying.
Harriet: What counts as founding is also likely to be discussed. UCL predates King's, but King's got its royal charter first. Similarly Durham predates London, but London has the older charter.
Chair: Thank you. Harriet, why is this title so important?
Harriet: A few years back, being old was the in thing, and universities were keen to demonstrate their historical credentials. Now, being modern is back in and none of the contenders are pushing a claim to be third oldest in their undergraduate prospectus.
Chair: So it really doesn't matter?
Henry: Oh yes, don't think that just because it's unimportant it doesn't matter. It's a well known truism that the lower the stakes, the higher the passions. There is a long-standing rivalry between UCL and King's, and last year London ended Durham's ten year run of victories at the British Universities Regatta. This is an extension of those rivalries.
Chair: I see. So what points are the contenders going to try to drive home tonight?
Harriet: UCL will be emphasising teaching. They started teaching there before any of the other contenders, but expect to see the others raising that there were other institutions, not generally regarded as contenders, that have been teaching for longer.
Henry: King's will emphasise that it has the oldest royal charter of any of the contenders. While UCL is older, King's got its charter first, bringing legal incorporation and royal recognition.
Harriet: But not, crucially, the title of university. And that's where Durham's emphasis will lie – it was made a university by an act of parliament and was the first of the contenders to formally receive that title from the crown.
Henry: Expect to see London emphasise degree awarding powers – it was the first to be explicitly granted the authority to award degrees.
Chair: Thank you. I see the contenders coming out, so it is time for The Debate to start!