University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, University of, at Edinburgh, Scotland; founded 1583. It has faculties of divinity, law, medicine, arts, science, music, social sciences, and veterinary medicine. The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, the Institute for Applied Language Studies, New College, and the Edinburgh School of Agriculture are associated with the university.

The University of Edinburgh (Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann), founded in 1582, is a renowned centre for teaching and research in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. It was the sixth university to be established in the British Isles, making it one of the ancient universities of Scotland and Britain. The university is amongst the largest and most prestigious in the world and currently ranks in the world top 25.


The founding of the University is attributed to Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, who left the funds on his death in 1558 that ultimately provided the University's endowment. The University was established by a Royal Charter granted by James VI in 1582, becoming the fourth Scottish university at a time when more populous neighbour England had only two.

By the 18th century Edinburgh was a leading centre of the European Enlightenment (see Scottish Enlightenment) and became one of the continent's principal universities.

Students at the university are represented by Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA), which consists of the Students' Representative Council (SRC), founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell, the Edinburgh University Union (EUU) which was founded in 1889. They are also represented by the Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU) which was founded in 1866.

In 2002, the University was re-organised from its 9 faculties into three ‘Colleges’, and now comprises the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), Science and Engineering (CSE), and Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (MVM). Within these Colleges are 21 ‘Schools’, which are of roughly equal sizes, generally significantly larger than the more-numerous departments they replaced.

Academic reputation

In the Third European Report on Science & Technology Indicators, compiled by the European Commission, the University of Edinburgh ranked as follows:

The 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement [THES] World University Rankings ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 23rd in the world
  • 5th in the UK
  • 5th in Europe overall

The THES also ranked world universities in broad subject areas in tables published in the THES itself, and available to subscribers via the THES website. The University of Edinburgh was ranked:

  • 28th in the world for arts and humanities
  • 29th in the world for life sciences and biomedicine
  • 47th in the world for social sciences

The Academic Ranking of World Universities 2008 [ARWU] ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 6th in the UK
  • 13th in Europe
  • 55th in the world

The Guardian University Guide 2008 ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 7th in the UK overall
  • 1st in the UK for computer science
  • 1st in the UK for physics
  • 2nd in the UK for medicine
  • 2nd in the UK for veterinary science

The Times Good University Guide 2008 ranked the University of Edinburgh as the 13th best university in the UK. This represents a drop from previous rankings: 11th in 2007 and within the top ten in 2005 and 2006. However, Edinburgh University remains in the top five for entry standards, a testimony to its popularity and selectivity. In 2005, the university was the Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year.

In 2006 Newsweek ranked the University of Edinburgh 6th in the UK, 11th in Europe and 47th in the world.


The university has the third largest financial endowment among UK universities at £216m and the third largest endowment per student, according to the Sutton Trust, The university has an annual turnover of more than £400m.


The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of large, research-led British universities. It is also the only Scottish university, and (along with Oxford and Cambridge) one of the only British universities, to be a member both of the Coimbra Group and the LERU: two leading associations of European universities. The University is also a member of Universitas 21, an international association of research-led universities.

Colleges and Schools

College of Humanities and Social Science

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

College of Science and Engineering


Edinburgh is considered by some as one of the greenest and most architecturally beautiful cities in Europe often referred to as the "Athens of the North". The University plays an integral role in the city, contributing to its vibrant atmosphere.

With the expansion in topics of study the university has expanded its campuses such that it now has seven main sites:

  • The Central Area includes George Square, the Informatics Forum, Old College, the old Medical School buildings in Teviot Place, and surrounding streets in Edinburgh's Southside. It is the oldest region, occupied primarily by the college of humanities and social science, and the schools of informatics and law, as well as the main university library. The Appleton Tower is also used for teaching first year undergraduates in science and engineering. Meanwhile, Teviot Place continues to house pre-clinical medical courses and biomedical sciences despite relocation of the Medical School to Little France. Nearby are the main EUSA buildings of Potterrow, Teviot Row House and the Pleasance Societies Centre. Old residents of George Square include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A number of these buildings are used to host events during the Edinburgh International Festival every summer.
  • The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at Summerhall, at the East end of The Meadows. This houses Veterinary Medicine.
  • Moray House School of Education just off the Royal Mile, used to be the Moray House Institute for Education until this merged with the University in August 1998. The University has since extended Moray House's Holyrood site to include a redeveloped and extended major building housing Sports Science, Physical Education and Leisure Management facilities adjacent to its own Sports Institute in the Pleasance.
  • Pollock Halls, adjoining Holyrood Park to the east, provides accommodation (mainly half board) for a minority of students in their first year. Two of the older houses in Pollock Halls were demolished in 2002 and a new building has been built in their place, leaving a total of ten buildings. Self-catered flats elsewhere account for the majority of university-provided accommodation. Most other students in the city live in private flats in the Marchmont, Newington, Bruntsfield, New Town and Leith areas, although some university-owned flats are also available there.
  • New College, on the Mound, which houses the School of Divinity - parts of which are also used by the Church of Scotland.
  • The King's Buildings campus, further south, houses most of the Science and Engineering schools including a Biology School that is a world leader in genetics. The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and British Geological Survey (BGS) also have a presence on campus.
  • The Chancellor's Building was opened on 12th August 2002 by The Duke of Edinburgh and houses the new £40 million Medical School at the New Royal Infirmary in Little France. It was a joint project between private finance, the local authorities and the University to create a large modern hospital, veterinary clinic and research institute and thus the University is currently (2003) in the process of moving its Veterinary and Medical Faculties there (and quite possibly also the School of Nursing). It has two large lecture theatres and a medical library. It is connected to the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by a series of corridors.

Alumni and faculty

There have been many notable alumni and faculty of the university, including economist Adam Smith, signatories to the US Declaration of Independence James Wilson and John Witherspoon, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Lord John Russell (the latter matriculated at Edinburgh, but did not graduate), inventor Alexander Graham Bell, naturalist Charles Darwin and biologist Ian Wilmut, writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, cyclist Chris Hoy, philosopher David Hume, physicist James Clerk Maxwell, Dr. Valentin Fuster, the only cardiologist to receive all four major research awards from the world's four major cardiovascular organizations., and mathematician and president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Michael Atiyah.

At graduation ceremonies, the Vice-Chancellor caps graduates with the Geneva Bonnet, a hat which legend says was originally made from cloth taken from the breeches of John Knox or George Buchanan. The hat was last restored in 2000, when a note from 1849 was discovered in the fabric. In 2006, a University emblem taken into space by Piers Sellers was incorporated into the Geneva Bonnet.

Student organizations

Students' Association

The Edinburgh University Students' Association consists of the unions and the Student Representative Council. The Unions include Teviot Row House, Potterrow, Kings Buildings House, the Pleasance, and a number of shops, cafe's and refectories around the various campuses. Teviot Row House is said to be the oldest purpose built student union building in the world. The Student Representative Council represents students to the University and the outside world. It is also responsible for Edinburgh's 222 student societies. The Association has four sabbatical office bearers - a President and three Vice Presidents. Turnout in elections for these positions has, in recent years, been among the highest in the UK. The Association is affiliated to the National Union of Students.



Student sport

Edinburgh University is one of Britain's most successful sporting universities. Student sport consists of 65 clubs from the traditional football and rugby to the more unconventional hot air ballooning and korfball. Run by the Edinburgh University Sports Union, these 65 clubs have seen Edinburgh rise to 4th place in the British Universities' Sports Association (BUSA) rankings in 2006-07. It continues to be the most successful Scottish University for sport.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the University of Edinburgh alumni and students secured four medals - three gold and a silver. The three gold medals were won by the cyclist Chris Hoy and the silver was won by Katherine Grainger in female rowing.

Student activism

There are a number of campaigning societies at the university. The largest of these is environment and poverty campaigning group People & Planet, which is affiliated to the national People & Planet network.

Historical Links

  • Dalhousie University, Canadian G-13 university, founded in 1818. In the early 19th century, George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor at the time, wanted to establish a Halifax college open to all, regardless of class or creed. The earl modeled the fledgling college after the University of Edinburgh, near his Scottish home. Endowment $364 million.
  • McGill University, Canadian G-13 university, founded in 1821, has strong Edinburgh roots and links to the University of Edinburgh as McGill's first (and, for several years, its only) faculty, Medicine, was founded by four physicians/surgeons who had trained in Edinburgh. Endowment $928 million.
  • Queen's University, Canadian G-13 university founded in 1841, was modelled after the University of Edinburgh, and continues to display strong Scottish roots and traditions today. Endowment $660 million.
  • The University of Pennsylvania, an American Ivy League university, has long-standing historical links with the University of Edinburgh, including modelling Penn's School of Medicine after Edinburgh's. Endowment $6.6 billion.


See also


External links

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