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The University of Edinburgh
File:University of Edinburgh logo.svg
Latin: Universitas Academica Edinensis
Motto Nec temere, nec timide (Neither rashly nor timidly)
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 28,394 (2009-10)[2]
Undergraduates 19,527[2]
Postgraduates 8,867[2]
Location Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Campus Urban
Affiliations Russell Group
Coimbra Group
Universitas 21

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583,[3] is a world renowned centre for teaching and research in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, United Kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The University is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the iconic buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the University.[4] It was the fourth university to be established in Scotland and is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Europe, the top rated in Scotland according to the QS rankings [5], and has been consistently placed amongst the leading universities in the world.[6] Edinburgh receives approximately 47,000 applications every year, making it the third most popular university in the UK by volume of applicants.[7] Entrance is intensively competitive, with 12 applications per place in the last admissions cycle.[8]

The University played an important role in leading the city of 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, economist Adam Smith, 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.[9]



File:Old College.JPG

The University's Old College building as it currently stands

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 enjoy 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 magnificent 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 so 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.

In addition, 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 handsomely restored 17th-century Mylne's Court student residence which stands at the head of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Edinburgh's Library pre-dates its University by three years. Founded in 1580, 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. (However, it is notable that 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.

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 in to line with many other large universities (notably in the US, but to an increasing degree in the UK as well).

Academic reputation[]

The QS World University Rankings 2010 ranked the University of Edinburgh as the 22nd university in the world,[10] while the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked it as 40th overall and 6th in Europe.[11] In 2010, the Academic Ranking of World Universities placed University of Edinburgh as 54th overall and 14th in Europe.[12]

File:Chancellors Building.jpg

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.[13]

In the league tables of British universities from 2011, The University of Edinburgh was ranked as 15th in the UK overall by The Guardian,[14] 11th by The Independent/The Complete University Guide,[15] 14th by The Sunday Times[16] and 11th by The Times.[17]


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[]

File:University of Edinburgh coat of arms.JPG

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


College of Humanities and Social Science[]

  • Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • School of Arts, Culture and Environment
  • Business School
  • School of Divinity
  • School of Economics
  • School of Health in Social Science
  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology
  • School of Law
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
  • Moray House School of Education
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
  • School of Social and Political Sciences
  • The Office of Lifelong Learning

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine[]

  • School of Biomedical Sciences
  • School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health
  • School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine
  • Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

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


File:Pollock 1.jpg

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

Main article: List of University of Edinburgh people

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, 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, and Sir Walter Scott, 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,[18] 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.[19][20] In 2006, a University emblem taken into space by Piers Sellers was incorporated into the Geneva Bonnet.[21]

Student organisations[]

File:University of Edinburgh, Teviot.jpg

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 a number of 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.[22] 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 UKTemplate:Fact. 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 author 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 is one of Britain's most successful sporting universities. 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. 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.[23] 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.[24][25]
  • 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.[26][27]
  • 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.[28][29][30]

See also[]

  • Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh
  • Rector of the University of Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh University RFC
  • Edinburgh University A.F.C.
  • Edinburgh University Press
  • Gifford Lectures
  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize
  • List of early modern universities in Europe


  1. 1.0 1.1 University of Edinburgh (2010) (PDF). The University of Edinburgh Reports & Financial Statements for the year to 31 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "University of Edinburgh Fact Sheet". 
  3. "History of Edinburgh University". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  4. "Edinburgh - Inspiring Capital". City of Edinburgh Council. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  5. QS World University Rankings - Topuniversities
  6. "BBC News - Edinburgh institutions agree to merge". 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  7. "Times Good University Guide - Most Applications". The Times. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  8. "University of Edinburgh Admissions Statistics". Admissions Office. 2010-09-28.!fileManager/UoE%20Admissions%20Statistics%202010-11.pdf. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  9. "University of Edinburgh Alumni". University of Edinburgh. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  10. "QS World University rankings results 2010". Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 30 October 2010. 
  11. "World University Rankings 2010-2011". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 30 October 2010. 
  12. "Academic Ranking of World Universities - 2010". Shanghai Jiaotong University. Retrieved 30 October 2010. 
  13. "RAE 2008: results for UK universities - Guardian Education". London: Guardian. 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  14. "Guardian University Guide". London: The Guardian. 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  15. "University League Table 2011". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  16. "University Guide 2011". The Sunday Times. 
  17. "Good University Guide 2011". The Times. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  18. "Doctor Profile”, Mount Sinai Hospital. Retrieved April 29. 2008.
  19. "Omniana". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  20. "Graduation cap (Object Details)". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  21. Richard Luscombe (25 June 2006). "One small step for John Knox, one giant leap for university". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  22. The Students' Association | University life | Mature students - undergraduate
  23. [1]Template:Dead link
  24. [2]Template:Dead link
  25. "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  26. Cruess, Richard L. (2007-11-26). "Brief history of Medicine at McGill". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  27. Joseph Hanaway and Richard Cruess (1996-03-08). "McGill Medicine, Volume 1, 1829-1885". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  28. [3]Template:Dead link
  29. "School of Medicine: A Brief History, University of Pennsylvania University Archives". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  30. Lisa Rosner (1992-04-01). "Thistle on the Delaware: Edinburgh Medical Education and Philadelphia Practice, 1800–1825 — Soc Hist Med". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 

External links[]


Template:University of Edinburgh Template:Universities in the United Kingdom Template:Universitas 21 Template:League of European Research Universities Template:Coimbra Group Template:Russell Group

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