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University of Edinburgh

Old College, University of Edinburgh
©2019 Gazetteer for Scotland

Old College, University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh obtained its charter from King James VI in 1582. It was established at Kirk o' Field, famous as the location of Lord Darnley's murder in 1567 and now occupied by the University's administrative centre in Old College. Edinburgh was Scotland's fourth University, at a time when England had only two, 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 33,600 students (2015) and a host of buildings scattered throughout the south of the city, primarily located around South Bridge, Holyrood Road, George Square, the King's Buildings on Mayfield Road and at the Bush Estate (Midlothian). The Old College, on South Bridge, is a dramatic building by Robert Adam (1728-92) and William Henry Playfair (1789 - 1857). New College houses the School of Divinity 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 which is now A-listed for its architectural importance.

Moray House College of Education, with its campus on Holyrood Road, was founded in 1835 and became part of the University in 1998. The Edinburgh College of Art merged with the University in 2011, absorbing the University's existing School of History of Art, Reid School of Music and School of Architecture.

The University also has a large student accommodation complex, Pollock Halls of Residence, by Holyrood Park and sports facilities at the Pleasance and Peffermill.

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). Remarkable connections exist with the Darwin family. Naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) studied medicine here 1825-27 but never graduated. His uncle and namesake died in 1778 while he was also a medical student in Edinburgh and lies buried next to the University in the graveyard of the former Buccleuch Parish Church. Darwin's grandson Charles Galton Darwin (1887 - 1962) worked here as the first Tait Professor of Natural Philosophy (later Physics). In addition to Nobel Prizes awarded to physicists Charles Barkla (1917), Max Born (1954) and Peter Higgs (2013), the University has provided the world with a number of technological innovations, including the world's first industrial robot (1969), an effective test and vaccine for Hepatitis-B (1980), the first miniature digital camera (1990), the world's smallest television screen (1999), together with wave energy, geophysical survey and carbon-capture technologies. The university is also home to Britain's oldest student newspaper, founded in 1887.

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