University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

Coordinates: 55°56′50.6″N 3°11′13.9″W / 55.947389°N 3.187194°W / 55.947389; -3.187194

The University of Edinburgh
Latin: Universitas Academica Edinensis
Established 1583
Type Public
Endowment £200 million[1]
Budget £634 million[1]
Chancellor HRH The Princess Royal
Rector Iain Macwhirter
Principal Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea
Academic staff 3,315[2]
Admin. staff 4,605[2]
Students 28,974 (2010-2011)[2]
Undergraduates 19,106[2]
Postgraduates 9,868[2]
Location Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Campus Urban
Affiliations Russell Group
Coimbra Group
Universitas 21

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583,[3] is a centre for teaching and research in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[4] The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university.[5] Edinburgh receives approximately 47,000 applications every year, making it the third most popular university in the UK by volume of applicants.[6] Entrance is intensively competitive, with 12 applications per place in the last admissions cycle.[7] It was the fourth university to be established in Scotland and the 6th in the United Kingdom, and has been regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world[8][9][10]. It is currently ranked the top rated in Scotland, the 6th in Europe, and the 20th in the world according to the 2011 QS Global Rankings[11].It is the only Scottish university to be a member of both the elite Russell Group, and the League of European Research Universities,a consortium of 21 of Europe's most prominent and renowned research universities[12].In addition, the University has both historical links and current partnerships with prestigious academic institutions in the United States and Canada, including members of the Ivy League and G13.[13][14][15]

The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the north. Graduates of the university include some of the major figures of modern history, including the naturalist Charles Darwin, physicist James Clerk Maxwell, philosopher David Hume, mathematician Thomas Bayes, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown, Deputy President of the British Supreme Court Lord Hope, surgeon and pioneer of sterilisation Joseph Lister, signatories of the American declaration of independence John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere, and a host of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J. M. Barrie, and Sir Walter Scott. The University is also associated with 9 Nobel Prize winners, 1 Abel Prize winner and a host of Olympic gold medallists.[16] It also continues to have links to the British Royal Family, with Prince Philip being chancellor from 1953-2010, and the Princess Royal from 2011.[17]




The University's Old College building

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. This was an unusual move at the time, as most universities were established through Papal bulls. What makes the University of Edinburgh even more unusual is the fact that its funding came the following year from the Town Council, making it in many ways the first civic university, known as the "Tounis College". It became the fourth Scottish university in a period when the much more populous and richer 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.


Before the building of Old College to plans by Robert Adam implemented after the Napoleonic Wars by the architect William Henry Playfair, the University of Edinburgh did not have a custom-built campus and existed in a hotchpotch of buildings from its establishment until the early 19th century. The university's first custom-built building was the Old College, now the School of Law, situated on South Bridge. Its first forte in teaching was anatomy and the developing science of surgery, from which it expanded into many other subjects. From the basement of a nearby house ran the anatomy tunnel corridor. It went under what was then North College Street (now Chambers Street), and under the university buildings until it reached the university's anatomy lecture theatre, delivering bodies for dissection. It was from this tunnel that the body of William Burke was taken after he had been hanged.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Old College was becoming overcrowded and Robert Rowand Anderson was commissioned to design new Medical School premises in 1875. The medical school was more or less built to his design and was completed by the addition of the McEwan Hall in the 1880s.

The building now known as New College was originally built as a Free Church college in the 1840s and has been the home of Divinity at the University since the 1920s.

The university is responsible for a number of historic and modern buildings across the City, including the oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland, and the second oldest in use in the British Isles, St Cecilia's Concert Hall; Teviot Row House, which is the oldest purpose built Student Union Building in the world; and the restored 17th-century Mylne's Court student residence which stands at the head of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Edinburgh University Library pre-dates the university by three years. Founded in 1580 through the donation of a large collection by Clement Littill, its collection has grown to become the largest university library in Scotland with over 2 million periodicals, manuscripts, theses, microforms and printed works. These are housed in the main University Library building in George Square – one of the largest academic library buildings in Europe, designed by Basil Spence – and an extensive series of Faculty and Departmental Libraries.

The two oldest Schools – Law and Divinity – are both well-esteemed in their respective subjects, with Law being based in Old College, and Divinity being based in New College, on the Mound, just in front of the temporary home of the Scottish Parliament.

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'. While technically not a collegiate university, it now comprises the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), Science & Engineering (SCE) and Medicine & Vet Medicine (MVM). Within these Colleges are 'Schools' – roughly equivalent to the departments they succeeded; individual Schools have a good degree of autonomy regarding their finances and internal organisation. This has brought a certain degree of uniformity (in terms of administration at least) across the university.

On 1 August 2011, the Edinburgh College of Art (founded in 1907) merged with the University of Edinburgh. At a result of the merger, Edinburgh College of Art has combined with the University’s School of Arts, Culture and Environment to form a new (enlarged) Edinburgh College of Art within the university.[18]

Along similar lines, all teaching is now done over two semesters (rather than 3 terms) – bringing the timetables of different Schools into line with one another, and coming into line with many other large universities (in the US, and to an increasing degree in the UK as well).

Academic reputation

The QS World University Rankings 2011 ranked the University of Edinburgh as the 20th university in the world,[19] while the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011/2012 ranked it as 36th overall, 7th in Europe and 5th in the UK.[20] In 2011, the Academic Ranking of World Universities placed University of Edinburgh as 53rd overall, 14th in Europe and 6th in the UK.[21]

The Medical School has consistently ranked among the top in the UK.

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, an approximately 5 yearly audit of the research quality of British higher education establishments, the University of Edinburgh was placed 10th overall, a rise of 4 places from 14th in the 2001 RAE. The University was also placed 5th in the UK in terms of the power of its research departments.[22]

In the league tables of British universities from 2012, the University of Edinburgh was ranked as 16th in the UK overall by The Guardian,[23] 13th by The Independent/The Complete University Guide,[24] 27th by The Sunday Times[25] and 15th by The Times.[26]


The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities 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

The coat of arms of the University of Edinburgh, displayed on St Leonard's Land

College of Humanities and Social Science

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

College of Science and Engineering

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • School of Chemistry
  • School of GeoSciences
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Informatics
  • School of Mathematics
  • School of Physics and Astronomy


St Leonard's Hall, Pollock Halls of Residence

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, The Dugald Stewart Building, 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 Computing & Informatics and the School of 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. This department increasingly uses farm facilities and new buildings to the South of the city, near Penicuik.
  • 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 12 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

Statue of David Hume

Alumni and faculty of the university have included economist Adam Smith, signatories to the US Declaration of Independence James Wilson and John Witherspoon, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell (the latter matriculated at Edinburgh, but did not graduate), engineers Alexander Graham Bell and William Rankine, naturalist Charles Darwin and biologist Ian Wilmut, physicists James Clerk Maxwell, Max Born, Sir David Brewster, Tom Kibble, Peter Guthrie Tait and Peter Higgs, writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Sir Walter Scott and Alistair Moffat, actor Ian Charleson, composers Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, and William Wordsworth, chemists Joseph Black, Daniel Rutherford, Alexander R. Todd and William Henry, botanist Robert Brown, medical pioneers Joseph Lister and James Simpson, mathematician Colin Maclaurin, philosopher David Hume, geologist James Hutton, former BP CEO Tony Hayward, chemist and two-time recipient of Alexander von Humboldt research prize for senior scientists Narayan Hosmane, Dr. Valentin Fuster, the only cardiologist to receive all four major research awards from the world's four major cardiovascular organizations,[27] 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.[28][29] In 2006, a University emblem taken into space by Piers Sellers was incorporated into the Geneva Bonnet.[30]

Student organisations

Teviot Row House, the oldest purpose built Student Union building in the world

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 shops, cafés and refectories around the various campuses. Teviot Row House is claimed to be the oldest purpose-built student union building in the world.[31] 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. The association is affiliated to the National Union of Students.



  • Student is a weekly Scottish newspaper produced by students at the University of Edinburgh. Founded in 1887 by Robert Louis Stevenson, it is the oldest student newspaper in the United Kingdom. It has held the title of Best Student Newspaper in Scotland, awarded by the Herald Student Press Awards, for four years running, from 2006 to 2010.
  • The Journal is a very recent addition to the student media scene at the university. It is an independent publication, established in 2007 by three students at the University of Edinburgh, and also distributes to the four other higher education institutions in the city - Heriot-Watt University, Napier University, Queen Margaret University and the Edinburgh College of Art. It is the largest such publication in Scotland, with a print run of 14,000 copies and is produced by students from across the city.

Student sport

Edinburgh University's student sport consists of 67 clubs from the traditional football and rugby to the more unconventional korfball or gliding. Run by the Edinburgh University Sports Union, these 67 clubs have seen Edinburgh rise to 4th place in the British Universities' Sports Association (BUSA) rankings in 2006-07 and have been in the British Top 5 sporting Universities since 2005.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the University of Edinburgh alumni and students secured four medals - three gold and a silver.[32] 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 net. International development organisations include Edinburgh Global Partnerships, which was established as a student-led charity in 1990.

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.[33][34]
  • 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.[35][36]
  • 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.
  • 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.[13][14][37]

See also


  1. ^ a b University of Edinburgh (2010) (PDF). The University of Edinburgh Reports & Financial Statements for the year to 31 July 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "University of Edinburgh Fact Sheet". 
  3. ^ "History of Edinburgh University". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Old and New Towns of Edinburgh - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". 20 November 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Edinburgh - Inspiring Capital". City of Edinburgh Council. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Times Good University Guide - Most Applications". The Times. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "University of Edinburgh Admissions Statistics". Admissions Office. 28 September 2010.!fileManager/UoE%20Admissions%20Statistics%202010-11.pdf. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "School of Medicine: A Brief History, University of Pennsylvania University Archives". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Lisa Rosner (1 April 1992). "Thistle on the Delaware: Edinburgh Medical Education and Philadelphia Practice, 1800–1825 — Soc Hist Med". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "University of Edinburgh Alumni". University of Edinburgh. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "New Chancellor elected | News | News and events". Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Introduction | ECA Merger | Edinburgh College of Art". Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "QS World University rankings results 2011". Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  20. ^ "World University Rankings 2011-2012". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  21. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities - 2011". Shanghai Jiaotong University. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "RAE 2008: results for UK universities - Guardian Education". London: Guardian. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "Guardian University Guide". London: The Guardian. 8 June 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  24. ^ "University League Table 2011". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  25. ^ "University Guide 2011". The Sunday Times. 
  26. ^ "Good University Guide 2011". The Times. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  27. ^ "Doctor Profile”, Mount Sinai Hospital. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  28. ^ "Omniana". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 14 January 2007. 
  29. ^ "Graduation cap (Object Details)". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 14 January 2007. 
  30. ^ Richard Luscombe (25 June 2006). "One small step for John Knox, one giant leap for university". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 14 January 2007. 
  31. ^ "The Students' Association | University life | Mature students - undergraduate". 31 August 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  32. ^ [1][dead link]
  33. ^ [2][dead link]
  34. ^ "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  35. ^ Cruess, Richard L. (26 November 2007). "Brief history of Medicine at McGill". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  36. ^ Joseph Hanaway and Richard Cruess (8 March 1996). "McGill Medicine, Volume 1, 1829-1885". Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  37. ^ [3][dead link]

External links

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