Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Heriot-Watt University

Established in 1966, Heriot-Watt University now occupies a 154 ha (380 acre) campus at Riccarton, in SW Edinburgh. With 21,300 students (of which 14,100 are off-campus), 1570 staff and an income exceeding £134 million (2009), it is the city's second University. Its specialisms include the physical, social and life sciences, engineering, mathematics, computer science, business and design. There are particular strengths in electronics, energy and petroleum engineering.

Founded by Leonard Horner (1785 - 1864) as the School of Arts of Edinburgh in 1821, specifically for the education of the working classes, it was one of the first technical colleges. Funds were raised for new premises in memory of James Watt (1736 - 1819) and the Watt Institution came into being. As early as 1869, women were allowed to join classes. New premises were built in Chambers Street (Edinburgh) designed by David Rhind (1872), and following merger with George Heriot's Hospital (1885) it was this building which remained the headquarters of the Heriot-Watt College until 1992. The College became Heriot-Watt University on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Higher Education chaired by Lord Robbins (1966).

The Riccarton Estate was formerly owned by the Gibson-Craig family who lived in Riccarton House, which was located close to where the University Library is today. This began as a tower house by the Wardlaw family in the 15th C, which was extended by the Craig family in 1621 and baronialised by William Burn (1789 - 1870) in 1827 for Sir James Gibson-Craig. Having fallen into disrepair following use by the military during World War II, the house was demolished in 1956. A fire-pond still lies adjacent to the site of the former house, built as a source of water should fire break out there. The estate was purchased by Midlothian Council (1967) and gifted to the University in 1969. A phased move from the centre of the city to this new Campus proceeded from 1973. Many features of the Victorian parkland remain, including The Loch, lawns, a walled garden, ice house, carriage drive, the Gibson-Craig family burial ground and many fine specimen trees, together with lodge houses and the former gardener's cottage.

Following a merger with the former Scottish College of Textiles (1998), there is a secondary campus at Galashiels. The textile college was established in 1909, to provide skills for the knitwear and textiles industries in the Scottish Borders. The university also maintains satellite campuses in Stromness (Orkney), Dubai and Putrajaya in Malaysia.

Until 2004, the Edinburgh College of Art (established in Lauriston Place in 1906) was closely linked with the University, constituting its Faculties of Environmental Studies and Art & Design.

The university opened the Lyell Centre on the Riccarton campus jointly with the British Geological Survey in 2016.

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