Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the eighth-oldest higher education institution in the United Kingdom , although it only received its university charter in 1966. The name commemorates George Heriot – the 16th century financier to King James, and James Watt – the great 18th century inventor and engineer. The University originated as the School of Arts of Edinburgh in 1821. Women were welcomed as early as 1869, 20 years ahead of other institutions.
Originally based in the centre of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University now has four campuses. The main campus is located in Riccarton in the Currie area on the outskirts of the city. Satellite campuses are located in Galashiels in the Borders (Scottish Borders Campus, formerly the Scottish College of Textiles), Stromness (Orkney campus) and most recently in Dubai Academic City (Heriot-Watt University Dubai campus). Moreover, the Orkney Campus in Stromness is home to The International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) which is part of Heriot-Watt University's prestigious Institute of Petroleum Engineering.
The Annual Statistics publication (2006/07) shows that the University has a total population of 17,700 students, full-time, part-time and distance and supported learning around the world. Of these 10,700 are on international programmes, including the MBA programme and those studying through one of 53 Approved Learning Partners world-wide. Heriot-Watt has around 7,000 on-campus students in Scotland, more than a quarter of whom are from outside the UK. This international focus creates a very cosmopolitan environment; approximately 10,000 students from 150 countries world-wide are currently studying on international programmes.
In 1852 the name of the school was changed to the Watt Institution and School of Arts, in memory of the engineer and inventor James Watt. In 1869 women were permitted to attend classes, mainly due to the campaigning of Mary Burton, making Heriot-Watt a pioneer in equal opportunities in education.
During the 1870s a new building on Chambers Street was constructed, causing the institution severe financial difficulties that were resolved by an association with George Heriot's Hospital for needy orphans. In 1885 the name was changed to Heriot-Watt College; the name Heriot being ultimately derived from the jeweller, financier and philanthropist George Heriot.
The college continued to expand throughout the 20th century, developing a reputation in the fields of science and engineering, and became a university in 1966, following the recommendations of the Robbins Report.
In 1969 the former Gibson-Craig estate at Riccarton, 7 miles (11 km) to the south-west of Edinburgh, was gifted to the University and was purchased for one penny. Between 1971 and 1992 the University moved to a purpose-built campus on this site, however situated within a city green-belt, buildings on the campus cannot be greater than 4 floors in height. The Campus occupies of mature meadow and woodland to the west of Edinburgh, just six minutes from Edinburgh airport, and some 20 minutes from the city centre by car.
The Edinburgh Business School, a component of Heriot-Watt, boasts one of the world's largest Masters of Business Administration programs , offered on-campus or around the world by distance education, and assessed by rigorous subject exams. A Doctor of Business Administration program, along similar lines but also containing a major research component, has recently been introduced.
In 2005, the university announced plans to open a campus in Dubai. In 2006 (end of 2005), the new . campus opened in Academic City, Dubai. Heriot-Watt University Dubai offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in Business, Accounting, Finance and Management as well as a Master's degree in Information Technology. Engineering degrees (especially Petroleum Engineering) are likely to be introduced in the near future.
Heriot-Watt University's Dubai Campus is a purpose-built modern campus of over in Dubai Academic City formally opened in March 2006. The campus offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses which reflect the University's Scottish Schools and Institutes as well as student exchanges and campus transfers.
The Watt Club recently celebrated its 150th Anniversary, making it the oldest alumni association in the UK.
The University’s Student Association (HWUSA), also part of the National Union of Students (NUS), represents almost 8000 students through the Executive Committee which is currently led by President Ruth Bush and Vice President Louise Moncrieff, there is also a Vice President of the Scottish Borders Campus, Steve Connell. The purpose of a students association is to represent the rights and needs of students and campaign on their behalf. Recent successful campaigns include obtaining academic feedback on exams and coursework and organising an accommodation fair. HWUSA also takes an active role in national events such as the demonstrations against the introduction of top up fees, increasing the current costs of education in England, which took place in London, and campaigning to end the graduate endowment fee in Scotland. Also part of HWUSA are the Advice and Support Centre, which provides financial, academic and personal support and recently created International Committee, to represent the 30% international population at Heriot-Watt.
In recent years, many of the sports clubs have enjoyed success in the BUSA leagues, including the Hockey Club after both the Men's and Women's 1st XI reached the knock out stages of the competition. The rugby club is one of the sports unions most well supported clubs with many many members. The annual varsity match against Edinburgh is the highlight fixture of the year, with The Watt coming out on top more often than not.