The University of Edinburgh (abbreviated as Edin. in post-nominals), founded in 1582, is the sixth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university.
The University of Edinburgh is ranked 17th in the world by the 2013â"14 and 2014â"15 QS rankings. The Research Excellence Framework, a research ranking used by the UK government to determine future research funding, ranked Edinburgh 4th in the UK for research power. It is ranked 12th in the world in arts and humanities by the 2014â"15 Times Higher Education Ranking. It is ranked the 15th most employable university in the world by the 2013 Global Employability University Ranking. It is ranked as the 6th best university in Europe by the U.S. News' Best Global Universities Ranking. It is a member of both the Russell Group, and the League of European Research Universities, a consortium of 21 research universities in Europe. It has the third largest endowment of any university in the United Kingdom, after the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North. Alumni of the university include some of the major figures of modern history, including physicist James Clerk Maxwell, naturalist Charles Darwin, philosopher David Hume, mathematician Thomas Bayes, surgeon Joseph Lister, signatories of the American declaration of independence James Wilson, John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere, and a host of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie and Sir Walter Scott. Associated people include 20 Nobel Prize winners, 2 Turing Award winners, 1 Abel Prize winner, 1 Fields Medal winner, 1 Pulitzer Prize winner, 3 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, 2 currently-sitting UK Supreme Court Justices, and several Olympic gold medallists. It continues to have links to the British Royal Family, having had the Duke of Edinburgh as its Chancellor from 1953 to 2010 and Princess Anne since 2011.
Edinburgh receives approximately 47,000 applications every year, making it the third most popular university in the UK by volume of applicants. Entrance is competitive, with 2012â"2013 having an acceptance rate of 11.5% and offer rate of 38.6%. After St Andrews, it is the most difficult university to gain admission into in Scotland and, 9th overall in the UK.
Founded by the Edinburgh Town Council, the university began life as a college of law using part of a legacy left by Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney. Through efforts by the Town Council and Ministers of the City the institution broadened in scope and became formally established as a university by a Royal Charter, granted by James VI in 1582 after the petitioning of the Council. This was an unusual move at the time, as most universities were established through Papal bulls. Known as the "Tounis College", it was renamed King James's College in 1617. Instruction began in 1583 under the charge of a young St Andrews graduate Robert Rollock. It was the fourth Scottish university in a period when the much more populous and richer England had only two. By the 18th century Edinburgh was a leading centre of the European Enlightenment (see Scottish Enlightenment).
Before the building of Old College to plans by Robert Adam implemented after the Napoleonic Wars by the architect William Henry Playfair, the University of Edinburgh did not have 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 Old College, now the School of Law, situated on South Bridge. Its first forte in teaching was anatomy and the developing science of surgery, from which it expanded into many other subjects. From the basement of a nearby house ran the anatomy tunnel corridor. It went under what was then North College Street (now Chambers Street), and under the university buildings until it reached the university's anatomy lecture theatre, delivering bodies for dissection. It was from this tunnel that the body of William Burke was taken after he had been hanged.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Old College was becoming overcrowded and Robert Rowand Anderson was commissioned to design new Medical School premises in 1875. The medical school was more or less built to his design and was completed by the addition of the McEwan Hall in the 1880s.
The building now known as New College was originally built as a Free Church college in the 1840s and has been the home of divinity at the university since the 1920s.
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 restored 17th-century Mylne's Court student residence which stands at the head of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
The two oldest schools â" law and divinity â" are both well-esteemed in their respective subjects, with law being based in Old College and divinity in New College on the Mound. Students at the university are represented by Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA), which consists of the Students' Representative Council (SRC), founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell, the Edinburgh University Union (EUU) which was founded in 1889. They are also represented by the Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU) which was founded in 1866.
The medical school is renowned throughout the world. It was widely considered the best medical school in the English-speaking world throughout the 18th century and first half of the 19th century. (The first medical school in the United States was founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 1765 by Edinburgh alumni John Morgan and William Shippen). It is currently ranked 1st in the UK's most recent RAE.
On 1 August 2011, the Edinburgh College of Art (founded in 1760) merged with the University of Edinburgh. At a result of the merger, Edinburgh College of Art has combined with the universityâs School of Arts, Culture and Environment to form a new (enlarged) Edinburgh College of Art within the university.
All teaching is now done over two semesters (rather than 3 terms) â" bringing the timetables of different Schools into line with one another, and coming into line with many other large universities (in the US, and to an increasing degree in the UK as well).
In 2002 the university was reorganised from its nine faculties into three "colleges". While technically not a collegiate university, it now comprises the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), Science & Engineering (SCE) and Medicine & Vet Medicine (MVM). Within these colleges are "schools" â" roughly equivalent to the departments they succeeded; individual schools have a good degree of autonomy regarding their finances and internal organisation. This has brought a certain degree of uniformity (in terms of administration at least) across the university.
Colleges and schools
Humanities and Social Science
The College of Humanities and Social Science is the largest of the three Colleges in the University of Edinburgh. It has 11 Schools, 16,300 students and 1,460 staff. An advantage of its size is the very wide range of subjects and research specialisms. There are over 300 undergraduate and 200 taught postgraduate programmes. Its research strength, as affirmed in the 2008 RAE, has attracted over 1200 researchers. It includes the oldest English Literature department in Britain. It was ranked 12th in the world according to the Times Higher Education 2014â"15 Ranking. The college leads Scotland's Economic & Social Research Council Doctoral Training Centre (DTC): The Scottish Graduate School of Social Science is the biggest of 21 ESRC-accredited DTC's in the United Kingdom.
- Business School
- Edinburgh College of Art
- Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
- Moray House School of Education
- School of Divinity
- School of Economics
- School of Health in Social Science
- School of History, Classics and Archaeology
- School of Law
- School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
- School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
- School of Social and Political Science
- The Office of Lifelong Learning
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine has a long history as one of the best medical institutions in the world. In the last research assessment exercise, it was rated 1st in the UK for medical research submitted to the Hospital-based Clinical Subjects Panel. All of the work was rated at International level and 40% at the highest, "world-leading" level. The medical school is ranked 1st in Scotland and 3rd in the UK by The Times Good University Guide 2013, The Complete University Guide 2013 and The Guardian University Guide 2013.
Graduates of the University of Edinburgh Medical School have gone on to found 5 out of the 7 Ivy League medical schools, become US Senators, become Prime Minister of Canada, invent the hypodermic syringe, cure scurvy, discover carbon dioxide and isolate nitrogen, develop IV therapy, invent the decompression chamber, develop the oophorectomy, discover the SARS virus and develop in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Faculty of the University of Edinburgh Medical School have introduced antiseptic to sterilize surgical instruments, discovered chloroform anesthesia, discovered oxytocin, developed the Hepatitis B vaccine, co-founded Biogen, pioneered treatment for tuberculosis, discovered apoptosis and tyramine among others. The medical school is associated with 9 Nobel Prize winners, 8 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and 1 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
The eight original faculties formed four Faculty Groups in August 1992. Medicine and Veterinary Medicine became one of these, and in September 2002, became the smallest of three Colleges in the University.
- University of Edinburgh Medical School
- Royal School of Veterinary Studies
- School of Biomedical Sciences
- School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health
Science and Engineering
In the sixteenth century science was taught as 'natural philosophy'. The seventeenth 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. During the eighteenth century, the University was a key contributor to the Scottish Enlightenment and it educated many of the most notable scientists of the time. It was Edinburgh's professors who took a leading part in the formation of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783. In 1785, Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry and discoverer of carbon dioxide, founded the world's first Chemical Society. The nineteenth century was a time of huge advances in scientific thinking and technological development. The first named degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Science were 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.
- School of Biological Sciences
- School of Chemistry
- School of Engineering
- School of GeoSciences
- School of Informatics
- School of Mathematics
- School of Physics and Astronomy
As its topics of study have grown and diversified the university has expanded its campuses such that it now has six main sites:
The Central Area includes George Square, the Informatics Forum, The Dugald Stewart Building, Old College, New College, McEwan Hall, St Cecilia's Hall, Teviot Row House, the old Medical School buildings in Teviot Place, and surrounding streets in Edinburgh's Southside. It is the oldest region, occupied primarily by the College of Humanities and Social Science, and the Schools of Computing & Informatics and the School of Law, as well as the main university library. The Appleton Tower is also used for teaching first year undergraduates in science and engineering. Meanwhile, Teviot Place continues to house pre-clinical medical courses and biomedical sciences despite relocation of the Medical School to Little France. Nearby are the main EUSA buildings of Potterrow, Teviot and Pleasance. Old residents of George Square include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Some of these buildings are used to host events during the Edinburgh International Festival every summer. The main library (Edinburgh University Library) is also located at George Square. New College, overlooks Princes Street and only a short walk from Waverley Rail Station and other Edinburgh landmarks. The building is on the Mound, which houses the School of Divinity â" parts of which are also used by the Church of Scotland.
The King's Buildings (KB) is located further south of the city. Most of the Science and Engineering College's research and teaching activities take place at the King's Buildings, which occupy a 35 hectare site. It includes C H Waddington Building (the Centre for Systems Biology at Edinburgh), James Clerk Maxwell Building (the administrative and teaching centre of the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Mathematics), The Royal Observatory, William Rankine Building (School of Engineeringâs Institute for Infrastructure and Environment) and other schools' buildings. There were three libraries at KB: Darwin Library, James Clerk Maxwell Library and Robertson Engineering and Science Library. A new library called The Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library opened for the 2012/13 session as a replacement for the previous three libraries. It also houses National e-Science Centre (NeSC), Scottish Microelectronics Centre (SMC), Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), and the Scottish Institute for Enterprise.
Pollock Halls, adjoining Holyrood Park to the east, provides accommodation (mainly half board) for a minority of students in their first year. Two of the older houses in Pollock Halls were demolished in 2002 and a new building (Chancellor's Court) has been built in their place, leaving a total of ten buildings. Self-catered flats elsewhere account for the majority of university-provided accommodation. The area also includes a Â£9 million redeveloped John McIntyre Conference Centre, which is the University's premier conference space.
Little France, the Chancellor's Building, was opened on 12 August 2002 by The Duke of Edinburgh and houses the Â£40 million Medical School at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. It was a joint project between private finance, the local authorities and the University to create a large modern hospital, veterinary clinic and research institute. It has two large lecture theatres and a medical library. It is connected to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh by a series of corridors. Queen's Medical Research Institute was opened in 2005, and provides facilities for research into the understanding of common diseases.
The Easter Bush campus houses the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The Roslin Institute, Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education and The Veterinary Oncology and Imaging Centre. The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, founded in 1823 by William Dick, is a world leader in veterinary education, research and practice. The new Â£42 million, two storey, 11,500 square metre building opened in 2011. The Roslin Institute is an animal sciences research institute which is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The Institute won international fame in 1996, when Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and their colleagues created Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, at the institute. A year later Polly and Molly were cloned, both sheep contained a human gene.
Moray House School of Education, just off the Royal Mile, used to be the Moray House Institute for Education until this merged with the University in August 1998. The University has since extended Moray House's Holyrood site to include a redeveloped and extended major building housing Sports Science, Physical Education and Leisure Management facilities adjacent to its own Sports Institute in the Pleasance.
National Performance Centre
The university is currently bidding, along with Heriot Watt University to host Scotland's new National Performance Centre, to feature a full-sized indoor synthetic football pitch with seating for 1,000 spectators, badminton courts with 500 seats, as well as a beach volleyball court. As reported in The Scotsman, the Edinburgh bidders are willing to offer an extra Â£5m to invest in the stadium, bringing the total to Â£30m, with the winners to be announced in the summer of 2013. If successful, the Edinburgh facility would be based near to the Hearts training ground on the Riccarton university campus in the south-west.
Rankings and reputation
The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities and, along with Oxford and Cambridge, one of several British universities to be a member of both the Coimbra Group and the LERU (League of European Research Universities). The university is also a member of Universitas 21, an international association of research-led universities.
In the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework, the Edinburgh was ranked fourth in the UK and first in Scotland. The results also indicate that the university is home to over 35% of Scotlandâs 4* research. In 2008, the RAE rated the medicine and informatics 1st in the UK.
The QS World University Rankings 2015 ranked Edinburgh 17th in the world. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015 ranked Edinburgh 36th in the world. In 2015, the Academic Ranking of World Universities placed Edinburgh as 45th overall and 6th in the UK.
Despite its high international rankings, the University of Edinburgh was ranked bottom in the UK for teaching quality by its students in the 2012 National Student Survey. According to The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2015, "The university is trying to address undergraduatesâ concerns with a new personal tutor system and a peer support scheme...However, Edinburgh achieved an unwanted clean sweep of rock bottom rankings among universities in this guide in this yearâs National Student Survey (NSS) for questions to do with the promptness, usefulness and extent of academic feedback, suggesting the university still has a long way to go to turn around a poor position".
In the 2016 Complete University Guide, 19 out of the 50 subjects offered by Edinburgh rank within the top 10 nationally with Architecture, Chemical Engineering, East and South Asian Studies, Linguistics, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Social Policy and Veterinary Medicine occupying top 5 positions.
The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) consists of the unions and the Student Representative Council. The union buildings include Teviot Row House, Potterrow, Kings Buildings House, the Pleasance, and shops, cafÃ©s and refectories across the various campuses. Teviot Row House is claimed to be the oldest purpose-built student union building in the world. EUSA represents students to the university and the outside world. It is also responsible for over 250 student societies at the University. The association has four sabbatical office bearers â" a president and three vice presidents. The association is affiliated to the National Union of Students.
The city of Edinburgh is an important cultural hub for comedy, amateur and fringe theatre throughout the UK. Amateur dramatic societies at the University benefit from this, and especially from being based in the home of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC), founded in 1896 as the Edinburgh University Drama Society, is known for running Bedlam Theatre, the oldest student-run theatre in Britain. Bedlam Theatre is an award winning Edinburgh Fringe venue. The EUTC also fund and run acclaimed student improvised comedy troupe The Improverts during term time and fringe. Alumni include Ian Charleson, Michael Boyd, Kevin McKidd, and Greg Wise.
The Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) are an opera/musical theatre company founded by students in 1961 to promote and perform the comic operettas of William Gilbert and 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 2014, is a student theatre company that aims to produce shows that are "experimental without being exclusive". They produce a large show each semester and one for the festival.
The Student is a weekly Scottish newspaper produced by students at the University of Edinburgh. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest student newspaper in the United Kingdom.
The Journal is an independent publication, established in 2007 by three students at the University of Edinburgh, and also distributes to the four other higher education institutions in the city â" Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University and the Edinburgh College of Art. It is the largest such publication in Scotland, with a print run of 14,000 copies and is produced by students from across the city.
Fresh Air is an alternative music student radio station, one of the oldest surviving student radio stations in the UK. It was founded in October 1992.
Edinburgh University's student sport consists of 67 clubs from the traditional rugby, football, rowing and Judo to the more unconventional Korfball and gliding. Over 67 sports clubs are run by the Edinburgh University Sports Union.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the University of Edinburgh alumni and students secured four medals â" three gold and a silver. The three gold medals were won by the cyclist Chris Hoy and the silver was won by Katherine Grainger in rowing.
In the 2012 Summer Olympics Edinburgh University Alumni topped the UK University Medals table with three gold medals, 2 from cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and one from rower Katherine Grainger.
There are a number of campaigning societies at the university. One of the largest of these is environment and poverty campaigning group People & Planet. 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 active anti-cuts group, an anarchist society, Edinburgh University Socialist Society, Marxist Society, feminist society, Young Greens, a Students for Justice in Palestine group, and the Edinburgh University Conservative and Unionist Association. Protests, demonstrations and occupations are a regular occurrence at the university.
There are three student-run co-operatives on campus: Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, providing affordable housing for over 100 students; The Hearty Squirrel Food Cooperative, selling 'healthy, local, ethical, organic and Fairtrade' food; and the SHRUB Co-op, 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 Edinburgh University Library pre-dates the university by three years. Founded in 1580 through the donation of a large collection by Clement Littill, its collection has grown to become the largest university library in Scotland with over 2.5 million volumes. These are housed in the main University Library building in George Square â" one of the largest academic library buildings in Europe, designed by Basil Spence
The library system also includes an extensive number of faculty and collegiate libraries.
Notable alumni and academic staff
The university is associated, through alumni and academic staff, with some of the most significant intellectual and scientific contributions in human history, including laying the foundations of Bayesian statistics (Thomas Bayes), quantum mechanics (Max Born), nephrology (Richard Bright), the theory of evolution (Charles Darwin), the initial development of sociology (Adam Ferguson), modern geology (James Hutton), antiseptic surgery (Joseph Lister), classical theory of electromagnetism (James Clerk Maxwell) and thermodynamics (William John Macquorn Rankine); the discovery of carbon dioxide (Joseph Black), latent heat (Joseph Black), specific heat (Joseph Black), the HPV vaccine (Ian Frazer), the Higgs mechanism (Peter Higgs), the Hepatitis B vaccine (Kenneth Murray), nitrogen (Daniel Rutherford), chloroform anaesthesia (James Young Simpson) and SARS (Nanshan Zhong); and the inventing of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell), the hypodermic syringe (Alexander Wood), the kaleidoscope (David Brewster), the telpherage (Fleeming Jenkin), the vacuum flask (James Dewar), the ATM (John Shepherd-Barron), the diving chamber (John Scott Haldane), and in-vitro fertilisation (Robert Edwards).
Other alumni and academic staff of the university have included signatories to the US Declaration of Independence James Wilson, John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell (the latter matriculated at Edinburgh, but did not graduate), astronaut Piers Sellers, engineers Alexander Graham Bell and William Rankine, biologist Ian Wilmut, physicists Sir David Brewster, John Robison, Tom Kibble and Peter Guthrie Tait, writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Sir Walter Scott and Alistair Moffat, economists Kenneth E. Boulding, James Mirrlees and John Hardman Moore, historian Sir Tom Devine, actor Ian Charleson, composers Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, and William Wordsworth, chemists William Henry, David Leigh, Guy Lloyd-Jones and Alexander R. Todd, botanist Robert Brown, surgeon James Barry, mathematician Colin Maclaurin, polymath Thomas Young, philosopher David Hume, geologist James Hutton, former BP CEO Tony Hayward, former director general of MI5 Stella Rimington, theologians John Dickie and Robert Preus, mathematician and president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Michael Atiyah, and former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Anderson.
At graduation ceremonies, the Vice-Chancellor caps graduates with the Geneva Bonnet, a hat which legend says was originally made from cloth taken from the breeches of John Knox or George Buchanan. The hat was last restored in 2000, when a note from 1849 was discovered in the fabric. In 2006, a University emblem taken into space by Piers Sellers was incorporated into the Geneva Bonnet.
Heads of state and government
- Harvard University, an American Ivy League university, had its medical school founded by three surgeons, one of whom was Benjamin Waterhouse, an alumnus of Edinburgh Medical School.
- Dalhousie University, Canadian U15 university, founded in 1818. In the early 19th century, George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor at the time, wanted to establish a Halifax college open to all, regardless of class or creed. The earl modeled the fledgling college after the University of Edinburgh, near his Scottish home.
- McGill University, Canadian U15 university, founded in 1821, has strong Edinburgh roots and links to the University of Edinburgh as McGill's first (and, for several years, its only) faculty, Medicine, was founded by four physicians/surgeons, including Andrew Fernando Holmes, who had trained in Edinburgh.
- University of Pennsylvania, an American Ivy League university, has long-standing historical links with the University of Edinburgh, Penn's School of Medicine was founded by John Morgan, an Edinburgh medical graduate and was modeled after Edinburgh Medical School.
- Princeton University, an American Ivy League 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.
- The College of William & Mary, the second-oldest university in the USA, was founded by Edinburgh graduate James Blair, who served as the College's founding president for fifty years.
- Columbia University, an American Ivy League university, has a medical exchange between Columbia P&S and Edinburgh Medical School. In addition, its medical school was founded by Samuel Bard, an Edinburgh medical graduate.
- University of Sydney, the first Australian university, was founded by Charles Nicholson, a physician and graduate of the University of Edinburgh Medical School
- Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh
- Rector of the University of Edinburgh
- Edinburgh University Press
- Gifford Lectures
- University of Edinburgh Medical School
- Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize
- List of early modern universities in Europe
- Edinburgh University Settlement
Notes and references
- The University of Edinburgh
- Edinburgh University Students' Association
- Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA), online collection of papers