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The University of Edinburgh founded in 1582, is an internationally renowned centre for teaching and research in Edinburghmarker, Scotlandmarker, UKmarker. It is the sixth university to be established in the British Islesmarker, making it one of the ancient universities of the United Kingdom.

The university is placed amongst the best in the world, ranking 20th in the current THES - QS World University Rankings., as well as 17th in the current Global University Ranking. It played an important role leading the city of 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 northmarker. Alumni of the university include some of the major figures of modern history.


The founding of the University is attributed to Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedralmarker, Kirkwallmarker, Orkneymarker, who left the funds on his death in 1558 that ultimately provided the University's endowment. The University was established by a Royal Charter granted by James VI in 1582, becoming the fourth Scottish university at a time when more populous neighbour Englandmarker had only two.

By the 18th century Edinburgh was a leading centre of the European Enlightenment (see Scottish Enlightenment) and became one of the continent's principal universities.

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.

In 2002, the University was re-organised from its 9 faculties into three ‘Colleges’, and now comprises the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), Science and Engineering (CSE), and Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (MVM). Within these Colleges are 21 ‘Schools’, which are of roughly equal sizes, generally significantly larger than the more-numerous departments they replaced.

Academic reputation

The east façade of the Old College, before the dome was added in 1887

In the Third European Report on Science & Technology Indicators (2004), compiled by the European Commissionmarker, the University of Edinburgh ranked as follows:

In 2006 Newsweek ranked the University of Edinburgh 6th in the UK, 11th in Europe and 47th in the world.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities 2008 [ARWU] ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 6th in the UK
  • 13th in Europe
  • 55th in the world

The Guardian University Guide 2008 ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 7th in the UK overall
  • 1st in the UK for computer science
  • 1st in the UK for physics
  • 1st in the UK for Nursing
  • 2nd in the UK for medicine
  • 2nd in the UK for veterinary science

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, an approximately 5 yearly audit of the research quality of British higher education establishments, the University of Edinburgh was placed 10th overall, a rise of 4 places from 14th in the 2001 RAE. The University was also placed 5th in the UK in terms of the power of its research departments. 63% of the University’s research activity was in the highest categories (4* and 3*), of which one third is recognised as “world-leading”. It was rated top in the UK for Computer Science studies, a category in which the University of Edinburgh School of Informaticsmarker made every eligible research submission whereas other universities submitted selectively.It was rated top in the UK for medical research submitted to the Hospital-based clinical subjects panel. The University was also placed 3rd in the UK for both Engineeringand Chemistry (3rd equal with a joint submission with the University of St Andrewsmarker). Notable positions - among others - include 3rd in English, joint 5th in Pure Mathematics and 6th in Physics .The results for each of the 39 subject areas subjected for quality assessment can be retrieved at Guardian Education or the official RAE website.

In 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Edinburgh as 23rd in the world in the same pool as Oxbridge, University College London, and Imperial College London.U.S. News and World Report also ranked the University of Edinburgh as 6th in Europe.

Times Higher Education Supplement

The 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement [THES] World University Rankings ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 23rd in the world
  • 5th in the UK
  • 5th in Europe overall

The 2008 Times Higher Education Supplement [THES] World University Rankings ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 23rd in the world
  • 6th in the UK
  • 6th in Europe overall

The 2009 Times Higher Education Supplement [THES] World University Rankings ranked the University of Edinburgh as follows:

  • 20th in the world
  • 5th in the UK
  • 5th in Europe overall


UK University Rankings]]
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Times Good University Guide 14th 18th 13th 11th 5th 13th 14th 15th 8th 6th 6th 8th= 7th 10th 4th= 5th= 4th= 6th=
Guardian University Guide 7th 9th 9th 7th 10th 10th 10th 15th 22nd
Sunday Times University Guide 15th= 14th 13th 10th 10th 12th 9th 14th 13th 10th= 10th 14th
Daily Telegraph 16th= 42nd
FT 14th 15th 16th 11th 10th
Complete University Guide
supported by

11th 21st 16th


The university has the third largest financial endowment among UK universities at £185m and the third largest endowment per student, according to the Sutton Trust, The university has an annual turnover of more than £400m.


The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities. It is also the only Scottish university, and (along with Oxfordmarker and Cambridgemarker) 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.

Colleges and Schools

The coat of arms of the University of Edinburgh, displayed on St Leonard's Land

College of Humanities and Social Science

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

College of Science and Engineering


With the expansion in topics of study the university has expanded its campuses such that it now has seven main sites:
  • The Central Area includes George Square, the Informatics Forummarker, The Dugald Stewart Building, Old College, 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 Towermarker 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 Row House and the Pleasancemarker Societies Centre. Old residents of George Square include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A number of these buildings are used to host events during the Edinburgh International Festival every summer.
  • The Royal School of Veterinary Studies at Summerhall, at the East end of The Meadows. This houses Veterinary Medicine. This department increasingly uses farm facilities and new buildings to the South of the city, near Penicuikmarker.
  • Moray House School of Educationmarker 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.
  • Pollock Hallsmarker, adjoining Holyrood Parkmarker 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 has been built in their place, leaving a total of ten buildings. Self-catered flats elsewhere account for the majority of university-provided accommodation. Most other students in the city live in private flats in the Marchmontmarker, Newingtonmarker, Bruntsfieldmarker, New Townmarker and Leithmarker areas, although some university-owned flats are also available there.
  • New Collegemarker, on the Mound, which houses the School of Divinity - parts of which are also used by the Church of Scotlandmarker.
  • The King's Buildingsmarker campus, further south, houses most of the Science and Engineering schools including a Biology School that is a world leader in genetics. The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and British Geological Survey (BGS) also have a presence on campus.
  • The Chancellor's Building was opened on 12 August 2002 by The Duke of Edinburgh and houses the new £40 million Medical Schoolmarker at the New Royal Infirmary in Little France. 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 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). It has two large lecture theatres and a medical library. It is connected to the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmarymarker by a series of corridors.

Alumni and faculty

There have been many notable alumni and faculty of the university, including economist Adam Smith, signatories to the US Declaration of Independence James Wilson and John Witherspoon, Prime Ministers Gordon Brown, Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell (the latter matriculated at Edinburgh, but did not graduate), engineer Alexander Graham Bell, naturalist Charles Darwin and biologist Ian Wilmut, physicists James Clerk Maxwell, Max Born, Sir David Brewster, Tom Kibble, and Peter Higgs, writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, and Sir Walter Scott, actor Ian Charleson, chemists Joseph Black and Daniel Rutherford, medical pioneers Joseph Lister and James Simpson, mathematician Colin Maclaurin, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, philosopher David Hume, geologist James Hutton, chemist and two-time recipient of Alexander von Humboldt research prize for senior scientists Narayan Hosmane, Dr. Valentin Fuster, the only cardiologist to receive all four major research awards from the world's four major cardiovascular organizations, and mathematician and president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Sir Michael Atiyah.

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.

Student organisations

Students' Association

The Edinburgh University Students' Association consists of the unions and the Student Representative Council. The Unions include Teviot Row House, Potterrow, Kings Buildings House, the Pleasance, and a number of shops, cafés and refectories around the various campuses. Teviot Row House is said to be the oldest purpose-built student union building in the world. The Student Representative Council represents students to the University and the outside world. It is also responsible for Edinburgh's 222 student societies. The Association has four sabbatical office bearers – a President and three Vice Presidents. Turnout in elections for these positions has, in recent years, been among the highest in the UK. The Association is affiliated to the National Union of Students.


  • Student is a weekly Scottishmarker newspaper produced by students at the University of Edinburgh. Founded in 1887 by author Robert Louis Stevenson, it is the oldest student newspaper in the United Kingdom. It has held the title of Best Student Newspaper in Scotland, awarded by the Herald Student Press Awards, for two years running, having won in 2006 and again in 2007.

  • The Journal is a very recent addition to the student media scene at the university. It 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 - Heriot-Watt Universitymarker, Napier University, Queen Margaret Universitymarker and the Edinburgh College of Artmarker. 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.

Student sport

Edinburgh University is one of Britain's most successful sporting universities. Student sport consists of 67 clubs from the traditional Football and Rugby to the more unconventional Korfball or Gliding. Run by the Edinburgh University Sports Union, these 67 clubs have seen Edinburgh rise to 4th place in the British Universities' Sports Association (BUSA) rankings in 2006-07 and have been in the British Top 5 sporting Universities since 2005. It continues to be the most successful Scottish University for sport.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the University of Edinburgh alumni and students secured four medals - 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 female rowing.

Student activism

There are a number of campaigning societies at the university. The largest of these is environment and poverty campaigning group People & Planet, which is affiliated to the national People & Planet net. International development organisations include Edinburgh Global Partnerships, which was established as a student-led charity in 1990.

Historical Links

  • Dalhousie Universitymarker, Canadian G-13 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 . Endowment $364 million.
  • McGill Universitymarker, Canadian G-13 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 who had trained in Edinburgh . Endowment $928 million.
  • Queen's Universitymarker, Canadian G-13 university founded in 1841, was modelled after the University of Edinburgh, and continues to display strong Scottish roots and traditions today. Endowment $660 million.
  • The University of Pennsylvaniamarker, an American Ivy League university, has long-standing historical links with the University of Edinburgh, including modelling Penn's School of Medicine after Edinburgh's . Endowment $6.6 billion.

See also


External links

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