St Salvator's College of the University of St Andrews, built in 1450

There are fifteen universities based in Scotland, the Open University, and three other institutions of higher education.[1][2]

The first university in Scotland was St John's College, St Andrews, founded in 1418.[3] St Salvator's College was added to St. Andrews in 1450. The other great bishoprics followed, with the University of Glasgow being founded in 1451 and King's College, Aberdeen in 1495.[4] St Leonard's College was founded in Aberdeen in 1511 and St John's College was re-founded in 1538 as St Mary's College, St Andrews.[5] Public lectures that were established in Edinburgh in the 1540s would eventually become the University of Edinburgh in 1582.[6] In 1641, the two colleges at Aberdeen were united by decree of Charles I (r. 1625–49), to form the ‘King Charles University of Aberdeen’.[7] They were demerged after the Restoration in 1661.[7] In 1747 St Leonard's College in St Andrews was merged into St Salvator's College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard.[8] A new college of St Andrews was opened in Dundee in 1883, though initially an independent institution.[9] The two colleges at Aberdeen were considered too small to be viable and they were restructured as the University of Aberdeen in 1860. Marischal College was rebuilt in the Gothic style from 1900.[10] The University of Edinburgh was taken out of the care of the city and established on a similar basis to the other ancient universities.[10]

After the Robbins Report of 1963 there was a rapid expansion in higher education in Scotland.[11][12] By the end of the decade the number of Scottish Universities had doubled.[13] New universities included the University of Dundee, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, and Stirling. From the 1970s the government preferred to expand higher education in the non-university sector and by the late 1980s roughly half of students in higher education were in colleges.[citation needed] In 1992, the distinction between universities and polytechnic colleges/Central institutions was removed.[14] This created new universities at Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian, Napier, Paisley and Robert Gordon.[15] in 2001 the University of the Highlands and Islands was created by a federation of 13 colleges and research institutions in the Highlands and Islands and gained full university status in 2011.[2]

University Image Location University grouping Year of university status Total HE students (2021/22)[16] Academic staff (2021/22)[17] Motto Notes
University of St Andrews The 15th-century St Salvator's Chapel in the winter sun St Andrews, Fife Ancient university 1413
(foundation 1410)[8]
11,820 1,355 ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ
Ever to excel
University status conferred on 28 August 1413 by a papal bull of Pope Benedict XIII.[8]
University of Glasgow Glasgow Ancient university 1451[18] 42,980 5,255 Via, Veritas, Vita
The way, the truth, and the life
University status conferred on 7 January 1451 by a papal bull of Pope Nicholas V.[19]
University of Aberdeen King's College, Aberdeen – – 108991 Aberdeen Ancient university 1495 16,565 1,620 Initium sapientiae timor domini
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord

Established as King's College, Aberdeen in 1495 by a papal bull of Pope Alexander VI, and in 1860 merged with Marischal College (established 1593 as Aberdeen's second university), explicitly maintaining the date of foundation of King's College.[20]

University of Edinburgh Edinburgh Ancient university 1582 41,250 7,725 Nec temere, nec timide
"Neither rashly nor timidly"
Established as the ‘Tounis College’ in 1582, after James VI of Scotland granted the Edinburgh Town Council a royal charter to establish a college on 14 April 1582.[21]
University of Strathclyde University of Strathclyde Campus, Glasgow Glasgow Chartered university 1964
(foundation 1796)
25,715 1,930 The Place of Useful Learning The Royal College of Science and Technology was granted university status by royal charter in 1964, although the precursor Anderson Institute can be traced back to 1796 and the name Anderson's University was used between 1828 and 1887.
Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh Chartered university 1966
(foundation 1821)
11,680 865 Heriot-Watt College was granted university status by royal charter in 1966, although the precursor School of Arts of Edinburgh was established in 1821.
University of Dundee Dundee Chartered university 1967
(foundation 1881)
18,100 1,445 Magnificat Anima Mea Dominum
My soul glorifies the Lord
First established (1881) as University College, then Queen's College under the University of St. Andrews, until establishment as an independent university in 1967.
University of Stirling Stirling Chartered university 1967 15,530 990 Innovation and Excellence Planned as part of the Robbins Report of 1963, and constructed at a greenfield site on the estate of Airthrey Castle.
Edinburgh Napier University Napier University Merchiston Campus Edinburgh Modern university 1992
(foundation 1964)
15,530 890 Nisi Sapientia Frustra
Without knowledge all is in vain
First established 1964 as Napier Technical College.
Robert Gordon University Aberdeen Modern university 1992
(foundation 1750)
14,970 640 Omni Nunc Arte Magistra
Now by all your mastered arts
First established 1750 as Robert Gordon's Hospital.
Glasgow Caledonian University Glasgow Modern university 1993
(foundation 1875)
20,050 790 For the Common Weal
For the common good
The university traces its origin to The Queen's College, Glasgow (founded 1875) and the Glasgow Polytechnic (founded 1971).
Abertay University Library, University of Abertay, Dundee – – 1154390 Dundee Modern university 1994
(foundation 1888)
4,790 225 Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam.

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom.

First established in 1888 as Dundee College of Technology.
Queen Margaret University Musselburgh, East Lothian Modern university 2007
(foundation 1875)
6,250 300 First established 1875 as The Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy. Moved to a new campus in Musselburgh in 2007-8.
University of the West of Scotland Paisley, Hamilton, Dumfries and Ayr Modern university 2007
(foundation 1836)
20,070 655 Doctrina Prosperitas
Success comes through learning
First established 1836 as a School of Arts, then in 1992 as the University of Paisley, and re-formed in 2007 following a merger with Bell College.
University of the Highlands and Islands Executive Offices of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness Highlands,
Western Isles
and Northern Isles
Modern university 2011
(foundation 2001)
10,005 95 Foghlam aig ìre Oilthigh air a' Ghàidhealtachd is anns na h-Eileanan
University-level study in the Highlands and Islands
A federation of colleges, planned from 1992 onwards and first established in 2001 as the UHI Millennium Institute[22] and awarded full university status in February 2011. The central administration and largest college is in Inverness.[23]

See also


  1. ^ "Briefing". Universities Scotland. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b "UHI is awarded taught degree awarding powers, news release 26 June 2008, Highland Council website". Government of the United Kingdom. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  3. ^ P. Daileader, "Local experiences of the Great Western Schism", in J. Rollo-Koster and T. M. Izbicki, eds, A Companion to the Great Western Schism (1378–1417) (BRILL, 2009), ISBN 9004162771, p. 119.
  4. ^ J. Durkan, "Universities: to 1720", in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 610–12.
  5. ^ J. E. A. Dawson, Scotland Re-Formed, 1488–1587 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), ISBN 0748614559, p. 187.
  6. ^ A. Thomas, "The Renaissance", in T. M. Devine and J. Wormald, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), ISBN 0-19-162433-0, pp. 196–7.
  7. ^ a b D. Ditchburn, "Educating the Elite: Aberdeen and Its Universities”, in E. P. Dennison, D. Ditchburn and M. Lynch, eds, Aberdeen Before 1800: A New History (Dundurn, 2002), ISBN 1862321140, p. 332.
  8. ^ a b c "The Mediaeval University" (PDF). University of St Andrews. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  9. ^ R. D. Anderson, "Universities: 2. 1720–1960", in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 612–14.
  10. ^ a b O. Checkland and S. G. Checkland, Industry and Ethos: Scotland, 1832–1914 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989), ISBN 0748601023, pp. 147–50.
  11. ^ Gibney, Elizabeth (23 October 2013). "Robbins: 50 years later". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  12. ^ Gillard, Derek. "Robbins Report 1963 – extras". Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  13. ^ Bryce, T. G. K.; Humes, Walter M. (1 January 2003). Scottish Education: Post-devolution. Edinburgh University Press. p. 678. ISBN 9780748616251.
  14. ^ L. Paterson, "Universities: 3. post-Robbins", in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 614–5.
  15. ^ R. Shaw, "Institutional and curricular structures in the universities of Scotland" in T. G. K. Bryce and W. M. Humes, eds, Scottish Education: Post-Devolution (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2nd edn., 2003), ISBN 0-7486-1625-X, pp. 664–5.
  16. ^ "Where do HE students study? | HESA".
  17. ^ "Who's working in HE?".
  18. ^ "History". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  19. ^ "On This Day: 7th of January". The University of Glasgow Story. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  20. ^ "Universities (Scotland) Act 1858" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 27 August 2017. The University and King's College of Aberdeen, and Marischal College and University of Aberdeen shall be united and incorporated into one University and college, in all time coming, under the style and title of the "University of Aberdeen"; and the said united University shall take rank among the Universities of Scotland as from the date of erection of King's College and University, viz., the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-four; and all the funds, properties, and revenues now pertaining or belonging in any manner of way to the University and King's College, or to Marischal College and University, shall in time coming pertain and belong to the University of Aberdeen.
  21. ^ MacGregor, Geddes (1990). Scotland: An Intimate Portrait. Mariner Books. ISBN 0395562368.
  22. ^ "History of UHI". University of the Highlands and Islands. Archived from the original on 20 June 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  23. ^ "Introducing the University of the Highlands and Islands". University of the Highlands and Islands. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.