St Mary’s University 1980
Representatives from St Mary’s College attended meetings of the University of Surrey Delegacy which was set up in 1980. In 1986 the first students of the college graduated with degrees from the University of Surrey.
With the retirement of Fr. Desmond Beirne as Principal in 1992, the college’s educational links with the Vincentians came to an end, although the post of chaplain was held by a Vincentian (Rev Perry Gildea CM) until 1996 and one teaching post in the Religious Studies department (Rev Michael Prior CM) until later. Fr Beirne was replaced in 1992 by Arthur Naylor, the college’s first lay Principal.
Early 21st century
In 2006, St Mary’s became a University College and was granted the power to award its own degrees by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. In January 2014, St Mary’s was granted university status becoming ‘St Mary’s University, Twickenham’. The university has always maintained strong study-partnerships with other prestigious universities across the globe, including the University of San Francisco, the University of St Thomas (Houston), St Mary’s University, Halifax, Australian Catholic University and the Catholic University of America.
On 17 September 2010 Pope Benedict XVI visited St Mary’s on the second day of his four-day UK state visit, the first Papal visit to the country since Pope John Paul II visited in 1982. On campus he led three events: prayer with representatives of religious congregations in the University Chapel; the ‘Big Assembly’, a celebration of Catholic education held on the athletics track, where he addressed 3,500 young people; and a meeting with religious leaders of various denominations and faiths in the Waldegrave Drawing Room to discuss religion and belief in UK society.
On 1 October 2010 Philip Esler became the university’s second lay Principal. During 2010 and 2011 existing sports facilities were refurbished and an additional complex was added. The resulting £8.5 million sports centre was opened on 27 October by Lord Sebastian Coe, with Tim Brabants, David Weir, Rebecca Romero and Dave Bedford in attendance; the latter two, both St Mary’s alumni, were inducted into the St Mary’s Hall of Fame for Sports.