University of Glasgow

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University of Glasgow
Latin: Universitas Glasguensis

Via, Veritas, Vita
"The Way, The Truth, The Life"


University of Glasgow Gilbert Scott Building - Feb 2008-2.jpg
The University's main building, from Kelvingrove Park
University of Glasgow arms.svg
Founded: 1451
Chancellor: Sir Kenneth Calman
Endowment: £157.8 million

The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four 'ancient universities'. The university was founded in 1451 by the Archbishop of Glasgow

The University is often ranked in the world's top 100 universities in tables compiled by various bodies.[1][2] In 2013, Glasgow moved to its highest ever position, placing 51st in the world and 9th in the UK in the QS World University Rankings.[3]

In common with universities of the pre-modern era, Glasgow educated students primarily from wealthy backgrounds, but was also, with the University of Edinburgh, a leading centre of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century. The University became a pioneer in British higher education in the 19th century by also providing for the needs of students from the growing urban and commercial middle classes. Glasgow served all of these students by preparing them for professions: the law, medicine, civil service, teaching, and the church. It also trained smaller but growing numbers for careers in science and engineering.[4] In 2007, the Sunday Times ranked it as "Scottish University of the Year."[5] The university is today a member of the Russell Group which represents the highest-ranked public research-based universities in the United Kingdom. It is also a member of Universitas 21, the international network of research universities.

Glasgow's financial endowment is the fifth largest (and fourth largest per head) among British universities.


Originally located in the city's High Street, since 1870 the main University campus has been located at Gilmorehill in the West End of the city.[6] Additionally, a number of university buildings are located elsewhere, such as the University Marine Biological Station Millport on the island of Great Cumbrae in Buteshire and the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.

Study and research

Glasgow has sevceral specialist departments, amongst which are the

  • School of Law
  • Medical School
  • School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Glasgow Dental Hospital and School

Its submission to the most recent UK university research assessment was one of the broadest in the United Kingdom.[7]

Alumni or former staff of the University include philosopher Francis Hutcheson, engineer James Watt, economist Adam Smith, physicist Lord Kelvin, surgeon Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, seven Nobel laureates, two British Prime Ministers, several leaders of Britain's major political parties, and numerous leading figures from legal, scientific and business professions.

Entry to the university is highly competitive; applications for each place on many of its courses run into double figures, and successful entrants have on average almost 485 UCAS points. This ranks as the 11th highest among UK higher education institutions ("Entry Standards" – CUG University League Table 2015).[8]


The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 by a charter or papal bull from Pope Nicholas V, at the suggestion of King James II, giving Bishop William Turnbull permission to add a University to the city's Cathedral.[9] It was thus the second university created in the kingdom, after St Andrews and is the fourth-oldest in the English-speaking world, preceded by Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews. St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen were ecclesiastical foundations, while Edinburgh was a civic foundation. As one of the Ancient Universities of the United Kingdom, Glasgow University is one of only eight institutions to award undergraduate master's degrees in certain disciplines.

The East Quadrangle of the Main Building

The University has been without its original Bull since the mid-sixteenth century. In 1560, during the political unrest accompanying the Reformation, the then chancellor, Archbishop James Beaton, a supporter of the Marian cause, fled to France and took with him for safe-keeping many of the archives and valuables of the Cathedral and the University, including the Mace and the Bull. Although the Mace was sent back in 1590, the archives were not. Principal Dr James Fall told the Parliamentary Commissioners of Visitation on 28 August 1690, that he had seen the Bull at the Scots College in Paris, together with the many charters granted to the University by the monarchs of Scotland from James II to Mary, Queen of Scots. The University enquired of these documents in 1738 but was informed by Thomas Innes and the superiors of the Scots College, that the original records of the foundation of the University were not to be found. If they had not been lost by this time, they certainly went astray during the French Revolution when the Scots College was under threat. Its records and valuables were moved for safe-keeping out of the city of Paris. The Bull remains the authority by which the University awards degrees.

Teaching at the University began in the chapterhouse of Glasgow Cathedral, subsequently moving to nearby Rottenrow, in a building known as the "Auld Pedagogy". The University was given 13 acres of land belonging to the Black Friars (Dominicans) on the High Street by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563.[10]

By the late 17th century, the University building centred on two courtyards surrounded by walled gardens, with a clock tower, which was one of the notable features of Glasgow's skyline, and a chapel adapted from the church of the former Dominican (Blackfriars) friary. Remnants of this Renaissance building, mainly parts of the main facade, were transferred to the Gilmorehill campus and renamed as the "Pearce Lodge", after Sir William Pearce, the shipbuilding magnate who funded its preservation. The Lion and Unicorn Staircase was also transferred from the old college site and is now attached to the Main Building.

John Anderson, while professor of natural philosophy at the university, and with some opposition from his colleagues, pioneered vocational education for working men and women during the industrial revolution. To continue this work in his will he founded Anderson's College, which was associated with the university before merging with other institutions to become the University of Strathclyde in 1964.

In 1973, Delphine Parrott became its first female professor, as Gardiner Professor of Immunology.[11]

In October 2014, the university court voted for the University to become the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry.[12]


The University is currently spread over a number of different campuses. The main one is the Gilmorehill campus, in Hillhead. As well as this there is the Garscube Estate in Bearsden, housing the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, the Observatory, Ship model basin and much of the University's sports facilities, the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School in the city centre, the section of mental health and well being at Gartnavel Royal Hospital on Great Western Road, and the Crichton campus in Dumfries, operated jointly by the University of Glasgow, the University of the West of Scotland and the Open University. The University has also established joint departments with the Glasgow School of Art and in naval architecture with the University of Strathclyde.

A model of the old High Street Building, in the Hunterian Museum

High Street

The University of Glasgow in 1650

The University's initial accommodation was part of the complex of religious buildings in the precincts of Glasgow Cathedral. In 1460, the University received a grant of land from James, Lord Hamilton, on the east side of the High Street, immediately north of the Blackfriars Church, on which it had its home for the next four hundred years. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Hamilton Building was replaced with a very grand two-court building with a decorated west front facing the High Street, called the "Nova Erectio", or New Building. In Sir Walter Scott's best-selling 1817 novel Rob Roy, set at the time of the first Jacobite Uprising of 1715, the lead character fights a duel in the New Building grounds before the contest is broken up by Rob Roy MacGregor.

Over the following centuries, the University's size and scope continued to expand. In 1757 it built the Macfarlane Observatory and later Scotland's first public museum, the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery. It was a centre of the Scottish Enlightenment and subsequently of the Industrial Revolution, and its expansion in the High Street was constrained. The area around the University declined as well-off residents moved westwards with expansion of the city and overcrowding of the immediate area by less well-off residents. It was this rapid slumming of the area that was a chief catalyst of the University's migration westward.


The new buildings of the University at Gilmorehill, c 1895
The University's tower overlooking Kelvingrove Park

Consequently, in 1870, the University moved to a greenfield site on Gilmorehill in the West End of the city, around three miles west of its previous location, enclosed by a large meander of the River Kelvin. The original site on the High Street was sold to the City of Glasgow Union Railway and replaced by the College Goods yard. The new-build campus was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic revival style. The largest of these buildings echoed, on a far grander scale, the original High Street campus's twin-quadrangle layout, and may have been inspired by Ypres' late mediæval Cloth Hall; Gilmorehill in turn inspired the design of the Clocktower complex of buildings for the new University of Otago in New Zealand. In 1879, Gilbert Scott's son, Oldrid, completed this original vision by building an open undercroft forming two quadrangles, above which is his grand Bute Hall (used for examinations and graduation ceremonies). Oldrid also later added a spire to the building's signature Gothic bell tower in 1887, bringing it to a total height of some 279 feet.[13] The local Bishopbriggs blond sandstone cladding and Gothic design of the building's exterior belie the modernity of its Victorian construction; Scott's building is structured upon what was then a cutting-edge riveted iron frame construction, supporting a lightweight wooden-beam roof. The building also forms the largest example of Gothic revival architecture in Britain after the Palace of Westminster. An illustration of the Main Building currently features on the reverse side of the current series of £100 notes issued by the Clydesdale Bank.[14]

The University's Hunterian Museum resides in the Main Building, and the related Hunterian Gallery is housed in buildings adjacent to the University Library.[15] The latter includes "The Mackintosh House", a rebuilt terraced house designed by, and furnished after, architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Even these enlarged premises could not contain the expanding University, which quickly spread across much of Gilmorehill. The 1930s saw the construction of the award-winning round Reading Room (it is now a category-A listed building) and an aggressive programme of house purchases, in which the University (fearing the surrounding district of Hillhead was running out of suitable building land) acquired several terraces of Victorian houses and joined them together internally. The departments of Psychology, Computing Science and most of the Arts Faculty continue to be housed in these terraces.

The Department of History on University Avenue

More buildings were built to the west of the Main Building, developing the land between University Avenue and the River Kelvin with natural science buildings and the faculty of medicine. The medical school spread into neighbouring Partick and joined with the Western Infirmary. At the eastern flank of the Main Building, the James Watt Engineering Building was completed in 1959. The growth and prosperity of the city, which had originally forced the University's relocation to Hillhead, again proved problematic when more real estate was required. The school of veterinary medicine, which was founded in 1862, moved to a new campus in the leafy surrounds of Garscube Estate, around two miles west of the main campus, in 1954. The university later moved its sports ground and associated facilities to Garscube and also built student halls of residence in both Garscube and Maryhill.

The growth of tertiary education, as a result of the Robbins Report in the 1960s, led the University to build numerous modern buildings across Hillhead, including several brutalist concrete blocks: the Mathematics building; the Boyd Orr Building and the Adam Smith building (housing the Faculty of Law, Business and Social Sciences, named after university graduate Adam Smith). Other additions around this time, including the new glass-lined Glasgow University Library, Rankine Building for Civil Engineering (named for William John Macquorn Rankine) and the amber-brick Gregory Building (housing the Geology department), were more in keeping with Gilmorehill's leafy suburban architecture. The erection of these buildings in the late 1960s however involved the demolition of a large number of houses in Ashton Road, and rerouting the west end of University Avenue to its current position. To cater for the expanding student population, a new refectory, known as the Hub, was opened adjacent to the library in 1966. The Glasgow University Union also had an extension completed in 1965 and the new Queen Margaret Union building opened in 1969.

In October 2001 the century-old Bower Building (previously home to the university's botany department) was gutted by fire. The interior and roof of the building were largely destroyed, although the main facade remained intact. After a £10.8 million refit, the building re-opened in November 2004.

The Wolfson Medical School Building, with its award-winning glass-fronted atrium, opened in 2002,[16] and in 2003, the St Andrews Building was opened, housing the Faculty of Education. It is sited a short walk from Gilmorehill, in the Woodlands area of the city on the site of the former Queens College, which had in turn been bought by Glasgow Caledonian University, from whom the university acquired the site. It replaced the St Andrews Campus in Bearsden. The University also procured the former Hillhead Congregational Church, converting it into a lecture theatre in 2005. The Sir Alwyn Williams building, designed by Reiach and Hall, was completed at Lilybank Terrace in 2007, housing the Department of Computing Science.


The University Chapel was built as a memorial to the 755 alumni of the University who had lost their lives in the First World War. Designed by Sir John Burnet, it was completed in 1929 and dedicated on 4 October. Tablets on the wall behind the Communion Table list the names of those who died, while other tablets besides the stalls record the 405 members of the University community who gave their lives in the Second World War. Most of the windows are the work of Douglas Strachan, although some have been added over the years, including those on the South Wall, created by Alan Younger.

Daily services are held in the Chapel during term-time, as well as seasonal events. Before Christmas, there is a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on the last Sunday of term, and a Watchnight service on Christmas Eve. Graduates, students, members of staff and the children of members of staff are entitled to be married in the Chapel, which is also used for baptisms and funerals.

The current Chaplain of the University is the Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie, and the University appoints Honorary Chaplains of other denominations.

Library and Archives

The University's library houses over two and a half million volumes.[17]

The University Library, situated on Hillhead Street opposite the Main Building, is one of the oldest and largest libraries in Europe. Situated over 12 floors, it holds more than 2.5 million books and journals, as well as providing access to an extensive range of electronic resources including over 30,000 electronic journals. It also houses sections for periodicals, microfilms, special collections and rare materials.[18] Open between 7am-2am, 361 days of the year, the Library provides a resource not only for the academic community in Glasgow, but also for scholars worldwide. There are study spaces for more than 2,500 students, with over 800 computers, and wi-fi access is available throughout the building.

In addition to the main library, subject libraries also exist for Medicine, Chemistry, Dental Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Education, Law, and the faculty of Social Sciences, which are held in branch libraries around the campus.[19] In 2007, a state of the art section to house the library's collection of historic photographs was opened, funded by the Wolfson Foundation.[19]

The Archives of the University of Glasgow are the central place of deposit for the records of the University, created and accumulated since its foundation in 1451.

Crichton Campus, Dumfries

The University opened a campus in the town of Dumfries in Dumfriesshire during the 1980s. The Crichton campus, designed to meet the needs for tertiary education in an area far from major concentrations of population, is operated jointly by the University of Glasgow, the University of the West of Scotland and the Open University. It offers a modular undergraduate curriculum, leading to one of a small number of liberal arts degrees, as well as providing the region's only access to postgraduate study.[20]


Adam Smith

There are currently four Colleges within the University of Glasgow, each containing a number of Schools. They are:

College of Arts College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences College of Science and Engineering College of Social Sciences
  • ArtsLab Glasgow
  • Graduate School of the College of Arts
  • School of Critical Studies
  • School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • School of Humanities
  • School of Modern Languages and Cultures
  • School of Life Sciences
  • School of Medicine (including Glasgow Dental Hospital and School)
  • School of Veterinary Medicine
  • School of Chemistry
  • School of Computing Science
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
  • School of Mathematics and Statistics
  • School of Physics and Astronomy
  • School of Psychology
  • Adam Smith Business School
  • School of Education
  • School of Interdisciplinary Studies (at The Crichton, Dumfries)
  • School of Law
  • School of Social and Political Sciences

At the University's foundation in 1451, there were four original faculties: Arts, Divinity, Law and Medicine. The Faculty of Divinity became a constituent school of the Faculty of Arts in 2002,[21] while the Faculty of Law was changed in 1984 into the Faculty of Law and Financial Studies, and in 2005 became the Faculty of Law, Business and Social Sciences.[22]

Although one of the original faculties established, teaching in the Faculty of Medicine did not begin formally until 1714, with the revival of the Chair in the Practice of Medicine.[23]

The Faculty of Science was formed in 1893 from Chairs removed from the Faculties of Arts and Medicine, and subsequently divided in 2000 to form the three Faculties of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Computing Science, Mathematics and Statistics (now Information and Mathematical Sciences) and Physical Sciences.[24]

The Faculty of Social Sciences was formed from Chairs in the Faculty of Arts in 1977, and merged to form the Faculty of Law, Business and Social Sciences in 2005, the two having operated as a single 'resource unit' since 2002.[25]

The Faculty of Engineering was formally established in 1923, although engineering had been taught at the University since 1840 when Queen Victoria founded the UK's first Chair of Engineering. Through a concordat ratified in 1913,[26] Royal Technical College (later Royal College of Science and Technology and now University of Strathclyde) students received Glasgow degrees in applied sciences, particularly engineering. It was in 1769 when James Watt's engineering at Glasgow led to a stable steam engine and, subsequently, the Industrial Revolution. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was established in 1862 as the independent Glasgow Veterinary College, being subsumed into the University in 1949 and gaining independent Faculty status in 1969.[27]

The Faculty of Education was formed when the University merged with St Andrew's College of Education in 1999.[28]

On 1 August 2010, the former Faculties of the University were removed and replaced by a system of four larger Colleges, intended to encourage interdisciplinary research and make the University more competitive.[29] This structure was similar to that at other universities, including the University of Edinburgh.


There is an active student media scene at the University, part of, but editorially independent from, the Students Representative Council:

  • Print media:
    • The Glasgow University Guardian;[30]
    • Glasgow University Magazine;[31]
  • Broadcast media:
    • Glasgow University Student Television;[32]
    • Subcity Radio.[33]

Independently, the Queen Margaret Union publishes a fortnightly magazine, qmunicate,[34] and Glasgow University Union has produced the GUUi.[35]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about University of Glasgow)


  1. QS World University Rankings – 2012. Top Universities (19 December 2012). Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  2. "University of Glasgow: overview". Education UK. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  3. "QS World University Rankings 2013". Top Universities. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  4. Paul L. Robertson, "The Development of an Urban University: Glasgow, 1860–1914," History of Education Quarterly, Winter 1990, Vol. 30#1 pp 47–78
  5. Robertson, David (21 September 2008). "Profile: University of Glasgow". Sunday Times University Guide. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  6. "University of Glasgow :: About us :: maps and travel". Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  7. "Reports and Financial Statements for the year to 31 July 2012". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  8. [1]. Retrieved 23 August 2013, Complete University Guide
  9. University of Glasgow – Who, Where and When. Retrieved 22 April 2006 Template:Wayback
  10. "Biography of Queen Mary". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 15 October 2008. 
  11. Thomas T. MacDonald. "BSI Honorary member: Delphine Parrott". British Society for Immunology. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  12. Brooks, Libby (8 October 2014). "Glasgow becomes first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  13. "Dusk | Photos from Glasgow University". Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  14. "Current Banknotes: Clydesdale Bank". The Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers. Retrieved 30 October 2008. 
  15. "About us: visit us: visitor attractions". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  16. "School of Medicine: Undergraduate Medical School: Wolfson Medical School Building". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  17. | Library facts and figures
  18. "Libraries, museums and archives". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Glasgow University Library Timeline". Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  20. "University of Glasgow, Crichton Campus, Dumfries". 22 May 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  21. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Divinity". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 31 August 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  22. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Law and Financial Studies". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 1 September 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  23. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Medicine". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 1 September 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  24. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Science". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 2 September 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  25. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Social Sciences". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 2 September 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  26. "Corporate Biography of the Faculty of Engineering". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 1 September 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  27. "About the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine". University of Glasgow. 
  28. "Corporate Biography of St Andrew's College of Education". Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education. 28 March 2000. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  29. "Challenge for university as Glasgow slims down to step up". The Herald. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2009. 
  30. Glasgow Guardian
  31. Glasgow University Magazine
  32. Glasgow University Student Television. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  33. Subcity Radio
  34. – Qmunicate. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  35. Glasgow University Union website. Retrieved 22 April 2006.


  • Moss, Michael, et al. University, City & State: The University of Glasgow since 1870 (2000)
  • Robertson, Paul L. "The Development of an Urban University: Glasgow, 1860–1914," History of Education Quarterly, Winter 1990, Vol. 30#1 pp 47–78