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Encyclopedia > Edinburgh University

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1583 as a renowned centre for teaching in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is one of the ancient universities of Scotland and is amongst the largest in the United Kingdom. It is considered to be amongst the most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of large, research-led British universities. It is also the only Scottish university (and the only British university apart from Oxford and Cambridge) to be a member of both the Coimbra Group and the LERU: two associations of leading European universities. In 2003 Edinburgh became the first Scottish university to be awarded Fairtrade status.



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 Charters. 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 and one of the continent's principal universities.

Before the building of Old College designed by Robert Adam, 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 too cramped and so Robert Rowand Anderson was commissioned to design a new Medical School premise in 1875. The medical school was more or less built to his design and was completed by the addition of the awe inspiring 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 - the largest academic library building in Europe - 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 the Edinburgh University Students' Association, EUSA, comprising Edinburgh University Union (EUU) which was founded in 1889 and the Student Representative Council (SRC), founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell. Edinburgh University also boasts a student newspaper (Student) founded by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1887.


Edinburgh is one of the greenest and most architecturally beautiful cities in Europe often referred to as the "Athens of the North". The University plays an integral part of the city contributing to its vibrant atmosphere. With the expansion in topics of study the university has expanded its campus such that it now has seven main sites:

  • George Square and surrounding streets in the southern central area of the city is the oldest region, occupied primarily by the schools of art, social science, medicine and law. It is also used for teaching first year undergraduates in science and engineering. Nearby are the main EUSA buildings of Potterrow, Teviot Row House (the oldest custom-built students union in the country) and the Pleasance Societies Centre.
  • The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at Summerhall, at the East end of The Meadows. This houses Veterinary Medicine.
  • The Kings Buildings, further south, houses most of the Science schools including a Biology faculty that is a world leader in genetics. The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) also has a presence on campus.
  • The Faculty of Divinity on the Mound, parts of which are also used by the Church of Scotland.
  • Moray House just off the Royal Mile, used to be the Moray House Institute for Education until that was acquired by the University around 1998. The University has since extended it and agglomerated it with its own Sports Institute along with a large new building to house the expanding Institutes. The Moray House campus is being amalgamated with the George Square campus through simple ownership of much of the intervening land.
  • The Ł40 million Medical School at the New Royal Infimary in Little France, in the southeast of the city, was opened by the university's chancellor HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 2002 as 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).
  • Pollock Halls, adjoining Holyrood Park to the east, provides accommodation (mainly half board) for 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. Most other students in the city live in private flats in the Marchmont, Newington, Bruntsfield, Mayfield and Leith areas, although some university-owned flats are also available there.

Alumni and Faculty

The University has had many famous alumni, including:





Hume and Maxwell both applied for teaching posts at the university, which refused to employ either.

See also

External Links

  • University of Edinburgh (http://www.ed.ac.uk/)
  • Coimbra Group (http://www.coimbra-group.be) (a network of leading European universities)
  • Edinburgh University Student's Association (http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/)
  • Student newspaper (http://www.studentnewspaper.org/)
  • Edinburgh University historical tour (http://www.ed.ac.uk/history/)

Coimbra Group
(of European research universities)
Aarhus | Barcelona | Bergen | Bologna | Bristol | Budapest | Cambridge | Coimbra | Dublin | Edinburgh | Galway | Geneva | Göttingen | Granada | Graz | Groningen | Heidelberg | Jena | Kraków | Leiden | Leuven | Louvain | Lyon | Montpellier | Oxford | Padua | Pavia | Poitiers | Prague | Salamanca | Siena | Tartu | Thessaloniki | Turku I | Turku II | Uppsala | Würzburg

League of European Research Universities

Cambridge | Edinburgh | Geneva | Heidelberg | Helsinki | Karolinska (Stockholm) | Leiden | Leuven | | Milan | Munich | Oxford | Strasbourg I (Louis Pasteur)

The Universitas 21 network of universities

Australia: University of Melbourne | University of New South Wales | University of Queensland | Canada: University of British Columbia | McGill University | PR China: Fudan University (Shanghai) | Peking University | Germany: Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong | New Zealand: University of Auckland | Singapore: National University of Singapore | Sweden: Lund University | United Kingdom: University of Birmingham | University of Edinburgh | University of Glasgow | University of Nottingham | USA: University of Virginia

  Results from FactBites:
Edinburgh, University of (196 words)
The University of Edinburgh is committed to giving you the very best educational experience possible, and that commitment is reflected in every aspect of student life, here at the heart of Scotland's capital.
In 2005, Edinburgh University was named the Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year and were described by the paper as "a model of broad and consistent excellence set in one of the world's most cosmopolitan and vibrant cities".
Above all, however, the University of Edinburgh thrive on their reputation of excellence and innovation and take pride in maintaining their key position at the forefront of research, and advancements in teaching.
Edinburgh University - definition of Edinburgh University in Encyclopedia (1099 words)
It is one of the ancient universities of Scotland and is amongst the largest in the United Kingdom.
The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of large, research-led British universities.
Students at the university are represented by the Edinburgh University Students' Association, EUSA, comprising Edinburgh University Union (EUU) which was founded in 1889 and the Student Representative Council (SRC), founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell.
  More results at FactBites »



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