Most schools in London are controlled by local authorities, although an increasing number of both primary and secondary schools are self-govern (grant-maintained). London has five City Technology Colleges to promote specialist training either in science and technology or, as with the Brits school in Croydon, in the performing arts. And there is a thriving independent schools sector.
There are 13 universities and 13 higher education colleges with a total of 143,000 students in London. The oldest and largest is the University of London founded in 1836 in Bloomsbury. This has a unique federal structure of colleges and specialist institutions, such as the Schools of Slavonic and East European Studies and of Oriental and African Studies. The reputation of London University's institutions in fields such as business education, engineering, medicine or political science draws students from all over the world.
London has 51 further education and sixth form colleges, offering a range of courses and vocational training. In addition, there are two government-sponsored training schemes, Training for Work, for the long-term unemployed, and Youth Training for school leavers, which are administered by London's eight Training and Enterprise Councils.
London is an important centre of specialist training. The London Institute combines a number of schools of art and design and fashion. The London College of Printing at Elephant and Castle reflects the long history and continuing importance of this trade in the capital. There are also nationally and internationally important schools of architecture, drama and music.
The largest vocational training institution is the City and Guilds of London Institute, founded in 1878. The City and Guilds certificate is a descendant of the apprenticeships formerly served to the London Guilds. It is a recognised vocational qualification both in Britain and abroad. Nearly four million people take City and Guilds examinations each year. To have passed City and Guilds is a sign of competence in one of the many trades, from cookery to plumbing, from engineering to health care, that the Institute covers.

Health services

There are 37 hospitals or hospital groups in London in the National Health Service and a further 46 in the growing private medicine sector. The medical schools of London's teaching hospitals train over 1,200 students each year.
The main form of primary health care in London is the family doctor. These have an average of about 2,000 patients each.


Some 57 per cent of London homes are owner-occupied. Owner-occupation is much higher in outer London. In suburban boroughs like Redbridge the proportion is about 80 per cent, whilst in inner city Hackney it is less than a third. Other homes are rented privately or rented from the local authority. The proportion of local authority rented housing has steadily fallen in recent years, as tenants have been encouraged to buy their homes and local authorities, led by Bromley, have transferred the management of some or all of their housing stock to housing associations. Nevertheless, it still accounts for just under 20 per cent of the total. Only 14 per cent is in the private rented sector, which is small in comparison with other major European cities.
Around the squares of central London are dignified terraced houses built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many have been converted into business premises or embassies, although areas such as Belgravia, Mayfair, Chelsea or the outskirts of Regent's Park still have exclusive residential properties among their grand terraces and quiet mews.
In the nineteenth century London's suburbs began to spread. Estates of large houses were built in places like Muswell Hill, Ealing and Sydenham, though many of these have been subdivided into flats in the post-war years.
The second half of the nineteenth century also saw attempts to improve the housing conditions of the London poor. George Peabody built blocks of low-rent flats, the Peabody estates, which still exist, and there were carefully planned developments of workmen's cottages; a tine example dating from the 1870s lies behind Battersea Town Hall.
Massive house-building extended London's suburbs in the 1920s and 1930s. Large new estates of detached, semi-detached and terraced houses, each with their own gardens, filled in the gaps between the old villages and towns of the suburbs.
After the Second World War more estates were built consisting of mixed housing accommodation in vernacular styles, shops and churches, occasionally incorporating low-rise flats. Tower blocks of flats - apartments -began to appear in the 1950s. One significant development was the Barbican complex, designed to reverse the long-term decline in the number of residents in the City.


Road, rail and air services offer good connections between London and the rest of the country. The outskirts of London are ringed by an orbital motorway, the M25, from which motorways radiate into London and off across Britain. From grand Victorian termini in the centre of London trains run across the country, linking cities, towns, ports and the continent through the Channel Tunnel.
European Cities Monitor, the recent survey of European business people carried out by Healey & Baker, singled out London's external transport links by road, rail and air. London ranked as the best location out of 30 European cities.
Train passengers to mainland Europe arrive or depart at Victoria or Charing Cross stations for the channel ferry ports, while passengers on the new channel tunnel link travel from the terminus at Waterloo International that opened in 1994.
The underground - or metro - system in London is known locally as the “Tube”. With buses, it is the principal means of public transport around and into the centre of the capital, especially north of the Thames (owing to adverse geological conditions there are few Tube lines south of the river). The Tube's 270 stations carry 735 million passengers a year; Victoria Tube station is busier than all of London's airports put together.
Despite its name, the Tube is only entirely underground in central London; in the suburbs most lines are above ground. Nevertheless, with 171 km of tunnels it is one of the largest underground systems in the world. It was extended in the 1970s with the Jubilee Line (named after HM The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977), which is itself extended to Docklands.
London has five airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City, together handling over 68.1 million passengers a year. Gatwick handles about 100,000 passengers a day during high season.
London City airport, constructed as part of the redevelopment of Docklands, handles a growing number of European flights. It runs a convenient 10 minute check-in time and is only 20 minutes from the City by road on the recently constructed Limehouse Link. There are good bus connections, and the Jubilee Line underground extension provides the airport with a rapid link to central London.
Public transport in London is also provided by buses, taxis and the Docklands Light Railway.
London's bus network links with the rail and underground services, with large bus stations next to important rail interchanges. Buses provide commuter services, local services and orbital links around the London suburbs. Many main roads have bus-only lanes.
Buses have played an important part in the integrated transport planning in the redevelopment of Docklands. Bus services are co-ordinated wiih the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line underground extension. For instance, the bus interchange at the DLR's Prince Regent Station provides a three minute connection to London City airport.

Open Spaces

London grew in a fairly unplanned way until the 1930s, when legislation created a green belt - protected open space - restricting future building around London. Here, on the edges of London, the urban landscapes are mixed with golf clubs and riding stables, commons, scrubland and farms.
At Rainham and Erith there are extensive estuarine marshes that provide important staging posts for migratory birds. There are also substantial stretches of woodland in some of the outer London boroughs, such as Oxleas and Joydens woods in Bexley. Woods such as Epping Forest or Burnham Beeches are owned by the Corporation of London.
Greenery, however, is not confined to the fringes of the city. There are numerous parks in the centre of London and marshes in Hackney and Walthamstow. And there are city farms at places like Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs and Surrey Docks. Overall, green areas account for about a third of London, and include a thousand parks and squares covering 174 sq km.
The most famous green areas are the royal parks: Greenwich. Richmond, Bushey and, in the centre of London, Hyde Park, Regent's Part, Kensington Gardens and St James's Park.
Royal parks were originally areas preserved for hunting, and retain their own police force and regulations. Richmond Park still has large herds of fallow and red deer (the other royal parks that have deer are Greenwich and Bushey). The deer are no longer hunted. However, haunches of venison by royal warrant are still made available to certain officers of the Crown. There are extensive playing fields, a feature shared with several other of the royal parks. The lake in St James's Park has over 30 different species of birdlife, including a pair of pelicans. Regent's Park is home to London Zoo, an open air theatre and a celebrated rose garden. The historic Royal Observatory and the international meridian line are both in Greenwich Park, while in Hyde Park crowds gather on Sunday mornings at Speakers' Corner to listen to soapbox orators.
There are a number of other notable parks and gardens; large open spaces such as Brent Lodge Park, with its riverside walks and lock flight. The greatest of these is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, extending over 300 hectares and containing plants from all over the world in its gardens, rockeries and glass houses. Other splendid, if smaller, botanic gardens are at Avery Hill, the ancient Physic Garden at Chelsea, Syon House Gardens in Brentford and the Japanese garden at St Katherine's Dock.
Some parks surround great houses, most notably Kenwood in Hampstead or Hampton Court Palace. In the summer a number of these gardens have open air theatres.In others, such as Danson Park in Bexleyheath, concerts culminating in grandiose firework displays are held beside the lake.
Even in the centre of London, besides the royal parks there are numerous green areas. Victoria Park in the East End, with its boating lakes and ornamental gardens, is linked to other gardens and parks in the area by the reconstructed tow-path alongside the Grand Union Canal.

A Place to live

London is a collection of villages joined over time. Londoners are natives of Tooting or Havering, Bethnal Green or Harrow, of long-established communities each with their own characteristics and histories, Subtle differences between North and South of the river, between the East and West Ends, between the inner and outer suburbs are expressed in building styles and materials, accents and settlement patterns.
In medieval London people of similar trades tended to group together. This is reflected in the street names of the City, such as Poultry or Milk Street. In the larger London of today Fitzrovia, the area around Fitzroy Square, has long been considered a haunt of artists, writers and craftsmen and several areas have a certain bohemian or literary reputation, such as Soho or Bloomsbury. Other areas have acquired different, but equally strong reputations. For instance, Hampstead is associated with intellectuals.
For centuries immigrants have arrived in London both from elsewhere in the British Isles and abroad. Around one-fifth of London's population belong to ethnic minority groups, rising to 45 per cent (mainly Indian) in the London Borough of Brent. The arrival of immigrant communities from overseas has contributed to the distinctive characteristics of particular districts of London. Parts of Soho and Spitalfields, for instance, still show signs of the Huguenot refugees from France who arrived in the late seventeenth century. Soho is now more famous as the site of London's Chinatown.
The East End, as the docklands of London, has long been the traditional focus of immigration into the capital. It has played host to successive waves of immigrants: Irish, Jewish, and, most recently, Bangladeshi. All have contributed to the character and diversity of the area, and have brought different cuisine and different religious traditions.
Kilburn is well-known for its Irish pubs, whilst Ilford, Finchley and Golders Green continue to have strong Jewish associations. And there are concentrations of, for instance, Turkish Cypriots in Hackney, Punjabis in Southall and Australians in Earl's Court. Approximately 193 different languages are spoken in London. And there are at least 33 nationalities that have resident populations of over 10,000 in London. The largest community is the Irish. There are about half a million Afro-Caribbeans and similar numbers originating from the Indian sub-continent.
As a result there is an immense range of cultural life in London, reflected on the high streets in the clothes people wear, the cafes and restaurants, and the variety of goods, especially foodstuffs, in the shops. Even in suburban supermarkets spices for curries and foods like yams, sweet potatoes and eddoes are readily available.