Universities in Scotland

Universities in Scotland includes all universities and university colleges in Scotland, founded between the fifteenth century and the present day.

The first university college in Scotland was founded at St John's College, St Andrews in 1418 by Henry Wardlaw, bishop of St. Andrews. St Salvator's College was added to St. Andrews in 1450. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and King's College, Aberdeen in 1495. St Leonard's College was founded in St Andrews in 1511 and St John's College was re-founded as St Mary's College, St Andrews in 1538, as a Humanist academy for the training of clerics. Public lectures that were established in Edinburgh in the 1540s, would eventually become the University of Edinburgh in 1582. After the Reformation, Scotland's universities underwent a series of reforms associated with Andrew Melville. After the Restoration there was a purge of Presbyterians from the universities, but most of the intellectual advances of the preceding period were preserved. The Scottish university colleges recovered from the disruption of the civil war years and Restoration with a lecture-based curriculum that was able to embrace economics and science, offering a high-quality liberal education to the sons of the nobility and gentry.
In the eighteenth century the universities went from being small and parochial institutions, largely for the training of clergy and lawyers, to major intellectual centres at the forefront of Scottish identity and life, seen as fundamental to democratic principles and the opportunity for social advancement for the talented. Many of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment were university professors, who developed their ideas in university lectures. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Scotland's five university colleges had no entrance exams. Students typically entered at ages of 15 or 16, attended for as little as two years, chose which lectures to attend and left without qualifications. There was a concerted attempt to modernise the curriculum to meet the needs of the emerging middle classes and the professions. The result of these reforms was a revitalisation of the Scottish university system and growth in the number of students. In the first half of the twentieth century Scottish universities fell behind those in England and Europe in terms of participation and investment. After the Robbins Report of 1963 there was a rapid expansion in higher education in Scotland. By the end of the decade the number of Scottish universities had doubled. In 1992 the distinction between universities and colleges was removed, creating a series of new universities.

There are fifteen universities in Scotland and three other institutions of higher education that have the authority to award academic degrees. All Scottish universities are public and funded by the Scottish Government (through its Scottish Funding Council). In 2008-09, approximately 231,000 students studied at universities or institutes of higher education in Scotland, of which 56 per cent were female and 44 per cent male. In the 2011-12 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, five Scottish universities are among the top 200 worldwide.