The University of Edinburgh has operated from a variety of sites for many years and all of these have been subject to development of varying scale throughout the 20th century, all under the authority of the University Court. While these sites were developed as individual architectural entities, they were all part of the development of an ever-expanding University and were complementary to each other. For example, academic development that would allow an increase in students was directly related to the development of halls of residence and student amenities. Statistics were vital in coordinating the great expansion of the mid-20th century .
Displacement and decanting of university personnel during development was a complex matter that relied upon accurate information derived from site use surveys. The financial costs and forecasts had to be viewed in a University-wide context, as well as a site-specific one. Development accounts had to be carefully balanced, as most capital expenditure was funded by the Government through the University Grants Committee. In order to keep the public and University staff informed about development proposals, Percy Johnson-Marshall organised a standing exhibition, "An Expanding University" at Adam House, Chambers Street, which lasted from 1963-1973 . For students and staff, understanding of, and movement between, University sites, was explained by a continuing series of published maps.