Records of the University of Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

Main record types are:

  • landholding records, 1304 to date
  • minutes, 1451 to date
  • student records, 1451 to date
  • administrative records, 1451 to date

Administrative / Biographical History

The University or College of Glasgow (the terms were interchangeable) was established by a bull of  Pope Nicholas V granted on  7 January 1451  at the request of  King James II of Scotland at the behest of  William Turnbull, bishop of Glasgow . The first meetings of the College were held in the  Blackfriars in High Street of Glasgow or in one of the Cathedral chapter houses. In  January 1460 Lord Hamilton gave the College property adjacent to the Blackfriars which remained its home until  1870  . The fledgling university was given permission to teach in arts and the three higher faculties of theology, law, and medicine. These higher faculties could only present candidates for doctorates while the Arts faculty could award bachelor and masters degrees. The curriculum in arts followed the studium generale, which was common to all European universities. This consisted of Latin, Greek, moral philosophy, logic and natural philosophy and mathematics. A degree course in theory lasted five years with bachelor's degrees being awarded after three years and masters after five. In practice few students graduated until the nineteenth century and most only attended for one or two years taking subjects of their choice. Although there was teaching in canon law and divinity before the Reformation, there was little teaching in medicine until the  seventeenth century  .

The University was re-established by  Andrew Melville in  1577  with a new charter of Nova Erectio granted by  Regent Morton . This provided modest endowments from the lands of the cathedral and archbishopric, which were renewed periodically by the Crown. At first the teaching was undertaken by Regents, who taught every subject, but by the  end of the seventeenth century  these had begun to be replaced by professors with responsibility for teaching individual subjects. Chairs were established in practice of medicine (  1637  ), divinity (  1640  ), Humanity (Latin) (  1682  ), mathematics (  1691  ), Greek (  1704  ), oriental languages (  1709  ), law (  1713  ), ecclesiastical history (  1716  ) anatomy (  1718  ), moral philosophy, logic and rhetoric, and natural philosophy (  1727  ) and botany (  1760  ). These thirteen were known as the professors of the old foundation and formed the Faculty, which effectively controlled the University's finances. They were badly paid and depended for their income on publications, taking students as boarders in their homes and the fees they charged for their classes. During the  seventeenth century  a fine building around two quadrangles was constructed in the  High Street

Although the Medical Faculty could only award degrees to those who had already taken an Arts degree, this regulation was ignored and large numbers of undergraduates came to study medicine, particularly after the  Glasgow Royal Infirmary was opened in  1794  . So as to distinguish between Arts and other students (mostly medical), the Arts students wore red gowns and were known as togati, while the other, who did not, were known as non-togati. This practice continued until matriculation became compulsory for all students in  1858  . By the  end of the eighteenth century  the University reputedly had some 1,500 students with the majority studying medicine. Although the University was closely associated with the  Church of Scotland , there were no religious tests on admission and only at graduation in arts. Professors were supposed to subscribe to the Westminster Confession, but in practice this formality was only used to block unwelcome appointments forced on the University by the Crown. This requirement was repealed in  1853  .

During the  early nineteenth century  there was pressure to widen the curriculum to include new subjects, particularly in the sciences and medicine, which were resisted by the Faculty. New chairs were, however, established by the Crown, but their incumbents were not admitted to the Faculty. Consequently there was increasing tension within the University, leading to the Universities of Scotland Act of  1858  , which abolished the Faculty and replaced it with the University Court composed largely of lay members. By this time the professors were disenchanted with their antiquated building in the  High Street . Moreover with the rapid growth of the City in the previous century the area had become very run down and seedy. The site was sold to a railway company to make way for a goods station and the University moved in  1870  to a new building, designed by  Gilbert Scott , on  Gilmorehill  in the west end of the City. Two years later an undergraduate science degree was introduced. With the passing of further legislation in  1889  new chairs were established and the curriculum. In  Queen Margaret College 1892  for the higher education of women became part of the University and women were admitted for the first time. Despite these reforms the number of students had only increased to just about 2,000 by the end of the century. One of the barriers to recruitment was the cost of the fees and it was only with the establishment of the  Carnegie Trust in  1901  , which provided generous bursaries, that student numbers began to rise appreciably, reaching almost 3,000 by the outbreak of the first world war.

In  1913  an affiliation agreement was signed with the  Glasgow Royal Technical College , whereby joint degrees would be offered in certain specified technical subjects such as applied chemistry, engineering and mining. From the outset this agreement was a bone of contention, which continued until the Royal Technical College became the  University of Strathclyde in  1964  .

Following the reunion of the  Church of Scotland and the  United Free Church in  1929  ,  Trinity College , which had been established as the Free Church training college merged with the University's divinity faculty. The college had always been on the progressive wing of the church and had numbered amongst its professors such prominent men as  T.D. Lindsay (father of  A.M. Lindsay ) and  George Adam Smith , later principal of Aberdeen. By the second world war there was a growing consensus that all medical, veterinary and dental education should be brought under the jurisdiction of the university sector. As a result in  1946  the  Glasgow Dental School joined the medical faculty, to be followed in  1947  by the two independent medical schools in Glasgow,  St Mungo's College and  Anderson's College of Medicine . Three years later the  Glasgow Veterinary College also became part of the medical school with a new hospital at  Garscube . The  Glasgow School of Architecture also became part of the university in  1964  .

In the post war years student numbers grew rapidly to reach over 9,000 by  1970  and almost 20,000 by the end of the century. With the restructuring of higher education in the  St. Andrew's College of Education 1990s  joined the university to form for the first time a faculty of education. It also began to validate degrees provided by the  Glasgow School of Art and  Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) . In  1997  the University opened a new campus in  Dumfries on the site of the former  Royal Mental Hospital as a component of the  University College of Dumfries . In  2001  the university celebrated the 550th anniversary of its foundation.


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Access Information

By appointment - access to recent official records and records containing confidential information is restricted in accordance with University policies and relevant legislation.

Acquisition Information

University of Glasgow.

Other Finding Aids

A fully searchable multi-level list is available via the Gateway to the Archives of Scottish Higher Education (GASHE) web site at

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)0431) and London (NRA13494)

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Conditions Governing Use

Owned by the University of Glasgow. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures.

Custodial History

Retained in the custody of the University of Glasgow.


Further accessions are expected.

Related Material

GB 0248 GUA DC 244  The Anderson College of Medicine.

GB 0248 GUA DC 144  Glasgow Veterinary College.

GB 0248 GUA DC 233  Queen Margaret College, Glasgow.

GB 0248 GUA DC 227  Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

GB 0248 GUA DC 246  St Mungo's College of Medicine.

GB 0248 GUA DC 084  Trinity College, Glasgow.


Brown, A.L. and Moss, M.The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 . Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press  , 1996  .

Coutts, J.A History of the University of Glasgow . Glasgow , 1909  .

Murray, D.Memories of the Old College of Glasgow . Glasgow , 1927  .

Additional Information

The material is original.

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description created by Emily Woolmore, GASHE project archivist,  17 March 2000  as part of the Research Support Libraries Programme funded project 'Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education'. Administrative history by Michael Moss, University Archivist.

Geographical Names