The University of London External System (until recently the University of London External Programme) is the external degree granting division of the University of London. (...)
When the first "London University" was established in 1828, the institution, Scottish in curriculum and teaching, was non-denominational. As such, given the intense religious rivalries at the time, there was an outcry against the "godless" university. The issue soon boiled down to which institutions had degree-granting powers, and which institutions didn't.
The compromise solution that emerged in 1836 was that the sole authority to conduct the examinations leading to degrees would be given to a new entity called the "University of London". As Sheldon Rothblatt states, "thus arose in nearly archetypal form the famous English distinction between teaching and examining, here embodied in separate institutions."
With the state giving examining powers to a separate entity, the groundwork was laid for the creation of a programme within the new university that would both administer exams and award qualifications to students either pursuing instruction at another institution, or pursuing a course of self-directed study.