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University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Website: Type of University:Public 30 place StudyQA ranking: 4678 pts. No. Students: 35258 Frgn. Students: 10312 No. Staff: 5097 Languages: English Phone: +4401316515800
Baird House (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Holland House (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Deaconess (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Richmond Place (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Holyrood South (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
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About the University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh (abbreviated as Edin. in post-nominals), founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in theEnglish-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city ofEdinburgh, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university.

The University of Edinburgh was ranked 17th and 21st in the world by the 2014–15 and 2015-16 QS rankings. The Research Excellence Framework, a research ranking used by the UK government to determine future research funding, ranked Edinburgh 4th in the UK for research power, with Computer Science and Informatics ranking 1st in the UK. It is ranked 16th in the world in arts and humanities by the 2015–16 Times Higher Education Ranking. It is ranked the 23rd most employable university in the world by the 2015 Global Employability University Ranking. It is ranked as the 6th best university in Europe by the U.S. News' Best Global Universities Ranking. It is a member of both the Russell Group, and the League of European Research Universities, a consortium of 21 research universities in Europe. It has the third largest endowment of any university in the United Kingdom, after the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North. Alumni of the university include some of the major figures of modern history, including physicist James Clerk Maxwell, naturalist Charles Darwin, philosopher David Hume, mathematician Thomas Bayes, surgeon Joseph Lister, signatories of the American declaration of independence James Wilson, John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere, and a host of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie and Sir Walter Scott. Associated people include 20 Nobel Prize winners, 2 Turing Award winners, 1 Abel Prize winner, 1 Fields Medal winner, 2 Pulitzer Prize winner, 3 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, 2 currently-sitting UK Supreme Court Justices, and several Olympic gold medallists. It continues to have links to the British Royal Family, having had the Duke of Edinburgh as its Chancellor from 1953 to 2010 and Princess Anne since 2011.

Edinburgh receives approximately 50,000 applications every year, making it the fourth most popular university in the UK by volume of applicants. After St Andrews, it is the most difficult university to gain admission into in Scotland, and 9th overall in the UK.

  • College of Humanities and Social Science

    The College of Humanities and Social Science is the largest of the three Colleges in the University of Edinburgh. It has 11 Schools, 16,300 students and 1,460 staff. An advantage of its size is the very wide range of subjects and research specialisms you can choose from. There are over 300 undergraduate and 200 taught postgraduate programmes.

    In the College of Humanities and Social Science, we are proud of the breadth of our research, and the high grades we gained in the REF2014. We have built on this strength to attract international researchers, and now have over 1200 researchers and many major research centres based in our Schools.

    The College is also an important focus in the University for Continuing Professional Development courses for professional graduates, and for Continuing Personal Education, delivered mainly to people living locally. The Office of Lifelong Learning provides these part-time and short courses, during the day and in the evenings.

    The College Office, located at 55 George Square, provides administrative support to the Vice-Principal, Deans and Associate Deans on academic matters and financial management.

  • College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

    The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine is comprised of two schools. These are the Edinburgh Medical School and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

    Together we form a unique grouping in the UK where Vets, Medics and Biomedical Scientists work together and study the common causes of disease that affect our populations. Our campuses, our structure, and the organisation of our degrees ensures that we have people from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Edinburgh Medical School breathing the same air, designing projects together, and teaching in their specialist areas.

  • College of Science and Engineering

    We are one of three academic Colleges at the University of Edinburgh. With more than 2,700 staff and over 8,000 students, we are also one of the largest science and engineering groupings in the UK.All of the Schools in the College undertake their own research in areas specific to their interests and strengths. In addition all of the Schools in the College have performed above the UK average in their disciplines according to the REF2014 results.

    The King's Buildings has study, sport, catering and support services available on campus. The College of Science and Engineering carries out a range of outreach activities that are aimed at a variety of audiences from schools through to community events.

History of The University of Edinburgh

Founded by the Edinburgh Town Council, the university began life as a college of law using part of a legacy left by a graduate of theUniversity of St Andrews, Bishop Robert Reid of St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney. Through efforts by the Town Council and Ministers of the City the institution broadened in scope and became formally established as a college by a Royal Charter, granted by King James VI of Scotland on 14 April 1582 after the petitioning of the Council. This was an unusual move at the time, as most universities were established through Papal bulls. Established as the "Tounis College", it opened its doors to students in October 1583. Instruction began under the charge of another St Andrews graduate Robert Rollock. It was the fourth Scottish university in a period when the much more populous and richer England had only two. It was renamed King James's College in 1617. By the 18th century, the university was a leading centre of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Before the building of Old College to plans by Robert Adam implemented after the Napoleonic Wars by the architect William Henry Playfair, the University of Edinburgh did not have a custom-built campus and existed in a hotchpotch of buildings from its establishment until the early 19th century. The university's first custom-built building was the Old College, now the School of Law, situated on South Bridge. Its first forte in teaching was anatomy and the developing science of surgery, from which it expanded into many other subjects. From the basement of a nearby house ran the anatomy tunnel corridor. It went under what was then North College Street (now Chambers Street), and under the university buildings until it reached the university's anatomy lecture theatre, delivering bodies for dissection. It was from this tunnel the body of William Burke was taken after he had been hanged.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Old College was becoming overcrowded and Robert Rowand Anderson was commissioned to design new Medical School premises in 1875. The medical school was more or less built to his design and was completed by the addition of the McEwan Hall in the 1880s.

The building now known as New College was originally built as a Free Church college in the 1840s and has been the home of divinity at the university since the 1920s.

The university is responsible for a number of historic and modern buildings across the city, including the Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall, and the second oldest in use in the British Isles, St Cecilia's Concert Hall; Teviot Row House, which is the oldest purpose built student union building in the world; and the restored 17th-century Mylne's Court student residence which stands at the head of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

The two oldest schools – law and divinity – are both well-esteemed, with law being based in Old College and divinity in New College on the Mound. Students at the university are represented by Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA), which consists of theStudents' Representative Council (SRC), founded in 1884 by Robert Fitzroy Bell, the Edinburgh University Union (EUU) which was founded in 1889. They are also represented by the Edinburgh University Sports Union (EUSU) which was founded in 1866.

The medical school is renowned throughout the world. It was widely considered the best medical school in the English-speaking world throughout the 18th century and first half of the 19th century. (The first medical school in the United States was founded at theUniversity of Pennsylvania in 1765 by Edinburgh alumni John Morgan and William Shippen). It is ranked 1st in the UK's most recent RAE. The Edinburgh Seven, the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university, began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869. Although they were unsuccessful in their struggle to graduate and qualify as doctors, their campaign gained national attention and won them many supporters including Charles Darwin. It put the rights of women to a University education on the national political agenda which eventually resulted in legislation to ensure women could study at University in 1877. In 2015 theEdinburgh Seven were commemorated with a plaque at the University of Edinburgh, as part of the Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaques Scheme.

On 1 August 2011, the Edinburgh College of Art (founded in 1760) merged with the University of Edinburgh. As a result, Edinburgh College of Art has combined with the university’s School of Arts, Culture and Environment to form a new (enlarged) Edinburgh College of Art within the university.

All teaching is now done over two semesters (rather than 3 terms) – bringing the timetables of different Schools into line with one another, and coming into line with many other large universities (in the US, and to an increasing degree in the UK as well).


Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Privy Council


  • Edinburgh was ranked 13th overall in the The Sunday Times 10-year average (1998–2007) ranking of British universities based on consistent league table performance, and is a member of the 'Sutton 13' of top ranked Universities in the UK.
  • In the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework, the Edinburgh was ranked fourth in the UK and first in Scotland. The results also indicate that the university is home to over 35% of Scotland’s 4* research.
  • In 2008, the RAE rated the medicine andinformatics 1st in the UK.
  • Edinburgh places within the top 10 in the UK and 2nd in Scotland for the employability of its graduates as ranked by recruiters from the UK's major companies.
  • The QS World University Rankings 2015 ranked Edinburgh 17th in the world.
  • The Times Higher Education World University Rankings2016 ranked Edinburgh 24th in the world.
  • In 2015, the Academic Ranking of World Universities placed Edinburgh as 47th overall and 6th in the UK.
  • In the 2016 Complete University Guide, 19 out of the 50 subjects offered by Edinburgh rank within the top 10 nationally with Architecture, Chemical Engineering, East and South Asian Studies, Linguistics, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Social Policy and Veterinary Medicine occupying top 5 positions.
  • The Times World University Rankings listed the University in 30th place worldwide for social sciences.

Student Life at the University of Edinburgh

Students' association

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) consists of the unions and the Student Representative Council. The union buildings include Teviot Row House, Potterrow, Kings Buildings House, the Pleasance, and shops, cafés and refectories across the various campuses. Teviot Row House is claimed to be the oldest purpose-built student union building in the world. EUSA represents students to the university and the outside world. It is also responsible for over 250 student societies at the University. The association has four sabbatical office bearers – a president and three vice presidents. The association is affiliated to the National Union of Students.

Performing arts

The city of Edinburgh is an important cultural hub for comedy, amateur and fringe theatre throughout the UK. Amateur dramatic societies at the University benefit from this, and especially from being based in the home of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC), founded in 1896 as the Edinburgh University Drama Society, is known for runningBedlam Theatre, the oldest student-run theatre in Britain. Bedlam Theatre is an award winning Edinburgh Fringe venue. The EUTC also fund and run acclaimed  student improvised comedy troupe The Improverts during term time and fringe. Alumni include Ian Charleson, Michael Boyd, Kevin McKidd, and Greg Wise.

The Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) are an opera/musical theatre company founded by students in 1961 to promote and perform the comic operettas of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, collectively known as Savoy Operas after the theatre in which they were originally staged.

The Edinburgh University Footlights are a musical theatre company founded in 1989 and produce two large scale shows a year.

Theatre Parodok, founded in 2014, is a student theatre company that aims to produce shows that are "experimental without being exclusive". They produce a large show each semester and one for the festival.


The Student is a weekly Scottish newspaper produced by students at the University of Edinburgh. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest student newspaper in the United Kingdom.

The Journal was an independent publication, established in 2007 by three students at the University of Edinburgh, and was also distributed to the four other higher education institutions in the city – Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University and the Edinburgh College of Art. It was the largest such publication in Scotland, with a print run of 14,000 copies and was produced by students from across the city. It folded, however, in 2015.

Fresh Air is an alternative music student radio station, one of the oldest surviving student radio stations in the UK. It was founded in October 1992.

In September 2015, Edinburgh University Student Television (EUTV) became the newest addition to the student media scene at the university, producing a regular magazine styled programme, documentaries and other special events.


Edinburgh University's student sport consists of 67 clubs from the traditional rugby, football, rowing and Judo to the more unconventional Korfball and gliding. Over 67 sports clubs are run by the Edinburgh University Sports Union. The Scottish Varsity, also known as the "world's oldest varsity match", is played annually against the University of St Andrews.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the University of Edinburgh alumni and students secured four medals – three gold and a silver. The three gold medals were won by the cyclist Chris Hoy and the silver was won by Katherine Grainger in rowing.

In the 2012 Summer Olympics Edinburgh University Alumni topped the UK University Medals table with three gold medals, 2 from cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and one from rowerKatherine Grainger.

Student activism

There are a number of campaigning societies at the university. The largest of these include the environment and poverty campaigning group People & Planet and the Amnesty International Society. International development organisations include Edinburgh Global Partnerships, which was established as a student-led charity in 1990. There is also a significant left-wing presence on campus, including an active anti-cuts group, an anarchist society, Edinburgh University Socialist Society, Marxist Society, feminist society,Young Greens, a Students for Justice in Palestine group, and the Edinburgh University Conservative and Unionist Association. Protests, demonstrations and occupations are a regular occurrence at the university.

Student Co-operatives

There are three student-run co-operatives on campus: Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, providing affordable housing for 106 students;The Hearty Squirrel Food Cooperative, selling 'healthy, local, ethical, organic and Fairtrade' food; and the SHRUB Co-op, a 'swap and re-use hub' aimed at reducing waste and promotingsustainability. The co-operatives form part of the Students for Cooperation network.

Services of the University of Edinburgh


The Edinburgh University Library pre-dates the university by three years. Founded in 1580 through the donation of a large collection by Clement Littill, its collection has grown to become the largest university library in Scotland with over 2.5 million volumes. These are housed in the main University Library building in George Square – one of the largest academic library buildings in Europe, designed by Basil Spence

The library system also includes an extensive number of faculty and collegiate libraries.

Careers Service

The Careers Service provides a wide range of services to employers including vacancy advertising, talks, events and workshops, as well as information and advice on recruiting our students.The Careers Service offers a range of support for University staff including information for Personal Tutors and PhD supervisors on supporting your students, as well as career support for some research staff. 

Accommodation, Catering and Events

Accommodation, Catering and Events (incorporating Edinburgh First) provides a comprehensive range of accommodation, conference, event and catering services for staff across the University and for all types of visitors to the University.

Years of experience and a strong customer focus have helped us build an enviable reputation. Our flexible approach and great value for money attracts a wide range of customers from across many sectors and especially from within the University.

We use the University's extensive and unique facilities and resources to maximise revenue opportunities and all profits from our activities are used to support students and staff.

The University of Edinburgh Graduates' Association

The University of Edinburgh Graduates' Association was founded in 1924 as The University of Edinburgh Alumnus Association, changing to its present name after a very few years. It is made up of former students (not only graduates) of the University of Edinburgh and its incorporated colleges (Art, Moray House) and members and former members of the University academic and related staff. Relatives of members, and others with an interest in the University are welcome to join, as are graduates and alumni of other universities. It enables its members to maintain contact with each other and with their alma mater and provides the opportunities for this in the form of social events throughout the year and through the publication of the University of Edinburgh Journal which is sent to all members as part of their subscription. It helps promote the welfare of the University and of its students and maintains contact with a number of branches and affiliated clubs. 

 The Graduates' Association is quite distinct and separate from the General Council of the University and from Development and Alumni Services. Although not involved in fund-raising activities for the University, it works closely with the other two organisations in providing facilities and social events for its members and their guests. The Executive Committee meets in the Association's rooms at 18 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, twice a year to manage the Association's affairs and the office is staffed by the Assistant Secretary and the Assistant Editor of the Journal.

University Health Service

The University Health Centre is an independent National Health Service partnership of  general practitioners  who rent premises from the University and offer full G.P. services to patients who live within the practice area, (see map on Find Us page for details) and who choose to register with the practice.

International Student Centre (ISC)

The ISC is a student-run group, which is an associate member of the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA).

Staffed by a volunteer committee, the ISC runs regular activities designed to create new friendships, experience the best of Scotland and beyond, and to make every student's time at Edinburgh an unforgettable one.

Throughout the year, the ISC also organises:

  • weekly themed events representing different countries (eg: Japanese Night, Mexican Night)
  • weekly subsidized trips around Scotland and England
  • movie nights and pub nights
  • campus-wide events such as International Desserts Night and International Evening
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