The University of Edinburgh obtained its charter from King James VI in 1582. It was established at Kirk o' Field, famous as the location for Lord Darnley's murder (1567) and now occupied by the University's administrative centre in Old College. It was Scotland's fourth University, but the first founded by civic authorities. Originally the Tounis (or Town's) College, the University was at the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Today, Edinburgh is Scotland's largest University with more than 24,500 students (2009) and a host of buildings scattered throughout the southern part of the city, primarily located around South Bridge, George Square, the King's Buildings on Mayfield Road and at the Bush Estate (Midlothian). Moray House College of Education, with its campus on Holyrood Road, was founded in 1835 and became part of the University in 1998.
The Old College, on South Bridge, is a dramatic building by Adam and Playfair. New College houses the Divinity Faculty and lies next to the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland. It was built in 1846, to allow students belonging to the Free Church of Scotland, which had broken from the established Church in 1843, to be separately educated. Around New College is the Mylnes Court residential complex, perhaps the most spectacularly situated student residences in the world, with Edinburgh Castle as its neighbour. However, the University received considerable criticism during the 1960s for demolishing Georgian houses on two sides of George Square and building several large concrete buildings, including a new library.
Edinburgh has had a remarkable number of the famous amongst its former students, staff and rectors, the latter category including the Prime Ministers William Gladstone (1809-98), Archibald Primrose (5th Earl of Rosebery; 1847 - 1929), Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) and Gordon Brown (b.1951), authors Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881) and Magnus Magnusson (1929 - 2007), and actors Alastair Sim (1900-76) and James Robertson Justice (1905-75).