University of Stirling

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University of Stirling
University of Stirling logo.jpg
Motto Innovation and Excellence
Type Public
Established 1967
Chancellor James Naughtie
Principal Gerry McCormac [1]
Chairman of the Court Fiona Sandford
Administrative staff
Students 11,100 (2014/15)[3]
Undergraduates 7,995 (2014/15)[3]
Postgraduates 3,105 (2014/15)[3]
Location Stirling, Scotland, UK
Colours      Malachite green
Affiliations Association of Commonwealth Universities

The University of Stirling is a UK research intensive campus university founded by Royal charter in 1967 in Stirling, Scotland. It is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world that are under 50 years old by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[4] In the most recent assessment of research in the UK, Research Excellence Framework, it was ranked 5th in Scotland for research and 40th in the UK.[5]

The University of Stirling is an international university with over 120 nationalities represented on campus. It has international degree programme partnerships in Singapore,[6] Oman and Vietnam.[7] The University also has campuses in Inverness and Stornoway.

The University of Stirling was the first new university to be established in Scotland for nearly 400 years.[8]

History and campus development[edit]

The original site of the campus was selected from a shortlist of competing sites that also included Dumfries, Inverness, Ayr, Falkirk, Perth and Cumbernauld. The report's author, Lord Robbins, was later appointed the University's first Chancellor in 1968.

The campus was originally designed by the Scottish architectural practice Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall in a low-rise, highly functional, modern style, envisaged to integrate with the contours of the surrounding landscape.[9]

Airthrey Castle, by Robert Adam

The main campus is situated around 2 miles (3.2 km) from the centre of Stirling, close to the town of Bridge of Allan, and is regularly described as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.[10]

The campus is set within 330 acres (1.3 km2) of grounds, nestled beneath the Ochil Hills on the site of the historic Airthrey estate which includes the Robert Adam-designed 18th century Airthrey Castle. The campus includes the Hermitage woods, Airthrey Loch,[11] Airthrey Golf Course[12] and a 50-metre swimming pool.[13]

In 2002, the University of Stirling and the landscape of the Airthrey Estate was designated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites as one of the top 20 heritage sites of the 20th century within the UK.[9]

Looking out over Airthrey Loch towards the University's Library and central administrative hub, the Cottrell Building.

The principal administrative and teaching facilities were originally housed in the Pathfoot Building, which was completed in 1968 and subsequently saw several extensions over the years, including a Tropical Aquarium in 1979 and a Virology unit in 1987.

In 1993 the Pathfoot Building was selected by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war era. It was also voted as one of Prospect's 100 best modern Scottish buildings.

In 1967 a house for the University Principal Dr Tom Cottrell was completed. Designed by the architects Morris and Steedman, it was listed as category A in 2009.[14] Pathfoot was later complemented by the Cottrell Building which began development in 1970 and houses numerous lecture theatres, departmental offices, classrooms and computer labs. The Cottrell Building was further enhanced with the completion of the Courtroom extension in 1998 and in 2008/09 the entire building underwent a façade recladding project.

The University Library and Andrew Miller Building were completed in 1971.[15] The Library holds over 500,000 volumes, over 9,000 journals and reopened in August 2010 after a major refurbishment programme.[9] The Andrew Miller Building incorporates an Atrium, which has several retail and food outlets including a bookstore, bank and general store.

The Atrium also acts as the principal hub for most day-to-day campus activities, due to its central location, linking together the Library and Robbins' Centre Students Union, as well as connecting bridges to both the Cottrell Building, on-campus student residences and the MacRobert Arts Centre. The centre is a small theatre and cinema complex open to members of the University community and the general public. Stirling has also developed a considerable fine art collection since 1967, comprising over 300 works including; paintings, tapestries and sculpture.[16]

A visit by Queen Elizabeth II [17] to the site in 1972 caused considerable controversy; student protests against the Queen's visit were vociferous and, in some cases, fuelled by alcohol, and the disturbances were widely condemned in the press and the local community, where students were refused access to buses and other facilities for a time.

As the University has continued to expand further development has taken place including the world-renowned Institute of Aquaculture which was opened by Princess Diana in 1982, the R.G. Bomont Building completed in 1998, the Iris Murdoch building opened in 2002 for The Dementia Services Development Centre, and the Colin Bell Building, completed in 2003 for the School of Applied Social Science.


Halls of residence

The University of Stirling offers almost 3,000 bed spaces spread over 20 properties located on and off campus.[18]

There are 2,000 residential bed spaces located on-campus, including 800 within brand new accommodation built as part of a £40m investment programme in student accommodation which was completed in September 2015. This was the largest capital development undertaken by the University since the creation of the campus in the 1960s.[19]

Halls of Residence located on-campus include:

  • Andrew Stewart Hall
  • Beech Court Flats & Studios
  • Fraser of Allander House
  • H H Donnelly House
  • Muirhead House
  • Polwarth House
  • Willow Court Flats & Studios
  • Juniper Court Flats & Studios
  • Union Street, Stirling

There are also other residential buildings located off-campus, within Stirling city centre, including Union Street and John Forty's Court.

Business links[edit]

The University has developed major industrial research links, with a large science park, Stirling University Innovation Park, located immediately adjacent to the main university campus. Innovation Park has grown since its initiation in 1993, and is now home to 40 companies engaging in various forms of research and development.[20]

The university also owns a highly successful International Conference Centre, Stirling Court Hotel, which is located on campus, and is a purpose built conference and management training centre and the first Conference Centre of Excellence in Scotland.[21]

The University is ranked 7th in the UK for graduate employability using new data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, with 96% of graduates in employment, or further study, within six months of graduating.[22]

Sport facilities[edit]

The headquarters of the sportscotland institute of sport opened on campus in 2002.

Stirling was designated as Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence by the Scottish Government in 2008.[23]

The University has a comprehensive range of sports facilities and is one of only sixteen universities in the UK with 5-star sports facilities.[24] The University has its own 9-hole golf course and driving range, Airthrey Golf Course,[12] a 50-metre swimming pool[13] completed in 2001 as part of the National Swimming Academy - a partnership between the University, Scottish Swimming and British Swimming.

The Gannochy National Tennis Centre on the University campus is recognised as a national centre of excellence,[25] and the campus also has an indoor 50-metre swimming pool, badminton and squash courts, a fitness centre, strength and conditioning centre, sports halls and all-weather playing fields available for student, staff and public use.

The campus has been selected as the headquarters for a number of sports agencies including the sportscotland institute of sport, Commonwealth Games Scotland, Scottish Swimming and triathlonscotland.

Falkirk FC opened a football academy on campus in 2008, and the Scottish Women's National Football Academy opened in 2009.

Scholarships are available in five core sports: football, golf, swimming, tennis and triathlon, which allow student athletes to prepare for international competition.[26]

Stirling University Rugby Football Club (SURFC) is a Rugby union club based at The University of Stirling. The Stirling Clansmen American Football team has brought several National championships to the school after a successful program was built by student, Russ Nehmer.[27] The football team is one of the most successful programs in the UK since 1998. Stirling University Boat Club (SUBC) is the rowing club based at the University.

The Highland and Western Isles campuses[edit]

As well as the main campus in Stirling, the University also has campuses in Inverness and Stornoway which specialise in Nursing and Midwifery. The Highland site is on the outskirts of Inverness and within the grounds of Raigmore Hospital. The site has purpose-built teaching facilities and student accommodation, recently benefiting from its relocation to the new Centre for Health Science, officially opened in January 2007.[28]

The Highland Health Sciences Library is also on this campus, and caters for both the students and staff of the University as well as the employees of NHS Highland and its associated Trusts.

The Western Isles campus is located in Stornoway and the teaching accommodation is an integral part of the recently built Western Isles Hospital. This is a small campus site which also has student accommodation within the environs of the Western Isles Hospital.


The university reorganised academically in January 2011 to 7 schools, incorporating 15 old departments. It has since added a Graduate School taking the number of Schools to 8:

  • School of Applied Social Science
  • School of Arts and Humanities
    • Department of English Studies
    • Department of Philosophy
    • Department of Film, Media & Journalism
    • School of History & Politics
    • School of Languages, Cultures and Religions
    • School of Law
  • School of Education
  • Stirling Management School
    • Accounting & Finance Division
    • Business & Organisation Division
    • Economics Division
    • Marketing Division
  • School of Natural Sciences
    • Institute of Aquaculture
    • School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
    • Department of Psychology
    • Department of Computing Science & Mathematics
  • School of Health Sciences
  • School of Sport
  • Stirling Graduate School

School of Applied Social Science[edit]

The school consists of four departments: Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, Social Work, Housing, and Dementia[29]

In 2013, the school nominated Dame Judi Dench for an honorary doctorate in recognition of her services to the arts and the role she has played in highlighting the school's Dementia Services Development Centre.[30]

School of Natural Sciences[edit]

The School has several accolades. The Institute of Aquaculture is the top rated aquaculture department in the United Kingdom[31] and the Computing Science department was ranked second in Scotland and tenth in the United Kingdom by the Guardian newspaper in 2012.[32]


Since its inception, Stirling has offered modular degree programmes allowing greater flexibility and choice. Stirling was the first United Kingdom university to introduce the system of two semesters rather than having three terms. The first semester lasts from mid-September to mid-December and the second from the beginning of January to the end of May.

There are now over 256 courses (including combination courses) at the undergraduate degree level. A wide variety of courses are also available at the postgraduate level.

Excellent teaching ratings for politics, accounting, finance, economics, sociology, religious studies, business studies, psychology and English language demonstrate Stirling's expertise in the arts and social sciences. Among the natural sciences, environmental science also achieved high ratings, its success reflected in the recently completed School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, with substantially refurbished facilities for both teaching and research. All but one of the subjects assessed for teaching quality were rated at least "highly satisfactory" and was ranked in the top ten in the UK for Teaching Assessment by The Times Higher Education Supplement.

The Philosophical Gourmet report ranks Stirlings' joint graduate philosophy programme with the University of St Andrews as second in the UK and joint 13th in the English-Speaking world.[33]


Among Stirling University's specialist research centres are: the Cancer Care Research Centre; Scottish Network for Economic Methodology; Institute of Aquaculture; Centre for European Neighbourhood Studies; Centre for Environmental History and Policy; Stirling Media Research Institute; Social Work Research Centre; Centre for Social Research on Dementia; Scottish Addiction Studies; Scottish Network for Chronic Pain Research Centre; Scottish Centre for Information on Language, Teaching and Research; Centre for Lifelong Learning; and Institute for Retail Studies. The IRS publishes The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research.

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 10 per cent of Stirling research was judged to be 'world leading' and a further three-quarters as 'internationally excellent' and 'internationally recognised'. The University was rated first in Scotland for Nursing and Midwifery; Education; Sports Studies; Communication, Cultural and Media Studies.

The University of Stirling's research publications database, STORRE, is a source of free, full-text access to the University's research outputs. STORRE holds a collection of research publications produced by University of Stirling authors and includes: journal articles, conference papers, book chapters and working papers. STORRE also holds all the University’s research theses in full-text from September 2006 onwards (PhDs and Masters by Research) plus a collection of selected older theses.[34]


Unlike the Ancient universities of Scotland, Stirling University's constitution is laid out in its Royal Charter, rather than the Universities (Scotland) Acts. The administrative structure is however broadly similar, with the University Court (governing and financial body) and the Academic Council (academic affairs) based upon the ancient model.[35] The University's constitution, academic regulations, and appointments are comprehensively outlined in the University calendar.[36] In 2009 the University reviewed its Charter and Statutes to amend the procedures for discipline of academic staff.

University Court[edit]

The governing body of the University is the University Court. It has overall responsibility for the management of the University's resources, the ongoing strategic direction of the University and the approval of major developments. It also receives regular reports from Executive Officers on the day-to-day operation of the University's business. The Court meets four times over the course of the academic year. Stirling's University Court has a number of well known members including James Naughtie and Alistair Moffat.

In May 2015 the University’s announced Fiona Sandford would be their new Chair of Court, taking up the post on 1 August 2015, for a period of four years.[37]

Academic Council[edit]

Academic Council is the body which is responsible for the management of academic affairs, awarding of all degrees, and for the regulation and superintendence of the education, discipline and welfare of the students of the University. While the Court has the final responsibility for governing the University, on academic matters it will normally only act on the recommendation of Academic Council. The Council consists of various academics and is chaired by the Principal of the university.

Committees and Executive Officers[edit]

There are also a number of committees supporting both the Court and Academic Council, that make important decisions and investigate matters referred to them. Day-to-day management of the University is undertaken by the University Principal (who is also Vice-Chancellor).

The role of Chancellor itself is largely honorific, the current Chancellor is James Naughtie. The current principal is Gerry McCormac,[38] and the current chairman of court is local businessman Alan Simpson.[39] There are also several Deputy Principals, each with a specific remit. They play a major role in the day-to-day management of the university.

Student life[edit]

Strling University students are represented by University of Stirling Students' Union[40] which was named "Best Students' Union in Scotland" by the Bar Entertainment and Dance Association in 2003.[41] It is based on-campus in the Robbins Centre Students' Union.

The union provides entertainment, welfare and information services to students and represents students interests to organisations including the University itself, which includes senior members being entitled to seats on the University Court.[42] It runs a variety of outlets including Studio and Underground and is affiliated to the National Union of Students.

The Union supports more than 60 clubs and societies. The Sports Union also supports 53 sports clubs ranging from athletics to water polo and American Football.[43]

Stirling University has student-run media services. Brig has been the campus newspaper since 1969. Air3 Radio, was the first campus radio station in Scotland (previously URA – University Radio Airthrey – now Air3 Radio), and AirTV (formerly Videoworks) is a television station for students, set up in 2002.

It also plays host to the largest student Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group in the country.

Reputation and rankings[edit]

(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2016, national)
The Guardian[48]
(2016, national)
Times/Sunday Times[49]
(2016, national)

The Sunday Times University Guide 2014 placed the university 51st in a list of 121 UK universities.

The university was ranked among the Top 10 Universities in the Times Higher Education Supplement Award for the UK's Best Student Experience 2006

In The Times Good University Guide (June 2006), Accounting and Finance was listed as one of the Top 20 university departments in the UK for Accounting and Finance – one of only four Scottish departments to make the Top 20

Stirling was named Scottish University of the Year 2009 by Sunday Times[50]

Notable academics and alumni[edit]








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  39. ^ "Alan Gordon Simpson". Stirling University. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 56°08′44″N 3°55′10″W / 56.1455°N 3.9195°W / 56.1455; -3.9195