University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Website: Founded: 1495 year Type of University:Public 178 place StudyQA ranking: 2408 pts. No. Students: 14035 No. Staff: 3394 Languages: English Phone: +441224272000 Fax: +441224272576
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About the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen is a public research university in the city of Aberdeen, Scotland. It is an ancient university founded in 1495 when William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of James IV, King of Scots to establishKing's College, making it Scotland's third-oldest university and the fifth-oldest in the English-speaking world. The university as it is today was formed in 1860 by a merger between King's College and Marischal College, a second university founded in 1593 as a Protestant alternative to the former. Today, Aberdeen is consistently ranked among the top 200 universities in the world and is one of two universities in the city, the other being the Robert Gordon University.

The university's iconic buildings act as symbols of wider Aberdeen, particularly Marischal College in the city centre and the spire of King's College in Old Aberdeen. There are two campuses; the predominantly utilised King's College campus dominates the section of the city known as Old Aberdeen, which is approximately two miles north of the city centre. Although the original site of the university's foundation, most academic buildings were constructed in the 20th century during a period of significant expansion. The university's Foresterhill campus is located next to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and houses the School of Medicine and Dentistry as well as the School of Medical Sciences.

Aberdeen has approximately 13,500 students from undergraduate to doctoral level, including many international students. An abundant range of disciplines are taught at the university, with 650 undergraduate degree programmes offered in the 2012-13 academic year. Many important figures in the field of theology were educated at the university, particularly in its earlier history, giving rise to the Aberdeen doctors in the 17th century and that of prolific enlightenment philosopher Thomas Reid in the 18th. Five Nobel laureates have since been associated with Aberdeen.

History of the University of Aberdeen

Founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland, the University of Aberdeen is Scotland's third oldest and the UK's fifth oldest university.

William Elphinstone established King's College to train doctors, teachers and clergy for the communities of northern Scotland, and lawyers and administrators to serve the Scottish Crown. Much of the King's College still remains today, as do the traditions which the Bishop began.

King’s College opened with 36 staff and students, and embraced all the known branches of learning: arts, theology, canon and civil law. In 1497 it was first in the English-speaking world to create a chair of medicine. Elphinstone’s college looked outward to Europe and beyond, taking the great European universities of Paris and Bologna as its model.

Uniting the Rivals

In 1593, a second, Post-Reformation University, was founded in the heart of the New Town of Aberdeen by George Keith, fourth Earl Marischal. King's College and Marischal College were united to form the modern University of Aberdeen in 1860. At first, arts and divinity were taught at King's and law and medicine at Marischal. A separate science faculty - also at Marischal - was established in 1892. All faculties were opened to women in 1892, and in 1894 the first 20 matriculated female students began their studies. Four women graduated in arts in 1898, and by the following year, women made up a quarter of the faculty.

Into our Sixth Century

Throughout the 20th century Aberdeen has consistently increased student recruitment, which now stands at 14,000. In recent years picturesque and historic Old Aberdeen, home of Bishop Elphinstone's original foundation, has again become the main campus site.

The University has also invested heavily in medical research, where time and again University staff have demonstrated their skills as world leaders in their field. The Institute of Medical Sciences, completed in 2002, was designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities for medical researchers and their students. This was followed in 2007 by the Health Sciences Building. The Foresterhill campus is now one of Europe's major biomedical research centres.  The Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare, a £20m healthcare training facility, opened in 2009.

Investing in our Future

2012 saw the opening of the £57 million Sir Duncan Rice Library in Old Aberdeen, a great modern building to match the splendour of the University’s 500 year old campus.

The fact that the University has become what it is owes much to the determination and vision of a handful of visionaries and pioneers, including a distinguished list of scholars who in their own unique ways, helped to shape the University into the world-class institution we have today.


Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Privy Council


  • 37th in the Times Higher global rankings for ‘international outlook’, and second highest Scottish university
  • A university ranked consistently among the top 1% of the world's universities
  • 55th out of 750 world universities (top university in Scotland) for research performance (based on the proportion of research appearing in the top 10% of international journals) - CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015
  • 76% of research assessed through the UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF14) is ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’
  • Rated top in the UK in REF14 for environmental and soil science research
  • Scotland's third oldest university and the fifth oldest in the UK, founded 1495
  • Five Nobel Laureates are associated with the University of Aberdeen
  • Region boasts the highest concentration of health and life scientists anywhere in Europe
  • 6th in the UK for success in commercialising research through spinout companies (latest Praxis Unico survey)
  • North-east Scotland consistently rated ideal environment in which to live and work (Mercers global rankings)
  • Library in top 10 for 'spell-binding university libraries in the world' (The Independent)
  • Outstanding sports facilities include Olympic-standard Aberdeen Sports Village and Aquatic Centre
  • Community of 120 nationalities, with 14,500 students: 49% men 51% women, and 12% mature undergraduates
  • Aberdeen is named as Scotland's safest university city (Complete University Guide)
  • Student clubs and societies ranked top in Scotland and 5th in UK (WhatUni Awards 2013)
  • One of the largest wireless campuses in Europe, and strategy to continually improve student accommodation and facilities

Student life at the University of Aberdeen

As of 2014/15 the university had 14,035 students, of which 3,985 were postgraduates. In 2009/10 students represented 120 different countries with about 46% men, 54% women. Of all of undergraduates, 19% were mature students (i.e. aged 25 years or more). The university has more than 550 different undergraduate degree programmes and more than 120 postgraduate taught programmes.

Student representation

The student body is represented by a Students' Association known as Aberdeen University Students' Association (AUSA). Additionally, the elected Rector of the University of Aberdeen serves along with the Rector's Assessor and AUSA President as a students' representatives on the University Court. The Rector is currently Scottish Green Party co-convener Maggie Chapman.

AUSA does not currently operate a traditional Student's Union, instead operating out of a University building, Johnston, helping to support students and provide events and studying space. A large Student's Union formerly occupied an impressive granite building on the corner of Gallowgate and Upperkirkgate in the city centre, but it closed in 2003. The building has been derelict since that time. A second, smaller union opened at nearby Littlejohn Street a couple of years later but by 2010 it too had closed.

The organisation has been involved in the creation of "The Hub", a university-owned dining and social centre created by an extensive renovation of the former Central Refectory at the King's College campus. It provides facilities for the whole university community (students and staff) and opened in 2006. A more traditional social space, the Butchart Student Centre, opened in 2009. It acts as the HQ of the Students' Association and provides a wide range of student facilities, but due to city council licensing regulations there is no bar. Facilities at the Butchart Centre include a large cafe, second-hand bookstore, facilities for student societies, office accommodation and various others. The Butchart Centre was converted from what had been the campus sports centre before the opening of the Aberdeen Sports Village nearby. Currently, AUSA operates out of the Johnston Building.

Student organisations

There are over a hundred clubs and societies formally affiliated with the students' association. The students' association is responsible for sport at the university, which is managed by the Aberdeen University Sports Union, an AUSA committee. All registered students are eligible to join any of these clubs or societies.

The oldest student organisation at the university is the [Aberdeen University Debater], founded in 1848 as the King's College Debating Society. The first successful university newspaper, Alma Mater, began under the auspices of the University of Aberdeen Debating Society in 1883. In 1884, the society also took the first steps towards the introduction of a Students' Representative Council under support from Alexander Bain the then Rector. The creation of the Union in 1895 provided a new debating chamber in Marischal College and the first permanent home of the society. The chamber beneath Mitchell Hall in Marischal College is the oldest purpose-built debating chamber in Scotland.

Each year a student-led torcher parade is held. First held in 1889, it is the largest of its kind in Europe. Student groups and societies build floats and parade in fancy dress through the city centre to raise money for local charities. The local council close a number of roads to enable the event to take place. Traditionally spectators donate money in the form of coppers, a colloquial term for 1p and 2p coins.

The Aberdeen Future Fund is run by the Development Trust, a registered charity of Scotland, which seeks positive relationships and generosity of Aberdeen Alumni, in order to contribute to the high quality student experiences. Since founding in 1998, Aberdeen Future Fund has raised over £2.5 Million of unrestricted funds, thanks in large part to alumni. The individuals who speak to alumni to create and develop these relationships are students of the University of Aberdeen, so alumni can relate to younger generations through the University. Projects supported in the 2010/2011 year included The New Library, Sports clubs and societies, student scholarships, and medical research. Past projects have included a book fund for the Heavy Demand section in the library, providing "Safe Campus" leaflets, contributing to the student hardship fund, providing training mannequins for Clinical Skills, the organ for King's College Chapel, and funding for intramural sports.

University accommodation

Halls of residence are managed by the University. Two large concentrations of University accommodation are provided on the campus in Old Aberdeen, consisting of Crombie-Johnston Halls (both individual but sister halls) and King's Hall. About a mile to the north, between Seaton park and bend in the River Don, lie the Hillhead halls of residence site. Here are a large number of self-catering flats, as well as a social centre with security staff, catering, sports and computer facilities, in addition to on-site launderettes, a bar (billed as "The Union") and a shop. In addition, other student accommodation in the city is owned and operated by private providers such as Unite Group.

Following their first year, the majority of students live in private accommodation off-campus or in privately owned halls of residence such as those of Unite Group. However, in recent years rents and availability of accommodation has seen more second and third year students returning to university halls. The University has advertised a "First-Year Accommodation Guarantee" in recent years, but due to the high demand for rental property in the rapidly growing city it has become increasingly difficult to fulfill the guarantee. At the start of the 2007-2008 term, and again in 2014-15, the university ran out of rooms, and had to resort to temporary accommodation (including putting students into hotel rooms, and making kitchens, study rooms and common rooms into dorm rooms).


The students' association is responsible for sport at the university, which is managed by the Aberdeen University Sports Union, an AUSA committee.

There are large playing fields at the back of King's College. Across the road and a down another street lies Aberdeen Sports Village, a partnership between the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council and sportscotland. The venue includes a nine-court indoor hall, full-sized synthetic football pitch, synthetic cricket wicket, fitness suite, squash courts and a sports performance lab among other facilities. The £28 million development on the site of the former Chris Anderson Stadium, opened on 24 August 2009. Aberdeen Sports Village served as one of the official pre-games training venues of the Cameroon Olympic Team prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games. An aquatics centre featuring a 10 lane 50m pool and diving complex is currently being constructed on the site and is expected to open in 2014.


There are a large number of ensembles at the University of Aberdeen. Some of these are directed by academic staff, while others are run by students both in and out of the department and include; Balinese Gamelan, Baroque Ensemble, Big Band, Cantores ad Portam, Chapel Choir, Choral Society, Concert Band, Elphinstone Fiddlers, Flute Choir, New Music Ensemble, Steel Pans, String Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra, Viol Consort.

Student media

There are a number of student media organisations at the University of Aberdeen. These include The Gaudie[36] (student newspaper) and Aberdeen Student Radio (ASR).

10 Reasons to choose Aberdeen

  1. The academic strength you would expect from a 500 year old university – yet right at the forefront for careers in the 21st century
    A thriving, cosmopolitan community with students from 120 countries set within a beautiful, historic campus that has seen five Nobel Prizes being awarded for work carried out, or begun at the University.
  2. Degrees which are recognised and respected worldwide
    Unique programme options with professional accreditation, industrial placements, plus the opportunity to study abroad in Europe, North America, Hong Kong, Japan or Korea.
  3. Choice and flexibility
    It's your degree and we believe it should be planned around you, with the freedom to plan your own programme of study from a wide range of options.
  4. A proven track record for employment, with the best head-start your career can get
    Our experience and connections can help secure that all-important first step on the ladder to a successful career. 96% of our students enter directly into good jobs, research posts or further study within six months of graduating.
  5. Opportunities to develop yourself and your interests
    Not only academic qualifications to rival the best, but also personal, communication and teamwork skills to make you an all-round achiever in whatever you choose to do. We boast over 150 clubs and societies for students to join and offer excellent on-campus sports facilities.
  6. The very best learning resources
    We pride ourselves on providing state-of-the-art learning resources for our students. Computing and library facilities are geared towards your needs and we are especially proud of our exceptional museums and special collections.
  7. A supportive community
    A self-contained friendly campus in a friendly city; we will do everything we can to help you quickly feel at home. Our support services rank with the best in the UK and we aim to make sure, right from the start, that you have access to any guidance you might need.
  8. First-class accommodation
    All new students are guaranteed a place in student accommodation; this could be within our portfolio of accommodation or one of our partners, provided your application reaches us by the deadline.
  9. A buzzing, friendly city that has it all
    Aberdeen is everything a student city should be and more! Historic, international, fashionable and friendly, Aberdeen is the perfect place to live and study. Aberdeen has recently been voted Scotland's safest University City, one of the sunniest in Scotland, and Scotland's best city to live and work (PwC Good Growth For Cities Index).
  10. We're on the map!
    Aberdeen is probably closer than you think. Cheap and regular air, rail and bus connections will get you around Scotland, the UK and further afield in no time.
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Local:$ 10.9 k / Year(s) Foreign:$ 19.2 k / Year(s)
178 place StudyQA ranking: 1134 You need IELTS certificate
Study mode:On campus Languages: English
Local:$ 3.98 k / Year(s) Foreign:$ 13.9 k / Year(s)
178 place StudyQA ranking: 1273 You need IELTS certificate
Study mode:On campus Languages: English
Local:$ 3.98 k / Year(s) Foreign:$ 13.9 k / Year(s)
178 place StudyQA ranking: 1107 You need IELTS certificate
Study mode:On campus Languages: English
Local:$ 3.98 k / Year(s) Foreign:$ 13.9 k / Year(s)
178 place StudyQA ranking: 975 You need IELTS certificate