St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, in south-west London, has become the country’s third Catholic university after it was awarded full university title by the Privy Council on 23 January.
It will now be known at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, the institution said.
The former teacher training college, which was founded in the 1850s, has about 5,000 students and its famous alumni include the double Olympic champion Mo Farah and the late actor Pete Postlethwaite.
Its interim principal Arthur Naylor said the granting of university title would “facilitate its development both at home and abroad”.
The news follows a tumultuous period for St Mary’s, which was expected to achieve university status in December 2012 alongside fellow Catholic institutions Leeds Trinity University and Newman University Birmingham.
However, the institution’s application was postponed after a critical report into its validation processes by the Quality Assurance Agency. This followed Times Higher Education flagging several problems with a clinical hypnosis course accredited by St Mary’s.
The college’s principal Philip Esler also quit in January last year amid acrimony over plans to merge the institution’s theology school into a larger humanities school.
In April this year, former diplomat Francis Campbell will take over as vice-chancellor at the university having recently served as deputy high commissioner in Pakistan.
The former private secretary to prime minister Tony Blair has also served as ambassador to the Vatican and helped to secure a visit from Pope Benedict in 2010.
Universities and science minister David Willetts said he “warmly welcomed the St Mary’s announcement”.
“This government is committed to promoting quality and choice in the higher education sector and it is right that institutions with long histories and traditions such as St Mary’s should be able to achieve full university title,” he said.