From February, the central London university will start to be known as “King’s London”, it was announced on 16 December.
The name-change follows consultation with staff, student and alumni over the past 18 months and is designed to remove confusion among prospective students and parents over whether King’s is a college or university, a spokeswoman said.
In an email to staff and students on 16 December, King’s principal Ed Byrne calls the rebrand “a very modest change similar to how several other large London university institutions are now presenting themselves”.
But students have been quick to denounce the plans.
Since news of the name change broke on 15 December, more than 6,000 people have signed a petition in less than 24 hours, calling the rebrand “bizarre” and “ridiculous”.
The cost of the redesign – which has been put at an estimated £300,000 – is also labelled in the petition as “an obscene amount of money…which could be spent on improving student life at King’s”.
“Not only does this undermine almost 200 years of tradition, as well as sabotaging a worldwide reputation built on the name King’s College London, but it serves as a huge and unnecessary expense,” said the petition’s founder Emily Braddock, a second-year theology student.
The petition also dispute claims by King’s and its students’ union that it had consulted with students about the rebrand, saying “it seems as if the majority of the student population at King’s College London have only just heard about such a move”.
Various commenters on the petition also criticised the wisdom of removing the college moniker, with Reece Warren claiming that “King’s London sounds like more like an aftershave than a credible university”. Martijn Wallage agreed, stating that “the proposed new name lacks a noun to indicate that this is a university”. Reehan Aslam claimed that “Kings London sounds more like a train station than a world renowned university”.
Professor Byrne said the university would keep King’s College London for legal documents, academic citations and the awarding of degrees, but that “introducing the new brand is one part of a process of incremental change at King’s to improve our performance in both education and research as we aspire to be universally recognised as one of the world’s great universities”.
“King’s College London, often abbreviated to ‘KCL’, is well known to the academic community and to most students in the UK,” he said.
“However, our research conducted over the last 18 months with potential students, parents, staff, students and alumni, revealed that our current name was causing considerable confusion: is King’s a residential college, is it an academic college akin to the colleges of Oxbridge, or is it an educational institution of some other type such as a further education college?
“Internationally, there was further misunderstanding because ‘college’ is not a widely understood term in many countries,” he added.
Professor Byrne, who took over at King’s in August, admitted that many staff and students had an emotional connection to the term “college”, but he believed that “in today’s highly competitive global marketplace, King’s needs to be bold about its ambitions and shout about its many achievements”.
“The purpose of a very modest repositioning is to deal with these concerns sensitively and constructively,” he said.