University of Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen

Infobox University
name = University of Aberdeen
native_name =
latin_name = Universitas Aberdonensis

image_size = 250px
caption = Full Arms of the University
motto = Initium sapientiae timor domini ("The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom")
established = 1495
type = Public
endowment = £35.7 million cite web |url= |title=Financial Statements 2006-2007 |work=University of Aberdeen |accessdate=2007-04-26]
staff = 717
principal = Prof. C. Duncan Rice
rector = Stephen Robertson
chancellor = Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
students = 13,760 cite web |url= |title=Table 0a - All students by institution, mode of study, level of study, gender and domicile 2005/06 |work=Higher Education Statistics Agency online statistics |accessdate=2007-04-05]
undergrad = 10,095
postgrad = 3,660
doctoral =
city = Aberdeen
state = Scotland
country = United Kingdom
campus =
free_label =
free =
colours =
mascot =
affiliations = Association of Commonwealth Universities
website =

The University of Aberdeen is an ancient university founded in 1495, in Old Aberdeen, Scotland. It is the fifth oldest university in what is now the United Kingdom, and in the wider English-speaking world.


Foundation and relationship between the two original universities

: "See also King's College, Aberdeen and Marischal College for history pre-1860"

The University of Aberdeen is one of the ancient universities of Scotland. The first university in Aberdeen, 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 being issued. The university was established near St Machar's Cathedral, and was originally known as St. Mary's College following the dedication of its chapel.

Following the Reformation, King's College was purged of its Roman Catholic staff but in other respects was largely resistant to change. George Keith, the fifth Earl Marischal was a moderniser within the college and supportive of the reforming ideas of Peter Ramus [ [ This Noble College: Building on the European tradition ] ] . In April 1593 he consequently founded a second university in the city, Marischal College. (It is noteworthy that Aberdeen was highly unusual at the time for having two universities in one city: as 20th-century University prospectuses wryly observed, Aberdeen alone had the same number as existed in all of England at the time.) It is also possible that the founding of another college in nearby Fraserburgh by Sir Alexander Fraser, a business rival of Keith, was instrumental in its creation.

Initially, Marischal College offered the Principal of King's College a role in selecting its academics, but this was refused by the King's authorities - cited as the first blow in a future rivalry. Marischal College, being located in the commercial heart of the city rather than the ancient but much smaller collegiate enclave of King's in Old Aberdeen, was quite different in nature and outlook, very much integrated into the life of the city, for example allowing its students to live outwith the College. The two rival colleges often clashed, sometimes more abstractly in legal matters, but not infrequently also more physically in brawls between students on the streets of Aberdeen itself.

As the institutions eventually began to put aside their differences a process of attempted (but unconsummated) mergers began in the seventeenth century and it was during this time that notable contributions were made by both to the Scottish Enlightenment. Both Colleges supported the Jacobite cause and following the defeat of the 1715 rising both were largely purged of their academics and officials.

The University of Aberdeen's creation

The two universities in Aberdeen were finally merged on 15 September 1860 in accordance with the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858, which also created a new medical school at Marischal. The 1858 Act stated that the "united University shall take rank among the Universities of Scotland as from the date of erection of King's College and University." The University is thus Scotland's third oldest and the United Kingdom's fifth oldest University.

The university's coat of arms display the founders and locations of the previous two colleges. Top left is the arms of the burgh of Old Aberdeen. Top right is that of George Keith, the fifth Earl Marischal. Bottom left belongs to Bishop William Elphinstone. The bottom right quarter is a simplified version of the usual symbol (of three castles) representing the burgh and now City of Aberdeen [cite web|url=|title=University of Aberdeen - Armorial Tablet |publisher=The Heraldry Society of Scotland|accessdate=2007-08-18] .

The modern university

The focus between the two ex-college campuses has alternated over the years. While at the time of unification there were roughly equal divisions of numbers between the two, Marischal began an expansion in the later nineteenth century with a significant rebuilding effort ending in 1906. However in more recent years, the teaching of medicine has graduated towards the university's Foresterhill hospital site and science and engineering towards King's, benefiting from its less urban position and expanding from its traditional collegiate appearance to a modern campus with the traditional buildings at its heart. Teaching has altogether ceased at Marischal College and only the rear of the building remains used for university purposes, housing offices, a debating chamber, a public museum and the Mitchell Hall - from where graduation and other important ceremonies take place.

Organisation and governance

:"Main Article Ancient university governance in Scotland"

In common with the other ancient universities in Scotland, the university's structure of governance is largely regulated by the Universities (Scotland) Acts. It is largely divided into a tripartite system containing the General Council, University Court and Academic Senate ("Senatus Academicus"). More information can be found on the ancient university governance in Scotland article.


The Chancellor is the nominal head of the university, a position traditionally held by the Bishop of Aberdeen but divorced as a result of the Scottish Reformation. The chief executive and most significant official in most cases is the University's Vice Chancellor, who also holds the title of Principal.

The Rector of the University is the third official in order of precedence, assisted by his/her Rector's Assessor.

ubdivisions of the university

Following reforms the university now encompasses three "colleges" rather than the previous five faculties.

[ College of Arts and Social Sciences]

The College is separated into a number of academic schools:

* [ University of Aberdeen Business School]
* [ School of Divinity, History and Philosophy]
* [ School of Education] Formerly the Aberdeen campus of the Northern College of Education which was amalgamated into the university in the later half of the 1990s.
* [ School of Language & Literature]
* [ School of Law]
* [ School of Social Science]
* [ Graduate School]
* and a number of [ Research Centres and Institutes] :

Aberdeen Centre for European Social Research, Centre for Austrian Studies, Centre for Early Modern Studies, Centre for Entrepreneurship, Centre for European Labour Market Research (CELMR), Centre for Linguistic Research, Centre for Modern Thought, Centre for the Novel, Centre for Property Law, Centre for Property Research, Centre for Scandinavian Studies, Centre for the Study of the Civil Law Tradition, Centre for the Study of Contemporary International Culture, Centre for the Study of Public Policy, Centre for the Study of Spirituality, Health and Disability, Elphinstone Institute, Interface - The Centre for Interdisciplinary Practice, Music Research Group, Rowan Group, Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS), Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, Scottish Experimental Economics Laboratory (SEEL), Walter Scott Research Centre

[ College of Life Sciences and Medicine]

The College is separated into four academic schools:

* [ School of Biological Sciences]
* [ School of Medical Sciences]
* School of Medicine
* [ School of Psychology]

and is supported by:

* [ Graduate School]
* [ Institute of Applied Health Sciences]
* [ Institute of Medical Sciences]

[ College of Physical Sciences]

The College is divided into two main schools and a number of research centres:

* School of Engineering and Physical Sciences::: [ Department of Chemistry] :: [ Department of Computing Science] :: [ Department of Engineering] :: [ Department of Mathematical Sciences] :: [ Department of Physics]

* School of Geosciences::: [ Department of Geography & Environment] :: [ Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology] :: [ Graduate Studies]

*College Research Centres::: [ Aberdeen Institute for Coastal Science and Management] :: [ Institute of Energy Technologies] :: [ Institute for Transport and Rural Research]

Architecture and buildings

The original buildings of both colleges which united to form the University are much admired architectural features of Aberdeen. Many newer campus buildings are of largely modernist style and focused around the expanding campus around King's College, now the main centre for most of the university's activities.

King's College campus

"See also: King's College, Aberdeen"

King's College forms a quadrangle with interior court, two sides of which have been rebuilt, and a library wing has been added. The Crown Tower and the Chapel, the oldest parts, date from 1500. The former is surmounted by a structure about 40 ft (12 m) high, consisting of a six-sided lantern and royal crown, both sculptured, and resting on the intersections of two arched ornamental slips rising from the four corners of the top of the tower. The choir of the chapel still contains the original oak canopied stalls, miserere seats, and lofty open screens in the French flamboyant style. Their preservation was due to the enlightened energy of the principal at the time of the Reformation, who armed his folk to save the building from the barons of the Mearns after they had robbed St Machar's of its bells and lead. Today, King's returns the favour by providing needed funds for the university as it fulfils its sometime occupation as corporate reception and exhibition area.

The first of the modern age of construction in the King's campus began with the construction in 1913 of the New Building (informally known as "New King's"), largely in a similar architectural style to the old buildings. New King's groups to form a yet larger quadrangle-like green for the campus also bordered by the High Street, King's and Elphinstone Hall, a traditional 1930 replacement for the Great Hall, which was turned into the (now former) library.

The Queen Mother Library is the university's main library and following its move from the original buildings of King's College is now housed in a modernist 5-storey structure nearby and houses some one million books. In April 2006 it was announced that a new £55.5 million library, designed by Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen, will be constructed, to be completed in 2010. In addition to its expanded facilities it will also house the University's historic collections, comprising more than a quarter of a million ancient and priceless books and manuscripts that have been collected over five centuries since the University's foundations [] .

The University also includes other modern buildings, such as the Fraser Noble Building, with a distinctive concrete crown designed to resemble the one adorning King's College, the Zoology Building, which has its own museum of natural history and the Meston Building, which is a mish-mash of many styles.

The Cruickshank Botanic Garden was presented to the university in 1899.

Marischal College

"See also: Marischal College"

) who provided the splendid graduation hall. The opening of this tower in 1895 signalled the commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the university. Formerly an open three-sided court, the college now forms around a quadrangle.

The building is now mostly let to Aberdeen City Council, although the University retains a wing of the building containing the Marischal Museum and Mitchell Hall, which is used for graduation and other academic ceremonies.


The Foresterhill Site contains the university's medical school, library and associated buildings in the West End of the city of Aberdeen. It forms part of a modern teaching hospital complex.


In the 2006/07 term, the number of full-time students at the university was over 13,900, including over 3,000 postgraduates. The university has more than 590 different first degree programmes and more than 110 postgraduate taught programmes. [cite web| url=| title=Fast Facts| author=University of Aberdeen| accessdate=2006-12-10]

tudent representation

The student body is represented within the University by a Students' Association known as Aberdeen University Students' Association (AUSA). Additionally, the elected Rector of the University of Aberdeen serves along with the Rector's Assessor and AUSA President as a students' representatives on the University Court.

Following financial problems in the early 2000s, AUSA ceased to provide a multiple-venue entertainments building (the traditional Students' Union) for its members. The former building, which had included two bars, two nightclubs, a games room, shop, and other facilities, was replaced with a bar with pool tables, located on Littlejohn Street beside Marischal College. The organisation has been instrumental in the creation of "the Hub", a student dining and social centre created out of the former Central Refectory in the main Old Aberdeen campus, which opened in 2006.

AUSA publishes a weekly (during term time) student newspaper called the Gaudie.

AUSA is responsible for student sport at the University of Aberdeen and a committee called the Aberdeen University Sports Unionmanage it.

tudent accommodation

Halls of residence are managed by the University. Two large concentrations of University accommodation are provided on the campus in Old Aberdeen, consisting of Crombie, Johnston and King's Halls of Residence, and a short distance away the Hillhead Halls Of Residence site, where there is a social centre with porters, catering, sports and computer facilities, in addition to on-site launderettes, a bar and a shop.

Following their first year, the majority of students opt to live in private accommodation off of the main university campus, although in recent years, prices and availability of accommodation has seen more second and third year students returning to university halls. This has forced the university to write to all students in university accommodation, in February 2008, to let them know that accommodation will be reserved for first year students only in the academic year to follow.

The University has advertised a "First-Year Accommodation Guarantee" in recent years, but due to the high demand for homes in the rapidly growing city it has become increasingly difficult to fulfil the guarantee. At the start of the 2007-2008 term, the university ran out of rooms, and had to resort to temporary accommodation (including putting students into hotel rooms, and making kitchens, study rooms and common rooms into dorm rooms).


:"See also: "

Notable alumni of the University include:

Nobel Prize winners

:"See also: "

*George Paget Thomson — Physics (1937)
*John James Richard Macleod — Physiology (1923)
*John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr — Peace (1949)

Partner universities

* University of Greifswald, Germany
* University of Paisley "(since 2007, the University of the West of Scotland)". During the academic year 1995/96, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) introduced a 'twinning' programme to facilitate communication between Scotland's 'ancient' and newly upgraded universities.
* The university co-operates informally with the Robert Gordon University, also in Aberdeen.


External links

* [ University of Aberdeen website]
* [ University of Aberdeen Students' Association]
* [ Partnerships of Aberdeen University]
* [ Aberdeen University students' forum]

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