Edinburgh University

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The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 [1], the sixth university to be established in the British Isles, with an endowment from the will of Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney who died in 1558.

The University was established by a Royal Charter granted by King James VI in 1582, becoming the fourth Scottish university when England had just two. The following year, it was funded by the Town Council (becoming known as the "Tounis College") making it the first civic university. In the 18th century, Edinburgh was a leading centre of the European Enlightenment and the University became one of Europe's most prominent universities. (See also Scottish Enlightenment). The university's oldest building is the Old College, (now the School of Law) on South Bridge; Robert Adam's original design was implemented after the Napoleonic Wars by the architect William Henry Playfair. In 1875, Robert Rowand Anderson was commissioned to design a new Medical School, completed by the addition of the McEwan Hall in the 1880s.

The university is now amongst the largest in the UK, with about 20,000 students.[2]. It has the third largest financial endowment of UK universities at £216m [3] and an annual turnover of more than £400m.[4]

Old College

Robert Adam designed the building now the "Old College", but he died in 1792 before the building was complete. The foundation stone was laid in 1789. He designed a double quadrangle, but only the east front to South Bridge and the north-west corner were built. Robert Adam's stone entry arches onto South Bridge, complete with monolithic Roman Doric columns, use the largest single pieces of sandstone ever cut from Craigleith Quarry, North Edinburgh. After his death, his brothers, James and William, supervised the building work carried out in the 1790's. Between 1817 and 1840, William Playfair was responsible for the major remaining part, including the terrace with the flights of steps, the Natural History Museum, now the Talbot Rice Gallery and the Playfair Library Hall.

Robert Adam's original designs for Old College, included a dome. Playfair used a design by Robert Rowand Anderson for the dome designs but it wasn't built until finance was in place in 1883. The dome is now a key element of Edinburgh's skyline. The sculptor John Hutchison was responsible for the bronze statue 'Youth bearing a Torch of Knowledge'.

Academic reputation

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 (along with Oxford and Cambridge) one of the only British universities, to be a member both of the Coimbra Group and the LERU, two leading associations of European universities. The University is also a member of Universitas 21, an international association of research-led universities.

How Universities are ranked in comparison to each other varies considerably depending on what weightings are given to different aspects of their performance. Edinburgh University is consistently ranked as the leading University in Scotland; in 2005, for example, the Sunday Times named Edinburgh as its Scottish University of the Year, describing it as "a model of broad and consistent excellence set in one of the world's most cosmopolitan and vibrant cities". Edinburgh is consistently ranked within the top 5-10 Universities in the UK as a whole, consistently behind only two, Oxford and Cambridge. Thus, for example, The Guardian University Guide 2008 ranked the University as 7th in the UK overall, and 1st for computer science and for physics and 2nd for medicine and for veterinary science[5]

Internationally, Edinburgh also ranks high in some surveys, although these may be regarded as biased towards English-speaking Universities. In 2006 Newsweek ranked the University 6th in the UK, 11th in Europe and 47th in the world.[6] In 2007, the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Edinburgh as 23rd in the world, 5th in the UK, and 5th in Europe [7] The Academic Ranking of World Universities 2007 ranked the University 6th in the UK, 11th in Europe, and 53rd in the world[8]

Contact Details

The University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK

Telephone: +44 (0)131 650 1000; FAX: +44 (0)131 650 2147

E-mail: communications.office@ed.ac.uk; Web address: http://www.ed.ac.uk

Campus maps and travel directions are [2]

Colleges and Schools

In 2002 the University was re-organised into three ‘Colleges’,

  • the College of Humanities and Social Science
  • the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
  • the College of Science and Engineering

Within these Colleges are 21 ‘Schools’, of roughly equal sizes.

Student organisations

Students at the university are represented by Edinburgh University Students' Association, which consists of the Students' Representative Council, founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell, and the Edinburgh University Union, founded in 1889.

  • Edinburgh Student Newspaper, a weekly newspaper produced by students, was founded in 1887 by Robert Louis Stevenson and is the oldest student newspaper in the UK. It won the title of Best Student Newspaper in Scotland, awarded by the (Glasgow) Herald Student Press Awards, in 2006 and 2007.