University of Edinburgh
|Latin: Universitas Academica Edinburgensis|
King James' College
|Type||Public research university|
|Established||14 October 1583|
|Endowment||£487.7 million (2020)|
|Budget||£1,112.5 million (2019–20)|
|Chancellor||Anne, Princess Royal|
|4,832 FTE (2020)|
|6,247 FTE (2020)|
The University of Edinburgh (Scots: University o Edinburgh, Scottish Gaelic: Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann; abbreviated as Edin. in post-nominals) is a public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland. Granted a royal charter by King James VI in 1582 and officially opened in 1583, it is one of Scotland's four ancient universities and the sixth-oldest university in continuous operation in the English-speaking world. The university played an important role in Edinburgh becoming a chief intellectual centre during the Scottish Enlightenment and contributed to the city being nicknamed the "Athens of the North".
It is a member of several associations of research-intensive universities, including the Coimbra Group, League of European Research Universities, Russell Group, Una Europa, and Universitas 21. Edinburgh has the third-largest endowment of any university in the UK, behind only Cambridge and Oxford. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2020, it had a total income of £1,112.5 million, of which £296.1 million was from research grants and contracts. It has five main campuses in the city of Edinburgh, which include many buildings of historical and architectural significance such as those in the Old Town.
Edinburgh receives over 60,000 undergraduate applications per year, making it the second-most popular university in the UK by volume of applications. It is the eighth-largest university in the UK by enrolment, with 35,375 students in 2019/20. Edinburgh had the seventh-highest average UCAS points amongst British universities for new entrants in 2019. The university continues to have links to the British royal family, having had Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as its Chancellor from 1953 to 2010 and Anne, Princess Royal since March 2011.
The alumni of the university include some of the major figures of modern history. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell, naturalist Charles Darwin, philosopher David Hume, and physicist James Clerk Maxwell studied at Edinburgh, as did three signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence, and writers such as Sir J. M. Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. The university counts several heads of state and government amongst its graduates, including three Prime Ministers of the UK. Three UK Supreme Court Justices were educated at Edinburgh, as were two Pulitzer Prize winners, and several Olympic gold medallists. As of October 2021[update], Edinburgh's alumni and academic staff include 19 Nobel laureates, three Turing Award laureates, and an Abel Prize laureate and Fields Medalist.
In 1557, Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral on Orkney made a will containing an endowment of 8,000 merks to build a college in Edinburgh. Unusually for his time, Reid's vision included the teaching of rhetoric and poetry, alongside more traditional subjects such as philosophy. However, the bequest was delayed by more than 25 years due to the religious revolution that led to the Reformation Parliament of 1560. The plans were revived in the late 1570s through efforts by the Edinburgh Town Council, first minister of Edinburgh James Lawson, and Lord Provost William Little. When Reid's descendants were unwilling to pay out the sum, the town council petitioned King James VI and his Privy Council. The King brokered a monetary compromise and granted a royal charter on 14 April 1582, empowering the town council to create a college of higher education. A college established by secular authorities was unprecedented in newly Presbyterian Scotland, as all previous Scottish universities had been founded through papal bulls. Notably, Edinburgh was the fourth Scottish university in a period when the richer and more populous England had only two.
Named Tounis College (Town's College), the university opened its doors to students on 14 October 1583, with an attendance of 80–90. At the time, the college mainly covered liberal arts and divinity. Instruction began under the charge of a graduate from the University of St Andrews, theologian Robert Rollock, who first served as Regent, and from 1586 as Principal of the college. Initially Rollock was the sole instructor for first-year students, and he was expected to tutor the 1583 intake for all four years of their degree in every subject. The first cohort finished their studies in 1587, and 47 students graduated (or 'laureated') with an M.A. degree. When King James VI visited Scotland in 1617, he held a disputation with the college's professors, after which he decreed that it should henceforth be called the "Colledge [sic] of King James". The university was known as both Tounis College and King James' College until it gradually assumed the name of the University of Edinburgh during the 17th century.
After the deposition of King James II and VII during the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the Parliament of Scotland passed legislation designed to root out Jacobite sympathisers amongst university staff. In Edinburgh, this led to the dismissal of Principal Alexander Monro and several professors and regents after a government visitation in 1690. The university was subsequently led by Principal Gilbert Rule, one of the inquisitors on the visitation committee.
18th and 19th century
The late 17th and early 18th centuries were marked by a power struggle between the university and town council, which had ultimate authority over staff appointments, curricula, and examinations. After a series of challenges by the university, the conflict culminated in the council seizing the college records in 1704. Relations were only gradually repaired over the next 150 years and suffered repeated setbacks.
The university expanded by founding a Faculty of Law in 1707, a Faculty of Arts in 1708, and a Faculty of Medicine in 1726. In 1762, Reverend Hugh Blair was appointed by King George III as the first Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres. This formalised literature as a subject and marks the foundation of the English Literature department, making Edinburgh the oldest centre of literary education in Britain.
During the 18th century, the university was at the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment. The ideas of the Age of Enlightenment fell on especially fertile ground in Edinburgh because of the university's democratic and secular origin; its organization as a single entity instead of loosely connected colleges, which encouraged academic exchange; its adoption of the more flexible Dutch model of professorship, rather than having student cohorts taught by a single regent; and the lack of land endowments as its source of income, which meant its faculty operated in a more competitive environment. Between 1750 and 1800, this system produced and attracted key Enlightenment figures such as chemist Joseph Black, economist Adam Smith, historian William Robertson, philosophers David Hume and Dugald Stewart, physician William Cullen, and early sociologist Adam Ferguson, many of which taught concurrently. By the time the Royal Society of Edinburgh was founded in 1783, the university was regarded as one of the world's preeminent scientific institutions, and Voltaire called Edinburgh a "hotbed of genius" as a result. Benjamin Franklin believed that the university possessed "a set of as truly great men, Professors of the Several Branches of Knowledge, as have ever appeared in any Age or Country". Thomas Jefferson felt that as far as science was concerned, "no place in the world can pretend to a competition with Edinburgh".
The South Bridge Act 1785 was passed in the House of Commons with the intention of using South Bridge as a location for the university, which had existed in a hotchpotch of buildings since its establishment. The site was used to construct Old College, the university's first custom-built building, by architect William Henry Playfair to plans by Robert Adam. During the 18th century, the university developed a particular forte in teaching anatomy and the developing science of surgery, and it was considered one of the best medical schools in the English-speaking world. Bodies to be used for dissection were brought to the university's Anatomy Theatre through a secret tunnel from a nearby house (today's College Wynd student accommodation), which was also used by murderers Burke and Hare to deliver the corpses of their victims during the 1820s.
After 275 years of governance by the town council, the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 gave the university full authority over its own affairs. The act established governing bodies including a university court and a general council, and redefined the roles of key officials like the chancellor, rector, and principal.
The Edinburgh Seven were the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university. Led by Sophia Jex-Blake, they began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869. Although the university blocked them from graduating and qualifying as doctors, their campaign gained national attention and won them many supporters, including Charles Darwin. Their efforts put the rights of women to higher education on the national political agenda, which eventually resulted in legislation allowing women to study at all Scottish universities in 1889. The university admitted women to graduate in medicine in 1893. In 2015, the Edinburgh Seven were commemorated with a plaque at the university, and in 2019 they were posthumously awarded with medical degrees.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Old College was becoming overcrowded. After a bequest from Sir David Baxter, the university started planning new buildings in earnest. Sir Robert Rowand Anderson won the public architectural competition and was commissioned to design new premises for the Medical School in 1877. Initially, the design incorporated a campanile and a hall for examination and graduation, but this was seen as too ambitious. The new Medical School opened in 1884, but the building was not completed until 1888. After funds were donated by politician and brewer William McEwan in 1894, a separate graduation building was constructed after all, also designed by Anderson. The resulting McEwan Hall on Bristo Square was presented to the university in 1897.
The Students' Representative Council (SRC) was founded in 1884 by student Robert Fitzroy Bell. In 1889, the SRC voted to establish Edinburgh University Union (EUU), to be housed in Teviot Row House on Bristo Square. Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU) was founded in 1866, and Edinburgh University Women's Union (renamed the Chambers Street Union in 1964) in October 1905. The SRC, EUU and Chambers Street Union merged to form Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) on 1 July 1973.
During World War I, the Science and Medicine buildings had suffered from a lack of repairs or upgrades, which was exacerbated by an influx of students after the end of the war. In 1919, the university bought the land of West Mains Farm in the south of the city for the development of a new satellite campus specialising in the sciences. On 6 July 1920, King George V laid the foundation of the first new building (now called the Joseph Black Building), housing the Department of Chemistry. The campus was named King's Buildings in honour of George V.
New College on The Mound was originally opened in 1846 as a Free Church of Scotland college, later of the United Free Church of Scotland. Since the 1930s it has been the home of the School of Divinity. Prior to the 1929 reunion of the Church of Scotland, candidates for the ministry in the United Free Church studied at New College, whilst candidates for the Church of Scotland studied in the university's Faculty of Divinity. In 1935 the two institutions merged, with all operations moved to the New College site in Old Town. This freed up Old College for Edinburgh Law School.
The Polish School of Medicine was established in 1941 as a wartime academic initiative. While it was originally intended for students and doctors in the Polish Armed Forces in the West, civilians were also allowed to take the courses, which were taught in Polish and awarded Polish medical degrees. When the school was closed in 1949, 336 students had matriculated, of which 227 students graduated with the equivalent of an MBChB and a total of 19 doctors obtained a doctorate or MD. A bronze plaque commemorating the Polish School of Medicine is located in the Quadrangle of the old Medical School in Teviot Place.
On 10 May 1951, the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, founded in 1823 by William Dick, was reconstituted as the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and officially became part of the university. It achieved full faculty status as Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1964.
By the end of the 1950s, there were around 7,000 students matriculating annually, more than doubling the numbers from the turn of the century. The university addressed this partially through the redevelopment of George Square, demolishing much of the area's historic houses and erecting modern buildings such as 40 George Square, Appleton Tower and the Main Library.
On 1 August 1998, the Moray House Institute of Education, founded in 1848, merged with the University of Edinburgh, becoming its Faculty of Education. Following the internal restructuring of the university in 2002, Moray House became known as the Moray House School of Education. It was renamed the Moray House School of Education and Sport in August 2019.
In the 1990s it became apparent that the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh buildings in Lauriston Place were no longer adequate for a modern teaching hospital. Donald Dewar, the Scottish Secretary at the time, authorized a joint project between private finance, local authorities, and the university to create a modern hospital and medical campus in the Little France area of Edinburgh. The new campus was named the BioQuarter. The Chancellor's Building was opened on 12 August 2002 by Prince Philip, housing the new Edinburgh Medical School alongside the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. In 2007, the campus saw the addition of the Euan MacDonald Centre as a research centre for motor neuron diseases, which was part-funded by Scottish entrepreneur Euan MacDonald and his father Donald. In August 2010, author J. K. Rowling provided £10 million in funding to create the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, which was officially opened in October 2013. The Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) is a stem cell research centre dedicated to the development of regenerative treatments, which was opened in 2012. CRM is also home to applied scientists working with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and Roslin Cells.
In December 2002, the Edinburgh Cowgate Fire destroyed a number of university buildings, including some 3,000 m2 of the School of Informatics at 80 South Bridge. This was replaced with the Informatics Forum on Bristo Square, completed in July 2008. Also in 2002, the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre (ECRC) was opened on the Western General Hospital site. In 2007, the MRC Human Genetics Unit formed a partnership with the Centre for Genomic & Experimental Medicine and the ECRC to create the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (renamed the Institute of Genetics and Cancer in 2021) on the same site.
In April 2008, the Roslin Institute – an animal sciences research centre known for cloning Dolly the sheep – became part of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. In 2011, the School moved into a new £60 million building on the Easter Bush campus, which now houses research and teaching facilities, and a hospital for small and farm animals.
Edinburgh College of Art, founded in 1760, formally merged with the university's School of Arts, Culture and Environment on 1 August 2011. In 2014, the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute (ZJE) was founded as an international joint institute offering degrees in biomedical sciences, taught in English. The campus, located in Haining, Zhejiang Province, China, opened on 16 August 2016.
The university began hosting a Wikimedian in Residence in 2016. The residency was made into a full-time position in 2019, with the Wikimedian involved in teaching and learning activities within the scope of the University of Edinburgh WikiProject.
In 2018, the University of Edinburgh was a signatory in the landmark £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, with the UK and Scottish governments, six local authorities and all universities and colleges in the region. The university committed to delivering a range of economic benefits to the region through the Data-Driven Innovation initiative. In conjunction with Heriot-Watt University, the deal created five innovation hubs: the Bayes Centre, Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI), Usher Institute, Easter Bush, and one further hub based at Heriot-Watt, the National Robotarium. The deal also included creation of the Edinburgh International Data Facility, which performs high-speed data processing in a secure environment.
In September 2020, the university completed work on the new Richard Verney Health Centre at its central area campus on Bristo Square. The facility houses a health centre and pharmacy, and the university's disability and counselling services. The university's largest current expansion project is the conversion of some of the historic Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh buildings in Lauriston Place, which had been vacated in 2003 and partially developed into the Quartermile. The £120 million renovation and extension will provide space for the Edinburgh Futures Institute, an interdisciplinary hub linking arts, humanities, and social sciences with other disciplines in the research and teaching of "complex futures".
Edinburgh has a number of historical links to other universities, chiefly through its influential Medical School and its graduates, who established and developed institutions elsewhere in the world.
- College of William & Mary: the second-oldest college in the US was founded in 1693 by Edinburgh graduate James Blair, who served as the college's founding president for fifty years.
- Columbia University: had its Medical School founded by Samuel Bard, an Edinburgh medical graduate.
- Dalhousie University: Edinburgh alumnus George Ramsay, the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, wanted to establish a non-denominational college in Halifax open to all. The school was modelled after the University of Edinburgh, which students could attend regardless of religion or nationality.
- Dartmouth College: had its School of Medicine founded by Nathan Smith, an alumnus of Edinburgh Medical School.
- Harvard University: had its Medical School founded by three surgeons, one of whom was Benjamin Waterhouse, an alumnus of Edinburgh Medical School.
- McGill University: had its Faculty of Medicine founded by four physicians, which included Edinburgh alumni Andrew Fernando Holmes and John Stephenson.
- University of Pennsylvania: had its School of Medicine founded by Edinburgh graduate John Morgan, who modelled it after Edinburgh Medical School.
- Princeton University: had its academic syllabus and structure reformed along the lines of the University of Edinburgh and other Scottish universities by its sixth president John Witherspoon, an Edinburgh theology graduate.
- University of Sydney: founded in 1850 by Sir Charles Nicholson, a graduate of Edinburgh Medical School.
- Yale University: had its School of Medicine co-founded by Nathan Smith, an alumnus of Edinburgh Medical School.
Campuses and buildings
The university has five main sites in Edinburgh:
- Central Area
- King's Buildings
- Easter Bush
- Western General
The university is responsible for several significant historic and modern buildings across the city, including St Cecilia's Hall, Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall and the second oldest in use in the British Isles; Teviot Row House, the oldest purpose-built students' union building in the world; and the restored 17th-century Mylne's Court student residence at the head of the Royal Mile.
The Central Area is spread around numerous squares and streets in Edinburgh's Southside, with some buildings in Old Town. It is the university's oldest area, occupied primarily by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Informatics. The highest concentration of university buildings is around George Square, which includes 40 George Square, Appleton Tower, Main Library, and Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre, the area's largest lecture hall. Around nearby Bristo Square lie the Dugald Stewart Building, Informatics Forum, McEwan Hall, Potterrow Student Centre, Teviot Row House, and old Medical School, which still houses pre-clinical medical courses and biomedical sciences. The Pleasance, one of Edinburgh University Students' Association's main buildings, is located nearby, as is Edinburgh College of Art in Lauriston. North of George Square lies the university's Old College housing Edinburgh Law School, New College on The Mound housing the School of Divinity, and St Cecilia's Hall. Some of these buildings are used to host events during the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every summer.
Pollock Halls, adjoining Holyrood Park to the east, is the university's main residence halls for undergraduate students in their first year. The complex houses over 2,000 students during term time and consists of ten named buildings with communal green spaces between them. The two original buildings, St Leonard's Hall and Salisbury Green, were built in the 19th century, while the majority of Pollock Halls dates from the 1960s and early 2000s. Two of the older houses in Pollock Halls were demolished in 2002, and a new building, Chancellor's Court, has been built in their place and opened in 2003. Self-catered flats elsewhere account for the majority of university-provided accommodation. The area also includes the John McIntyre Conference Centre opened in 2009, which is the university's premier conference space.
The Holyrood campus, just off the Royal Mile, used to be the site for Moray House Institute for Education until it merged with the university on 1 August 1998. The university has since extended this campus. The buildings include redeveloped and extended Sports Science, Physical Education and Leisure Management facilities at St Leonard's Land linked to the Sports Institute in the Pleasance. The £80 million O'Shea Hall at Holyrood was named after the former Principal of the university Sir Timothy O'Shea and was opened by Princess Anne in 2017, providing a living and social environment for postgraduate students. The Outreach Centre, Institute for Academic Development (University Services Group), and Edinburgh Centre for Professional Legal Studies are also located at Holyrood.
The King's Buildings campus is located in the south of the city. Most of the Science and Engineering College's research and teaching activities take place at the campus, which occupies a 35-hectare site. It includes the Alexander Graham Bell Building (for mobile phones and digital communications systems), James Clerk Maxwell Building (the administrative and teaching centre of the School of Physics and Astronomy and School of Mathematics), Joseph Black Building (home to the School of Chemistry), Royal Observatory, Swann Building (the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology), Waddington Building (the Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh), William Rankine Building (School of Engineering's Institute for Infrastructure and Environment), and others. Until 2012, the KB campus was served by three libraries: Darwin Library, James Clerk Maxwell Library, and Robertson Engineering and Science Library. These were replaced by the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library opened for the academic year 2012/13. The campus also hosts the National e-Science Centre (NeSC), Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), Scottish Microelectronics Centre (SMC), and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC).
The BioQuarter campus, based in the Little France area, is home to the majority of medical facilities of the university, alongside the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The campus houses the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Chancellor's Building, Euan MacDonald Centre, and Queen's Medical Research Institute, which opened in 2005. The Chancellor's Building has two large lecture theatres and a medical library and is connected to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh by a series of corridors.
The Easter Bush campus, located seven miles south of the city, houses the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and Veterinary Oncology and Imaging Centre.
The Roslin Institute is an animal sciences research institute which is sponsored by BBSRC. The Institute won international fame in 1996, when its researchers Sir Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and their colleagues created Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. A year later Polly and Molly were cloned, both sheep contained a human gene.
The Western General campus, in proximity to the Western General Hospital, contains the Biomedical Research Facility, Edinburgh Clinical Research Facility, and Institute of Genetics and Cancer (formerly the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine).
Organisation and administration
In common with the other ancient universities of Scotland, and in contrast to nearly all other pre-1992 universities which are established by royal charters, the University of Edinburgh is constituted by the Universities (Scotland) Acts 1858 to 1966. These acts provide for three major bodies in the governance of the university: the University Court, the General Council, and the Senatus Academicus.
The University Court is the university's governing body and the legal persona of the university, chaired by the Rector and consisting of the Principal, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and of Assessors appointed by the Rector, Chancellor, Edinburgh Town Council, General Council, and Senatus Academicus. By the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889, it is a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and all property belonging to the university at the passing of the Act was vested in the Court. The present powers of the Court are further defined in the Universities (Scotland) Act 1966, including the administration and management of the university's revenue and property, the regulation of staff salaries, and the establishment and composition of committees of its own members or others.
The General Council consists of graduates, academic staff, current and former University Court members. It was established to ensure that graduates have a continuing voice in the management of the university. The Council is required to meet twice per year to consider matters affecting the wellbeing and prosperity of the university. The Universities (Scotland) Act 1966 gave the Council the power to consider draft ordinances and resolutions, to be presented with an annual report of the work and activities of the university, and to receive an audited financial statement. The Council elects the Chancellor of the university and three Assessors on the University Court.
The Senatus Academicus is the university's supreme academic body, chaired by the Principal and consisting of the professors, heads of departments, and a number of readers, lecturers and other teaching and research staff. The core function of the Senatus is to regulate and supervise the teaching and discipline of the university and to promote research. The Senatus elects four Assessors on the University Court. The Senatus meets three times per year, hosting a presentation and discussion session which is open to all members of staff at each meeting.
The university's three most significant officials are its Chancellor, Rector, and Principal, whose rights and responsibilities are largely derived from the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858.
The office of Chancellor serves as the titular head and highest office of the university. Their duties include conferring degrees and enhancing the profile and reputation of the university on national and global levels. The Chancellor is elected by the university's General Council, and a person generally remains in the office for life. Previous Chancellors include former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and novelist Sir J. M. Barrie. Princess Anne has held the position since March 2011 succeeding Prince Philip. She is also Patron of the university's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
The office of Rector is elected every three years by the staff and matriculated students. The primary role of the Rector is to preside at the University Court. The Rector also chairs meetings of the General Council in absence of the Chancellor. They work closely with students and Edinburgh University Students' Association. Previous Rectors include microbiologist Sir Alexander Fleming, and former Prime Ministers Sir Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. The current Rector is human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe, who has held the position since March 2021.
The Principal is responsible for the overall operation of the university in a chief executive role. The Principal is formally nominated by the Curators of Patronage and appointed by the University Court. They are the President of the Senatus Academicus and a member of the University Court ex officio. The Principal is also automatically appointed Vice-Chancellor, in which role they confer degrees on behalf of the Chancellor. Previous Principals include physicist Sir Edward Victor Appleton and religious philosopher Stewart Sutherland. The current Principal is nephrologist Peter Mathieson, who has held the position since February 2018.
Colleges and schools
In 2002, the university was reorganised from its nine faculties into three 'Colleges'. While technically not a collegiate university, it comprises the Colleges of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS), Science & Engineering (CSE) and Medicine & Vet Medicine (CMVM). Within these colleges are 'Schools', which either represent one academic discipline such as Informatics, or assemble adjacent academic disciplines such as the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. While bound by College-level policies, individual Schools can differ in their organisation and governance. As of 2021, the university has 21 schools in total.
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is the largest of the three colleges in the university. There are over 300 undergraduate, 200 taught postgraduate programmes, and about 2,200 research postgraduate students. In the 2014 REF, 12 out of 23 Units submitted by the college were ranked within the top 5 in the UK, with five Units – Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences, History, Social Policy & Social Work, and Sociology – were placed amongst the top 3. It includes the oldest English Literature department in Britain, which was ranked 7th worldwide in the 2021 QS Rankings by Subject in English Language & Literature. The college hosts Scotland's ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. The college is the largest of the three colleges by enrolment, with 26,130 students and 3,071 academic staff.
- Business School
- Edinburgh College of Art
- Edinburgh Law School
- Moray House School of Education and Sport
- School of Divinity
- School of Economics
- School of Health in Social Science
- School of History, Classics and Archaeology
- School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
- School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
- School of Social and Political Science
- The Centre for Open Learning
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Edinburgh Medical School was widely considered the best medical school in the English-speaking world throughout the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, and contributed significantly to the university's international reputation. The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a world leader in veterinary education, research and practice. The eight original faculties formed four Faculty Groups in August 1992. Medicine and Veterinary Medicine became one of these, and since 2002 became the smallest of the three colleges, with 7,740 students and 1,984 academic staff.
In the college’s submissions to the 2014 REF, Veterinary Medicine was ranked 1st in the UK, Medicine was ranked within the top 5, and Neuroscience was 3rd. Medicine at Edinburgh rated 1st in the 2022 Guardian University Guide and 4th in the 2021 Good University Guide nationally. Globally, Veterinary Science rated 4th, and Medicine 21st in the 2021 QS Rankings by Subject.
Science and Engineering
In the 16th century, science was taught as "natural philosophy" in the university. The 17th century saw the institution of the University Chairs of Mathematics and Botany, followed the next century by Chairs of Natural History, Astronomy, Chemistry and Agriculture. It was Edinburgh's professors who took a leading part in the formation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783. Joseph Black, Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the time, founded the world's first Chemical Society in 1785. The first named degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Science was instituted in 1864, and a separate Faculty of Science was created in 1893 after three centuries of scientific advances at Edinburgh. The Regius Chair in Engineering was established in 1868, and the Regius Chair in Geology in 1871. In 1991 the Faculty of Science was renamed the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and in 2002 it became the College of Science and Engineering. The college has 11,745 students and 2,838 academic staff.
Sub-units, centres and institutes
Some subunits, centres and institutes within the university are listed as follows:
- Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI)
- Centre for the History of the Book (CHB)
- Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM)
- Centre for the Study of World Christianity (CSWC)
- Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI)
- Digital Curation Centre (DCC)
- Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre (ECRC)
- Edinburgh Dental Institute (EDI)
- Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC)
- Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA)
- Euan MacDonald Centre
- Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH)
- International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS)
- Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI)
- Koestler Parapsychology Unit
- Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science (LFCS)
- MRC Human Genetics Unit (MRC HGU)
- Nursing Studies
- Roslin Institute
- Scottish Studies
- UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA)
The university is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, and the Sutton 13 of top-ranked universities in the UK. It is the only British university to be a member of both the Coimbra Group and the League of European Research Universities, and it is a founding member of Una Europa and Universitas 21, both international associations of research-intensive universities. The university maintains historically strong ties with the neighbouring Heriot-Watt University for teaching and research. Edinburgh also offers a wide range of free online MOOC courses on three global platforms Coursera, Edx and FutureLearn.
|Offer Rate (%)||50.6||45.7||43.7||41.8||39.2|
|Average Entry Tariff[b]||n/a||186||187||189||180|
In 2019, Edinburgh had the seventh-highest average entry standards amongst universities in the UK, with new undergraduates averaging 186 UCAS points, equivalent to just above AAAaa in A-level grades. It gave offers of admission to 52.3% of its 18 year old applicants in 2019, the fifth-lowest amongst the Russell Group.
As the number of places available for Scottish and EU students are capped by the Scottish Government since students do not pay tuition fees, students applying from the rest of the UK and outside the EU have a higher likelihood of an offer. Excluding courses within Edinburgh College of Art, the most competitive courses for Scottish/EU applicants in 2020 were International Relations, Oral Health Science, and Politics, Philosophy & Economics (PPE), with offer rates of 9%, 10% and 11%, respectively. In comparison, students from the rest of the UK have a 40% chance of receiving an offer for International Relations, while students from outside the EU have an 80% chance.
For the academic year 2019/20, 36.8% of Edinburgh's new undergraduates were privately educated, the second-highest proportion among mainstream British universities, behind only Oxford. As of August 2021, it has a higher proportion of female than male students with a male to female ratio of 38:62 in the undergraduate population, and the undergraduate student body is composed of 30% Scottish students, 32% from the rest of the UK, 10% from the EU, and 28% from outside the EU.
At graduation ceremonies, graduates are being 'capped' with the Geneva bonnet, which involves the university's Principal tapping them on the head with the cap while they receive their graduation certificate. The velvet-and-silk hat has been used for over 150 years, and legend says that it was originally made from cloth taken from the breeches of 16th-century scholars John Knox or George Buchanan. However, when the hat was last restored in the early 2000s, a label dated 1849 was discovered bearing the name of Edinburgh tailor Henry Banks, although some doubt remains whether he manufactured or restored the hat. In 2006, a university emblem that had been taken into space by astronaut and Edinburgh graduate Piers Sellers was incorporated into the Geneva bonnet.
Pre-dating the university by three years, Edinburgh University Library was founded in 1580 through the donation of a large collection by Clement Litill, and today is the largest academic library collection in Scotland. The eight-storey Main Library building in George Square was designed by Sir Basil Spence. At the time of its completion in 1967, it was the largest building of its type in the UK, and today is a category A listed building. The library system also includes many specialised libraries at the college and school level.
The university offers students the opportunity to study in Europe and beyond via the European Union's Erasmus+ programme[c] and a variety of international exchange agreements with around 300 partners institutions in nearly 40 countries worldwide.
University-wide exchanges are open to almost any student whose degree permits a year abroad and who can find a suitable course combination. The list of partner institutions is shown as follows:
- Erasmus+ exchange: University of Amsterdam, University of Copenhagen, University of Helsinki, Lund University, Sciences Po, University College Dublin, Uppsala University
- International exchange (part of)
- Asia-Pacific: University of Auckland, Fudan University, University of Hong Kong, University of Melbourne, Seoul National University, National University of Singapore
- Latin America: National Autonomous University of Mexico, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, University of São Paulo
- Northern America: University of California (except for Merced and San Francisco), Caltech, Georgetown University, Haverford College, McGill University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis
Subject-specific exchanges are open to students studying in particular schools or subject areas, including exchange programmes with Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, Dartmouth College, EPFL, ETH Zürich, HEC Paris, Karolinska Institute, Kyoto University, LMU Munich, Peking University, and others.
Rankings and reputation
|Times / Sunday Times (2022)||13|
In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Edinburgh ranked 4th by research power and 9th by GPA amongst British universities. The results also indicate that the university was home to over 35% of Scotland's 4* (world-leading) research. Edinburgh was ranked 13th overall in The Sunday Times 10-year average (1998–2007) ranking of British universities based on consistent league table performance.
In the 2015 THE Global Employability University Ranking, Edinburgh ranked 23rd in the world and 4th in the UK for graduate employability as voted by international recruiters. A 2015 government report found that Edinburgh was one of only two Scottish universities (along with St Andrews) that some London-based elite recruitment firms considered applicants from, especially in the field of financial services and investment banking. When The New York Times ranked universities based on the employability of graduates as evaluated by recruiters from top companies in 20 countries in 2012, Edinburgh was placed at 42nd in the world and 7th in Britain.
Edinburgh was ranked 26th in the world and 5th in the UK by the 2020 Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities, a league table based on the three major world university rankings, ARWU, QS and THE. In the 2021 U.S. News & World Report, Edinburgh ranked 30th globally and 5th nationally. The 2020 World Reputation Rankings placed Edinburgh at 31st worldwide and 6th nationwide. In 2021, it ranked 63rd amongst the universities around the world by the SCImago Institutions Rankings.
The noticeable disparity between Edinburgh's research capacity, endowment and international status on the one hand, and its ranking in national league tables on the other, is largely due to the impact of measures of 'student satisfaction'. Edinburgh was ranked last in the UK for teaching quality in the 2012 National Student Survey, with the 2015 Good University Guide stating that this stemmed from "questions to do with the promptness, usefulness and extent of academic feedback", and that the university "still has a long way to go to turn around a poor position". Edinburgh improved only marginally over the next years, with the 2021 Good University Guide still ranking it in the bottom 10 domestically in both teaching quality and student experience. Edinburgh was ranked 122nd out of 128 universities for student satisfaction in the 2022 Complete University Guide, although it was ranked 12th overall. The 2022 Guardian University Guide ranked Edinburgh 12th overall, but 101st out of 119 universities in course satisfaction, and lowest among all universities in satisfaction with feedback.
In the 2022 Complete University Guide, 32 out of the 49 (65.3%) subjects offered by Edinburgh rated amongst the top 10 nationally, with Asian Studies (4th), Chemical Engineering (4th), Education (2nd), Geology (5th), Linguistics (5th), Mechanical Engineering (5th), Medicine (5th), Music (5th), Nursing (1st), Physics & Astronomy (5th), Social Policy (5th), Theology & Religious Studies (4th), and Veterinary Medicine (2nd) within the top 5.
Globally, the 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject placed Edinburgh at 11th in Arts & Humanities, 24th in Life Sciences & Medicine, 43rd in Natural Sciences, 59th in Social Sciences & Management, and 75th in Engineering & Technology. The 2021 THE World University Rankings by Subject ranked Edinburgh 10th worldwide in Arts and Humanities, 15th in Law, 16th in Psychology, 21st in Clinical, Pre-clinical & Health, 22nd in Computer Science, 28th in Education, 28th in Life Science, 43rd in Business & Economics, 44th in Social Sciences, 45th in Physical Sciences, and 86th in Engineering & Technology. According to CSRanking, Edinburgh's computer science rated 33rd in the world and 1st in the UK, and Edinburgh was the best in natural language processing (NLP) in the world.
Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) consists of the students' union and the students' representative council. EUSA's buildings include Teviot Row House, The Pleasance, Potterrow Student Centre, Kings Buildings House, as well as shops, cafés and refectories across the various campuses. Teviot Row House is considered the oldest purpose-built student union building in the world. Most of these buildings are operated as Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues during August. EUSA represents students to the university and the wider world, and is responsible for over 250 student societies at the university. The association has five sabbatical office bearers – a president and four vice presidents. EUSA is affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS).
Amateur dramatic societies benefit from Edinburgh being an important cultural hub for comedy, amateur and fringe theatre throughout the UK, most prominently through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Edinburgh University Music Society (EUMS) is a student-run musical organisation, which is Scotland's oldest student’s musical society; it can be traced back to a concert in February 1867. It performs three concert series throughout the year whilst also undertaking a programme of charity events and education projects.
The Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC), founded in 1890 as the Edinburgh University Drama Society, is known for running Bedlam Theatre, the oldest student-run theatre in Britain and venue for the Fringe. EUTC also funds acclaimed improvisational comedy troupe The Improverts during term time and the Fringe. Alumni include Sir Michael Boyd, Ian Charleson, Kevin McKidd, and Greg Wise.
The Edinburgh Studio Opera (formerly Edinburgh University Opera Club) is a student opera company in Edinburgh. It performs at least one fully staged opera each year. The Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) is an opera and musical theatre company founded by students in 1961 to promote and perform the comic operettas of Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, collectively known as Savoy Operas after the theatre in which they were originally staged.
The Edinburgh University Footlights are a musical theatre company founded in 1989 and produce two large scale shows a year. Theatre Parodok, founded in 2004, is a student theatre company that aims to produce shows that are "experimental without being exclusive". They stage one large show each semester and one for the festival.
The Student is a fortnightly student newspaper. Founded in 1887 by writer Robert Louis Stevenson, it is the oldest student newspaper in the United Kingdom. Former writers of the newspaper include politicians Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, and David Steel. It has been independent of the university since 1992, but was forced to temporarily fold in 2002 due to increasing debts. The newspaper won a number of student newspaper awards in the years following its relaunch.
The Journal was an independent publication, established in 2007 by three students and former writers for The Student. It was also distributed to other higher education institutions in the city, such as Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, and Telford College. It was the largest such publication in Scotland, with a print run of 10,000 copies. Despite winning a number of awards for its journalism, the magazine folded in 2015 due to financial difficulties.
FreshAir, launched on 3 October 1992, is an alternative music student radio station. The station is one of the oldest surviving student radio stations in the UK, and won the "Student Radio Station of the Year" award at the annual Student Radio Awards in 2004.
In September 2015, the Edinburgh University Student Television (EUTV) became the newest addition to the student media scene at the university, producing a regular magazine-style programme, documentaries and other special events.
Student sport at Edinburgh consists of clubs covering the more traditional rugby, football, rowing and judo, to the more unconventional korfball and gliding. In 2021, the university had over 67 sports clubs run by Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU).
The Scottish Varsity, known as the "world's oldest varsity match", is a rugby match played annually against the University of St Andrews dating back over 150 years. Discontinued in the 1950s, the match was resurrected in 2011 and was staged in London at the home of London Scottish RFC. It is played at the beginning of the academic year, and since 2015 has been staged at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.
The Scottish Boat Race is an annual rowing race between the Glasgow University Boat Club and the Edinburgh University Boat Club, rowed between competing eights on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Started in 1877, it is believed to be the third-oldest university boat race in the world, predated by the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and the Harvard–Yale Regatta.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the university's alumni secured three gold medals won by cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, and a silver by rower Katherine Grainger. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the same athletes provided Edinburgh with the most gold medals of any UK university: two from Hoy and one from Grainger.
There are a number of campaigning societies at the university. The largest of these include the environment and poverty campaigning group People & Planet and Amnesty International Society. International development organisations include Edinburgh Global Partnerships, which was established as a student-led charity in 1990. There is also a significant left-wing presence on campus, including an anti-austerity group, Edinburgh University Anarchist Society, Edinburgh University Socialist Society, Edinburgh Young Greens, Feminist Society, Marxist Society, and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Protests, demonstrations and occupations are regular occurrences at the university. The activist group People & Planet took over Charles Stewart House in 2015 and again in 2016 in protest over the university's investment in companies active in arms manufacturing or fossil fuel extraction. In May 2015, a security guard was charged in relation to the occupations.
There are three student-run co-operatives on campus: Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, providing affordable housing for 106 students; The Hearty Squirrel Food Cooperative, providing 'local, organic and affordable food to students and staff'; and The SHRUB Coop, a 'swap and re-use hub' aimed at reducing waste and promoting sustainability. The co-operatives form part of the Students for Cooperation network.
The university is associated, through alumni and academic staff, with some of the most significant intellectual and scientific contributions in human history. As of August 2021[update], 19 Nobel laureates have been affiliated with the university as alumni, faculty members or researchers (three additional laureates acted as administrative staff), including one of the fathers of quantum mechanics Max Born, theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, chemist Sir Fraser Stoddart, immunologist Peter C. Doherty, economist Sir James Mirrlees, and pioneer in cryo-electron microscopy (Richard Henderson) and in-vitro fertilisation (Sir Robert Edwards). Turing Award laureates Robin Milner, Leslie Valiant and Geoffrey Hinton, and mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah, Fields Medalist and Abel Prize winner, are associated with the university.
The university is further associated with people whose contributions include: laying the foundations of antiseptic surgery (Joseph Lister), Bayesian statistics (Thomas Bayes), electromagnetism (James Clerk Maxwell), evolution (Charles Darwin), knot theory (Peter Guthrie Tait), mordern geology (James Hutton), nephrology (Richard Bright), thermodynamics (William Rankine), and wave theory (Thomas Young); the discovery of Brownian motion (Robert Brown), carbon dioxide, latent heat and specific heat (Joseph Black), chloroform anaesthesia (Sir James Young Simpson), Hepatitis B vaccine (Sir Kenneth Murray), Higgs mechanism (Sir Tom Kibble), HPV vaccine (Ian Frazer), nitrogen (Daniel Rutherford), and SARS coronavirus (Zhong Nanshan); and the invention of ATM (John Shepherd-Barron), diving chamber (John Scott Haldane), hypodermic syringe (Alexander Wood), kaleidoscope (Sir David Brewster), pneumatic tyre (John Boyd Dunlop), telephone (Alexander Graham Bell), telpherage (Fleeming Jenkin), and vacuum flask (Sir James Dewar).
Other notable alumni and academic staff of the university have included signatories to the US Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush, James Wilson and John Witherspoon, actor Ian Charleson, architects Robert Adam and William Henry Playfair, astronaut Piers Sellers, biologists Sir Richard Owen and Sir Ian Wilmut, composer Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, economists Thomas Chalmers and Adam Smith, historian Thomas Carlyle, journalist Laura Kuenssberg, judge Robert Reed, mathematicians Colin Maclaurin and John Playfair, philosophers Benjamin Constant, Adam Ferguson, David Hume and Dugald Stewart, physician William Cullen, pilot Eric Brown, surgeons James Barry and B. K. Misra, writers Sir J.M. Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Aeneas Francon Williams, former Chancellors of the Exchequer John Anderson and Henry Petty, former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir Michael Cullen, former Director General of MI5 Stella Rimington, former First Lord of the Admiralty Lord Melville, former acting First Minister of Scotland Jim Wallace, and Olympic gold medallists Bob Braithwaite, Katherine Grainger, Sir Chris Hoy and Eric Liddell.
Robert Adam, neoclassical architect
J. M. Barrie, novelist and playwright
James Barry, surgeon
Thomas Bayes, statistician
Joseph Black, physicist and chemist
Thomas Carlyle, historian and satirist
Thomas Chalmers, political economist
Charles Darwin, naturalist and biologist
Adam Ferguson, philosopher and historian
David Hume, philosopher
James Clerk Maxwell, mathematician and physicist
Walter Scott, novelist and poet
James Young Simpson, physician
Robert Louis Stevenson, novelist and poet
Dugald Stewart, philosopher and mathematician
John Witherspoon, Founding Father of the United States
Heads of state and government
Since 1695 the University of Edinburgh has awarded honorary degrees to over 2,900 individuals. The University of Edinburgh awards both honorary doctorate degrees (in all subjects including Medicine, Dental Surgery and Veterinary Medicine and Surgery) and honorary master's degrees.
In popular culture
The University of Edinburgh has appeared in a number of works of popular culture:
- In the 1959 science fiction movie Journey to the Center of the Earth, the main character is a Professor of Geology at the university, and an early scene is set in the central quadrangle of Old College.
- 1969 drama film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, starring Maggie Smith, is set in Edinburgh, with some scenes filmed on The Meadows.
- The 1981 historical movie Chariots of Fire is based on the story of runner and Edinburgh graduate Eric Liddell, and includes scenes filmed at New College. Liddell is played by Ian Charleson, also an Edinburgh alumni.
- The main character in Iain Banks' 1986 novel The Bridge is an Edinburgh graduate.
- In the 44 Scotland Street series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith (a former Professor of Medical Law at the university), Pat Macgregor – one of the main characters – studies Philosophy and English at Edinburgh.
- In the 2009 novel One Day, the lead characters are both Edinburgh graduates. A feature film based on the book, also titled One Day and starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, was released in August 2011. Some scenes were filmed at the university.
- The 2009–2011 BBC period legal drama Garrow's Law was largely filmed in Edinburgh, despite being set in London. A number of locations around the university are featured, most prominently Old College.
- The 2010 black comedy Burke & Hare, starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, is set in part at the university. True to the real story of the Burke and Hare murders, scenes were filmed in Edinburgh's old School of Anatomy.
- The 2011–2013 BBC crime drama Case Histories, based the novels by Kate Atkinson, filmed a number of scenes around Edinburgh's School of Informatics.
- In the 2017 historical crime novel The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh, the main character is one of the first women studying medicine at Edinburgh in the 1890s. The 2019 follow-up The Unquiet Heart revolves around the same character.
- The 2017–2019 thriller television series Clique focuses on two students at the university. The series was produced by BBC Three and shot largely on location in Edinburgh, including The Meadows, Old College, and Potterrow.
- The 2018 historical crime novel The Way of All Flesh by Christopher Brookmyre is set in 1847 Edinburgh. Its main character is a (fictional) medical student apprenticed to pioneering physician James Young Simpson. Both characters return in the 2020 novel The Art of Dying.
- The 2021 action movie Fast & Furious 9 featured parts of the university, with scenes in and around Old College filmed in September 2019.
- Academic dress of the University of Edinburgh
- Cameron Prize for Therapeutics of the University of Edinburgh
- Edinburgh University Press
- Edinburgh University Settlement
- Epistemics, a term for cognitive science coined in 1969 by the University of Edinburgh with the foundation of its School of Epistemics
- Gifford Lectures
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize
- List of early modern universities in Europe
- List of organisations with a British royal charter
- List of professorships at the University of Edinburgh
- Note that HESA numbers given here are significantly lower than those reported by the university, since HESA does not include non-graduating and visiting students, postgraduates writing up, and online learning students living abroad.
- New UCAS Tariff system from 2016.
- Note that following Brexit, the UK will no longer participate in the next Erasmus+ programme (2021–2027), but funding remains available for students to go abroad under the current programme until 31 May 2023.
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