- Glasgow University
- history

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


Glasgow University was established in 1451 when Pope Nicholas V granted a papal bull to Glasgow`s Bishop William Turnbull. The university was initially accommodated in the Cathedral but it soon outgrew those cramped conditions and moved to High Street. New purpose-built buildings were erected there in the mid-seventeenth century - these are often referred to as the `Old College` - and many famous academics taught there, including Adam Smith and Joseph Black.

Although these were some of the finest and most interesting buildings in the city, they were in a poor state of repair by the mid-nineteenth century. This, together with the increasing pollution in the East End, made the idea of a move to the more salubrious West End a welcome proposition. In 1846 there were plans to place it on Woodlands Hill but negotiations with the railway company which had offered to pay for the removal broke down. In 1864 there was another offer, this time from the City of Glasgow Union Railway Company, to buy the site (it eventually became the College Goods Yard) and this allowed the university to move westwards. This time, Gilmorehill was chosen and the main buildings were erected on the southern edge of this prominent hill, just across the River Kelvin from the Woodlands Hill site.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

Glasgow University from Dumbarton Road, with Dumbarton Road Bridge and the River Kelvin in the foreground.

Today there are around 17,000 students and 4500 staff in the university grouped in eight faculties. The university is run by the Court, made up of members representing various interests, and the Senate, which looks after academic and educational matters. The largest university body is the General Council which includes all the university`s graduates (currently numbering around 100,000) and it is responsible for, amongst other things, the election of the Chancellor. The Principal is the administrative head of the university, the Chancellor is the honorary `figurehead` and the Rector is the elected representative of the students. The choice of Rector (who is elected every three years) is a fascinating barometer of student politics and attitudes; previous rectors have included Robert Peel, William Ewart Gladstone and Jimmy Reid.
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