The ancient universities of Scotland
and renaissance universities
that continue to exist until the present day. The majority of the ancient universities
of the British Isles
are located within Scotland
, and have a number of distinctive features in common, being governed by a series of measures laid down in the Universities (Scotland) Acts
1858-1966. A notable exception is the University of Dundee, which incorporates the same principles of governance in its Royal Charter
rather than being directly subject to the Acts, due to its history lying within the University of St Andrews.
The ancient universities of Scotland are, in order of formation:
Following the creation of the above, no other universities were formed in Scotland until the 20th century. The first 'new university' of the era (see: plate glass university) was the University of Strathclyde, chartered in 1964 but having existed in various forms as an academic institution since 1796.
In common with the other ancient universities of the United Kingdom, the Scottish ancients find themselves administered in a quite different fashion from these new universities, of which there are now ten in Scotland, and are granted a number of privileges as a result of their status.
The University of St Andrews
owed its origin to a society formed in 1410 by Laurence of Lindores
, abbot of Scone
, Richard Cornwall, archdeacon of Lothian
, William Stephenson, afterwards bishop
, and a few others. Bishop Henry Wardlaw
(died 1440) issued a charter in 1411 and attracted the most learned men in Scotland as professors. In 1413 Avignon Pope Benedict XIII
issued six bulls
confirming the charter and constituting the society a university
St Andrew's University has around 8,500 students and just over 800 academic staff. The independent IpsosMORI National Student Survey
2006 commissioned by HEFCE
placed it third among the UK universities. Nearly eight in ten graduates obtain a First Class or an Upper Second Class Honours degree. Entry to the University is highly competitive; the latest UCAS figures show that there are generally twelve applications for every place available, and the University has not entered Clearing since 2003.
The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 by a papal bull
of Pope Nicholas V
, at the request of King James II
, giving Bishop William Turnbull
permission to add the university to the city's cathedral. Its founding came about as a result of King James II's wish that Scotland
have two Universities to equal Oxford
Glasgow University now boasts almost 24,000 students with 40% coming from the West of Scotland. Both the University's teaching quality and income from annual research contracts are assessed to be among the top 10 in the United Kingdom. The Times University ranking list places Glasgow third amongst Scottish universites after St. Andews and Edinburgh. There is currently over eight applications for every one place, (194,000 applications 2002-2007. 37,700 in 2007 alone) making it one of the most competitive Universities in the UK to obtain entry to.
The first university in Aberdeen, St. Mary's College (which later came to be called King's College
), was founded in February 1495 by William Elphinstone
, Bishop of Aberdeen
, drafting a request on behalf of King James IV
to Pope Alexander VI
resulting in a papal bull
In 1860 King's merged with the city's other university, Marischal College, which itself had been founded in 1593.
Aberdeen University has almost 14,000 students and over 700 staff. Among its graduates is the present Chancellor of the Exchequer
, Alistair Darling
The founding of the University is attributed to Bishop Robert Reid
of St Magnus Cathedral
, 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. As the first to be founded by Royal Charter at the urging of the "town council and burges of Edinburgh" some student groups at the other Scottish Ancient Universities deny Edinburgh is worthy of that title, usually stating the reasoning of "post reformation"
Edinburgh University has over 25,000 students, more than any other in Scotland. In 2006 Newsweek
ranked the University of Edinburgh 6th in the UK, 11th in Europe and 47th in the world.
University of Aberdeen
The University itself was founded in 1495 by Papal Bull. No college is mentioned in the foundation bull, only a university and it was the university of Aberdeen by that name which was established in 1495. Subsequently a single college, originally known as St. Mary of the Nativity, was established, but that college soon became known as King's College after its royal founder James IV. A separate university (Marischal College) was founded in 1593. While both institutions were universities and would be considered ancient, the Act of Parliament
uniting the two specified that the date of the foundation of the new united university would be taken to be that of the older King's College. The Papal Foundation Bull of 1495 established the “University of Aberdeen” by name, it did not establish King's College, but it happened, for all of its history as a separate institution, that the University of Aberdeen comprised only one college, King's College, and hence the two institutions became conflated.
It should be noted that Aberdeen was highly unusual at the time for having two universities in one city. As late-20th century University of Aberdeen prospectuses wryly observed, this was the same number as existed in all of England at the time.
University of Dundee
The University of Dundee
was established as an independent institution by Royal Charter
in 1967, but has a long history going back well into the 19th century. For most of its existence, Dundee formed a fully incorporated college
of the University of St Andrews
, known as University College Dundee and Queen's College at various periods.
Dundee shares all organisational features in common with the other ancient universities of Scotland by virtue of its descent through St Andrews, such as awarding the undergraduate MA degree and electing a Rector. Upon attaining its independence, Dundee also gained a number of significant schools from its parent university, including law, dentistry and the main medical school.
As a result, the University of Dundee is usually considered alongside the ancient universities, particularly those in a Scottish context.
Undergraduate Master of Arts degree
The ancient universities are distinctive in offering the Magister Artium/Master of Arts (M.A.) as an undergraduate academic degree. This is sometimes known as the Scottish MA, despite only being offered by less than a third of Scotland's Universities.
Universities (Scotland) Acts
The Universities (Scotland) Acts created a distinctive system of governance for the ancient universities in Scotland, the process beginning with the 1858 Act and ending with the 1966 Act. Despite not being founded until the after the first in these series of Acts, the University of Dundee
shares all the features contained therein.
As a result of these Acts, each of these universities is governed by a tripartite system of General Council, University Court, and Academic Senate.
The chief executive and chief academic is the University Principal who also holds the title of Vice-Chancellor as an honorific. The Chancellor is a titular non-resident head to each university and is elected for life by the respective General Council, although in actuality a good number of Chancellors resign before the end of their "term of office".
Each also has a Students' Representative Council (SRC) as required by statute, although at the University of Aberdeen this has recently been renamed, the Students' Association Council (the Students' Association having been the parent body of the SRC).